Have you any handy tracking tips or kit.

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Mar 15, 2011
on the heather
Photographing tracks can be problematic, we see in stereoscopic and therefore get depth of field however cameras only record in monoscopic losing depth of field and shadows, images become somewhat flat and so forth, so here's one easy trick I use for photographic records when the sun is over head and there's no shadow, or in low light for example under a forest canopy, I carry a pen tube and a small tub full of fine sand a 6" scale and a tracking stick made from a old carbon arrow which also comes in handy as a bipod to steady the camera, mobile phone, a torch is also very handy day or night.
Here are a couple of examples.
Note, images 1 and 2 are the same tracks. But just before adding the sand to the dog track.
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Jun 26, 2008
Nice visuals, those prints look great.

Listening is another sense that can be easily enhanced.
Best way is to cup your hands behind your ears, it enhances the sound and also makes it easier to pinpoint much in the same way an animals ears would.


Ophiological Genius
Sep 3, 2004
It's a great tip for recording perfect tracks, but how do you go about recording the finer detail like depth, pressure and weight on individual pads, as well as pad detail itself. This will be deleted when you pour the sand into the imprint.
I can see a use for this technique on the tracking surveys we do here in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, especially when the light is poor for photography. My strategy would be to collect all the other data I could first - measurements such as those mentioned above by Jonathan D - then employ the sand last to give some contrast to the track. The photos would be wonderful teaching tools too.

Still hoping the 21st century Pict will tell us how he does it so neatly . . .
Mar 15, 2011
on the heather
Obviously record with a ruler {the scale in the photographs} note and or sketch any relative information first as you would for a plaster cast. Animal, track length width depth, any irregularities that ID a individual animal ,soil type wet dry,estimate age of track, date and grid ref. Also if you overdo the sand just blow it out and start again

JMHAZ as for the track itself that's the easy bit bro, a biro or pen with the centre removed and refilled with fine sand or salt works well for filling in the fine detail on smaller tracks and claws, on larger tracks just tap the sand out of a small tube and blow away any excess. Whisper dust wind indicator gives a good contrast for photographs.
PS JMHAZ did you know in the UK the Jack Kearney and Joel Hardin's books are really big bucks. Have you read any of them?Are they worth the cash?
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Thank you for the information. I need to try it the next session we have. For certain it will be useful teaching wildlife tracking around here, especially for Powerpoint tutorials using photos. We're headed to Kenya this fall to teach anti-poaching tracking to a group of Maasai game scouts; I'm wondering if it could be useful there!

I think Kearney's book is well worth the $25 or so it costs in the U.S. It has good solid information on man-tracking. I read Hardin's book when it came out - as I recall it had some good how-to information but was more entertaining stories than instruction. It goes for insane money; not sure why. I don't recall there's anything in it you couldn't learn elsewhere.


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Mar 15, 2011
on the heather
JMHAZ I can highly recommend reading David Scott Donelan’s Tactical Tracking Operations Ex Rhodesian selous scout.
And David Diaz, Signs of man signs of hope...two great books ...Death In The Long Grass by Peter Capstick was recommended to me I haven’t read it yet but apparently it will scare the S*** out of you, me, anybody, title says it all really.

There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.
Ernest Hemingway

PS. I have added a image to my last post it may help.
PPS. Cheers I have been wanting to read J.K book for an age will order one ASAP.
Later Bro.
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Mar 15, 2011
on the heather
;)JonathanD Hit the nail on the head there is only really one way to record tracks in detail SKETCHES.
There's is nothing better to help memorise sign than spending 10 or 15 minutes looking into and drawing a track.
Here's the back of my OS map and note book.


I don’t really worry if the drawings look good or crap, it's more of a mental-imprinting exercise, it’s the time spent looking into the tracks that’s the important thing really.
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Bushcrafter through and through
Jan 12, 2011
If you have a seperate flash gun you can light the subject from 8 different directions - this can then be used with 3D software to generate a 3D image of the track. However we are getting a bit CSI at this point.


Oct 10, 2005
Essex, UK
21 Cent pic - great sketches. Have you tried a squared paper notebook? Also you mght want to try a green torch. In my experience, even in daylight it can cast a shadow as long as it's powerful enough. Interesting technique with the sand.


Full Member
Nov 6, 2008
JonathanD Hit the nail on the head there is only really one way to record tracks in detail SKETCHES.
There's is nothing better to help memorise sign than spending 10 or 15 minutes looking into and drawing a track.
Here's the back of my OS map and note book.
Don’t worry if the drawings look crap it's more of a mental thing it’s the time spent looking into the tracks that’s the important thing really.

They are bloody brilliant.!!


Full Member
Jun 18, 2008
Off the beaten track
Interesting thread. Ive been out tracking with JD and find that learning alongside someone else is the best way to learn. Ill deffinately take on board some of these tips though!
Mar 15, 2011
on the heather
I've got a Gerber recon on my pack but mostly use it at night for map reading or finding my wine bottle. DONT try using a surefire to read a map at night even with a filter OUCH very nasty. Surefire unfortunately don’t sell a green filter so I use 2 or 3 green cellophane sweet rappers, pull the rappers tight over the lens and slide the red filter cap over the top.
I’ll give it a try ASAP, and the squared paper some time.
Cheers Bro.
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Pict, thanks for the tip on Donelan's book; I've been eyeing it for some time. The fellow with whom we're teaching in the South Rift this fall was trained by veterans of the bush wars in (then) Rhodesia.

For photographing tracks in noonday sun we simply have someone shade the track by standing over it, then reflect in low side light with a 4" x 6" mirror, which is large enough to completely light any track up to jaguar. Once we've completed all the other measurements we trace the track using clear plexiglass, then transfer the tracing to paper for the log. That technique has allowed us to easily recognize individual animals after months of not seeing them.


Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 29, 2003
I may be barking up the wrong tree here, but I seem to remember someone, maybe Ian Maxwell, recomending a green light led torch to enhance the shadows when tracking. I don't know how effective it would be in bright sunlight though.

Oct 30, 2003
Its always good to see some engaging tracking chatter going on. One thing for sure is that tracks in the dirt can be works of art, and I have often wondered...." If could only lift that set and mount it, I would be a happy man". Showing tracks at their best is a dark art, I have taken some great shots, without any tricks of the light, and some ropy shots when I have set it up using reflected light and direct light.
What I have noticed, is that when a shot is taken from above it can give the illusion that the track is standing out towards you. Definitly soft light( the golden hour before sunset )seems to do best, perhaps because the angle of soft light is low across the track.
One of the most important things to do is to contextualise your image, both in size, but the sphere of action( if it jumps a fence, then get the fence in, if it goes up a tree, get the tree in etc.
I get sent hundreds of suspected big cat track pictures every year to interpret, and have attended court to to give professional evidence on police photos of tracks, and without doubt the biggest let-down is context, and poor photos.
Strangly enough, (I have a digital slr, and point and shoots) but I still use a Polaroid, for mantracking, and it turns up some great shots of tracks.
Green light , wont work on a photo during the day, but do it at night and you will be blown away by the results.
Jonathan, I know some of the guys in the Mara, and will be there in January. Good luck with your ventures, and I am sure you will have some fun and games with the guys.

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