Help needed to Track on grass

Steve McFadden

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Hi, I was hoping some of the experienced trackers here might point me in the right direction. I recently started trying to teach myself to track, so far I have concentrated on tracking myself on bare ground with the tracks running in a variety of directions relative to the sun. Slowly, slowly I am learning. The difference between sandshoes and bare feet was suprising to me.

I have moved to trying to track myself on grass. It's still very early days but I gave it a test run on knee height green grass (Buffalo?), a ankle length dry wiry grass and some waist/mid chest height dry grass. The tall dry grass was not too bad but found I needed to be almost looking down the "track" to see it. However the other two were a complete failure other than I studied a bit about how the lie naturally which of course is part of the learning process.

Would someone be kind enough to give me some points on what too look for, or a suggested plan to start with (eg start on long green with the sun behind you).

I have been using a tracking stick.

Thanks Steve
 

barefoot dave

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G 'day Steve.
Sound like you are still in the step for step phase?
Identify your key sign (footprint, grass pointers, crushed clumps etc)
Identify last definite sign
Scan out for the furthest definite sign then work your way back to your feet. Avoid seeing that which isn't there ;)
If you lose the sign, commence casting out/ lost sign drill;
Back up 2-3m, turn let or right and start casting a 3m radius circle.
As you go slowly, look 90 deg left and right.
Eventually you will 'cut' the track and it will be obvious to you that you are back on sign (this is why some call out sign cutting).
ID definite sign and continue.

Remember- all dirt time is data acquisition. Don't be discouraged by losing your own sign. You don't get good without doing the 'bad'.
Set up some aging stands to quantify what the grasses do 2,4,6 and 12 hours after you pass through.
Good onya and keep at it. Teaching yourself to track, even from the best guide books etc., is bloody hard going but satisfying.
Dave.
 

Steve McFadden

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Thanks Dave,

You are correct I am still doing it the step by step method, occasionally I can see sign further ahead but always do as you suggest and work my way back to try and identify each individual "print".

I have learnt the hard way about 'seeing what's not there’, in one early effort in a 40 step sequence of track I managed to count 46 steps plus the was a section that had to have a least 3 prints in due to the distance involved which there was no evidence of a print (too hard for me at this stage). I figured at the point to only mark definite sign (prints) and if you’re not sure then don't force something to exist when it's not there.

I haven't heard off the lost sign drill so thanks for it and the other tips.

Any suggestions regarding good/better guide books to learn tracking from?
I have one called Tracking; A blueprint for learning how by Jack Kearney which is good but would benefit enormously from more pictures. The few in the book are black and white and not particularly clear.

I have learnt a couple of other things
a) I can't walk in a straight line
b) How much your stride length varies subconsciously to accommodate uneven ground.
c) How important the sun is.

Thanks again

Steve
 

Hairyman

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Watch people and animals as they move about, a track is a result of behaviour, try to understand why
they are doing what they are doing.
I am working near a construction site and am able to see the workers, its quite distinct how each one walks, from
the determined stride, to difficult painful type of walk where the person must have knee or back problems, to the 'I don't want to
be here, almost needing sympathy from the world' type walk, etc.
 

pap11y

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Change the position you are trying to view the tracks from. lay down, crouch, see if it makes any difference.... There will be an angle where the tracks (pattern) are more easy to notice..

I'm very limited in experience but this has helped me see tracks I couldn't locate otherwise..
 

Thrud

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These are the books I use. The one thing they all have in common is exactly what you are doing: practice. I'm teaching myself wind speed estimation at the moment and the same holds true for that.

I think that Bob Carss' book is very good. Tracking and reading sign was not particularly helpful. Fundamentals of man tracking is another good book with useful processes in it. Hairyman recommended the RGB Morrison book and I'm very grateful for that. Triggs' book is also very good, but the latter two are not technique based.

Hope this helps.

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barefoot dave

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G 'day again Steve.
Self awareness and honesty are critical requirements when it comes to professional tracking. Knowing the difference between definite and possible sign require that you be honest with yourself about what you can actually see.
As H man recommend, people watch to the point of it being unconscious. If tracking humans (SAR) remember that we are animals and will mostly follow the path of last resistance / pre existing tracks. What you need to understand is that we are wired to find these tracks, easy or not. When tracking, don't try so hard and just let a couple of million years evolution do its thing. Stop looking and see ;)
 

Steve McFadden

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Thank's Thrud for talking the effort to photograph the books for me plus your summary of them. Time to raid the piggy bank.

Thanks again to barefoot dave. I have been following you suggestion of not forcing sign but have been classifing what I see as "no" sign, "possible" sign, "definite" sign but not neccesairly mine, "confirmed" sign (mine). It has been slowly getting better with me occasionally picking up definite sign after following possible sign or perdicting from last sign where the next will be.

The extra time looking at grasses natural lay plus deliberately taking one step and studing the sign location to observe what it reveals is slowly paying off. In addition I have been deliberate crushing, bending grass and the occasional leaf litter to observe the results closely (usually colour change), I have noted that sometimes that grass blades gets interweaved but if you flick it with the finger it allows it to restore it's self were as naturall interweaved pretty much reverts to close to its interweaved position. Definitely need to spend more time on this point.

Your suggestion of looking ahead and working back has also been helpful, sometimes a clear(ish) sign may be visible 5 to 10 m ahead so it helps me stay on track.

Thanks again to all who have chimed in so far. I will occasionally update this thread with how am going and I'm sure ask for more help.

Steve
 
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