Tracking Glossary

Templar

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Aging: Process of determiningtime lapse since sign was made, taking into consideration vegetation damage,rain, sun, and other natural elements.
Backing: Walking, usually across aroad or natural barrier, in a backward motion, generally in an attempt tocamouflage track by an incorrect direction of travel.
Broken Twigs: Small particles or twigs,which are uniquely broken in such a way as to indicate damage from humanfootwear.
Bruising: Footfall damage tovegetation.
Brushing Out: Using a branch, grass, orclothing article, in an attempt to brush or erase tracks from an area.
Camouflage: See Deception.
Compressed Areas: Areas of ground surfacecompressed in a manner which give an indication of human footfalls.
Continuity of Sign: The evidence of footfalls in proper sequence along a line of sign, generally unidentifiable.
Counter-tracking: Countering a tracker'sefforts to track you.
Crying: The natural weeping of vegetation fluids resulting from footfall damage.
Cutting for Sign: An operation used principally along natural barriers to locate human sign.
Deception (Camouflage): Attempting to confuse,disguise or conceal sign by walking backward, brushing out, or other means. To deceive or confuse direction of travel, number of persons, or presence of sign.
False Trails: Leaving a good trail, or sign, into a poor sign area, then departing on another route.
Flagged: Leaves or grass turned indirection of travel, showing the underside surfaces.
Flankers: The two members to the right and left, behind a point person, who make up a tracking team.
Grass Trail: The bending, intertwining of grass or brush indicating human passage.
Heel Marks: The curved mark or depression on the ground surface made by the walking motion of the heel portion of the shoes.
Healing: A process with live vegetation in which human damage is repaired. Used to age sign.
Inventing Sign: Seeing sign that is not present, usually because of fatigue and/or a "need" to see it. To fabricate within the "mind's eye."
Light Angle: The correct angle forseeing sign utilizing the primary light source.
Line of Sign: The continuity of sign evidencing human passage.
Littering: Scattered debris,rubbish, or human feces that are sign of human presence.
Natural Barriers: Areas such as streams, banks, and roads, which generally interrupt human passage, and show sign well.
Place Last Seen (PLS): Place where witness or evidence indicates the subject was last seen.
Perimeter Cut: A sign cut method of limiting a search area, or locating sign along natural barriers.
Point Person: The principal tracking person who is in front of other team members and generally (on the ground) identifying each footprint step-by-step.
Prime Sign Area: The area of correct size and location in relation to other sign, in which the next print should be located.
Sand trap: Dirt areas, occurring naturally or man-made, which, by their nature, show sign well.
Scuff Mark: The mark or sign causedby footgear contacting the ground surface.
Shine: The light reflection from human foot fall damage or compression.
Sign: Evidence of a person's passage.
Sign Cutting: The skill of locating, following and identifying evidence of human passage.
Sign Cutting Stick: A stick, or other suitable object, used as a sign cut aid for measuring, marking, and locating prime sign areas.
Signature Track: Footprint evidence clearly displaying unique characteristics so as to be unmistakably identifiable.
Stride: Sign cut measurement fromtip of toe of one normal walking step to back of heel of the next successive step.
Toe Digs: The indented mark or signleft in a normal walking motion when one foot propels the body forward.
Tracking Team: Ideally, a three-personteam, each with specific functions, following a line of sign.
Transfer: The evidence of dirt ordebris being carried by footgear and re-deposited on succeeding footfalls.
Stride For human strides are measured from heal from one foot or shoe to the heel of the next. The reason for this is humans will go heel first and roll onto the toes unless walking backwards trying to cover their direction of movement.
Sand trap other term Tracking Box or date/Time box
Gaits the normal walking patern for that animal also called Pattern Classification
Straddle the measurement between left and right foot prints.
Pressure realse Advanced skill is the changing forward motin of print eg from walk to run or slip
Sign Cutting Stick. other term Tracking stick. Once the stride length is marked on the stick the mark is placed on the heel for human toe for animal of track and stick is then moved in an arc to help locate next track
Scat manure droppings
Lays resting areas
Sign Tracking anything besides a track that is an indication of an animal (includes human)
Pitch the angle of the track in relation to its direction
 
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auscraft

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Great list would like to make a few inclusions or different term for same term.
Stride For human strides are measured from heal from one foot or shoe to the heel of the next. The reason for this is humans will go heel first and roll onto the toes unless walking backwards trying to cover their direction of movement.
Sand trap other term Tracking Box or date/Time box
Gaits the normal walking patern for that animal also called Pattern Classification
Straddle the measurement between left and right foot prints.
Pressure realse Advanced skill is the changing forward motin of print eg from walk to run or slip
Sign Cutting Stick. other term Tracking stick. Once the stride length is marked on the stick the mark is placed on the heel for human toe for animal of track and stick is then moved in an arc to help locate next track
Scat manure droppings
Lays resting areas
Sign Tracking anything besides a track that is an indication of an animal (includes human)
Pitch the angle of the track in relation to its direction

There are more terms used in track analysis but they are extension terms already made mentioned above and are specific types
 
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Tripwire

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A person useing or trying to deceive a tracker by walking backwards will leave a noticple indicater.
The toe digs in as he moves onto the other foot _____, if he walks backwards the point of the heal
digs in .........I__, ____, The weight is always transfered to the direction of travel.
Sorry i cant explain it with a drawing im not computer savvy.
 

auscraft

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Tripwire
It is hard to explain but very true the impressions can be read if you take care in reading the track.
I love your signature by the way
 

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A person useing or trying to deceive a tracker by walking backwards will leave a noticple indicater.
The toe digs in as he moves onto the other foot _____, if he walks backwards the point of the heal
digs in .........I__, ____, The weight is always transfered to the direction of travel.
Sorry i cant explain it with a drawing im not computer savvy.
If this post is to picture heavy any moderator can feel free to just delete it.

Hi Tripwire,
I hope this helps as a picture saves a thousand words. Originally posted on bushcraft uk.

Deception Techniques.
The oldest trick in the book, and probably the least effective.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with this one lately and would highly recommend giving it a go.

After practicing basic deception techniques for a while, false soil scatter, fake pointers and brushing that sort of thing, the more I practise the more obvious it becomes that deception techniques have been employed, On snow or in sandy areas the track feature that is almost imposable to reproduce or disguise is the line of force, the "toe dig" at the front of a normal track just under the toes or the ball of the foot if travailing a little faster, Ignore the scatter,this is so easy to fake with just a light flick of the toe, just look for the toe dig and if its absent you’ll know there’s probably something amiss.
The primary indication to walking backwards is the step pattern interval shortens dramatically,straddle widens and becomes splayfooted as normal balance is very hard to maintain. Walking backwards and trying to retrace your steps exactly is practically imposable and just blatantly messy. If you see tracks in this condition your quarry has probably already jumped off the trail. In long grass however where toe dig is not visible try to feel for a heel impression, it will be at the front of the track rather than the rear. The most obvious thing of course is that if you’ve been following a trail for some distance on and all of a sudden the tracks have just turned round 180 degrees and apparently walking towards you why haven’t bumped in to your quarry. A useless ploy that only server to alert the tracker to the fact that the quarry is possibly aware they are being tracked.


12
3
1 walking backwards.......................2 walking forward.........................3 backwards.


..

Quote: David Scott-Donelan. Tactical tracking Operations.
( Any tracker fooled by this ruse should hand in his badge and hang his head in shame.)


Here the direction of travel is opposite to the direction of interlaced vegetation and pointers.
If you feel for the toe in this track you would actually find a heel impression.
..


No toe dig, loss of balance casing the slight shuffle and double heel print and a build up of soil from the pressure wave at the left side of boot, a widened straddle and massively foreshortened stride........ False soil scatter walking backwards.



Normal clean sharp track with steady forward momentum, line of force "toe dig" and soil scatter in proper position and with a small stone at the heel dislodged and kicked in the direction of travel.........
.x2


Some of what I learnt from this exercise was, to look closer at the sign, try to read more of the subtle track features and, just as importantly, the extreme changes in individual and combinations in a series of tracks. I also got an appreciation for the characteristics and importance of different soil personalities, the relationship between speed, pressure and ground composition, i.e. line of force and the toe dig position.
More importantly the best thing about this exercise is it gave me an insight and better understanding of cause and effect or rather effect and cause. Before now I was just following tracks as best I could,(not terribly well it must be said), but, at least now I have started to think about why is that crack there, and why is there no crack in the next track? I certainly don’t know the answers, but at least now I know I’m on the same page as the questions.


Give it a go and experiment.
Fool me once,...........is once to many.
 
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Dusty Miller

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I do notice that the time taken to track an animal is important. If you can deceive a tracker for a short time, you effectively gain velocity. I can follow dog tracks no worries, but cannot hope to catch such fast moving animals by tracking and foot pursuit alone. As the time taken for a tracker to interpret increases, so the chances of catching the target decrease. There are a number of techniques to use to waste time or slow the trackers progress. Using other evidence left by other animals is one, like grass direction, in combination with some other method. The tracker may figure it out eventually, but if you can introduce doubt (or certainty) in his mind then you have an advantage, and an ability to waste his time. Use a ruse once ot twice to misdirect, use it next time to take the other option...

If you want to catch someone, use a dog. Fast, difficult to fool, and work in the dark. I don't think that "walking backwards" was meant to be used quite so literally in this manner either, although I suppose many who learned from books may try it. It has a different purpose, and is not performed in this manner.
 

Hairyman

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Saw a double ended horse shoe in a museum once. It was supposed to have been used by a famous busranger
(cant remember which on maybe Cpt Thunderbolt) but I couldnt see it fooling any serious tracker back in those
days for reasons mentioned above. probably made by some bored blacksmith as a money earner from the naive.
 

Aussie123

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Other than humans, does any animal ever walk backwards as a deceptive ploy (obviously animals can walk backwards when going about their normal business) ?
 

Dusty Miller

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Most animals are not hunted by other animals that use visual tracking of sign. Most hunters are either sight, sound or smell (chemical) or vibration/touch/electrical under water. backtracking works poorly with smell, as the oxidation of fats and other smell molecules ages the trail, so it has an apparent direction to the smells. Wherever you leave the trail is obvious to a dog or pig.

Plovers, dogs and foxes will let themsleves be seen to draw sight hunters away from say, young. They also change direction when out of sight, like a ridgeline or log. I had a border collie who deliberatly misled me about her directional intentions (wanted to chase cars, saw me, walked behind hoiuse, the ran entriely around house and down to the road. very deliberate.

Humans must be one of the few animals to use actual tracks (rather than scent trails or heat trails) as a mean of locating prey, perhaps some eagles or hawks can spot the trails, being an almost exclusively visual predator. I wouldn't rule out anything in nature. I think human use of tracks is because we have only recently started chasing things, after our noses got too far away and feeble to be useful.

As a side note, cats seem very reluctant to go backwards at all.
 

Hairyman

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Id guess probably not Aussie, as this level of deception would require an advanced 'theory of mind'
that only seems to be posessed by modern humans and maybe by our close extinct relatives.
Ive noticed that canids actually prefer to walk in softer sand in the drain beside dirt roads where their tracks are
obvious..... to us anyhow.
 

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"walking backwards" It has a different purpose, and is not performed in this manner.
Go on then bro enlighten me, the cats out off the bag now and I'm here to learn.

The best way to lose a tracker is forget all the time wasting deceptions and get moving, keep increasing the time gap, or alternatively employ counter tracker measure's, and the effect will be very much the same.
 
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Aussie123

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Thanks for the feedback guys.

Ive noticed that canids actually prefer to walk in softer sand in the drain beside dirt roads where their tracks are
obvious..... to us anyhow.
I’ve often noticed this too and was never sure if its just that the tracks on the road itself become obscured by traffic, or if they actually prefer the softer sand. I wonder if walking in the drain serves as a sort of gully to provide some visual protection, rather than on the track, which may feel more like a ridge line; or they may be looking for scents from smaller creatured who use these "gullies" ?


They also change direction when out of sight, like a ridgeline or log.

Humans must be one of the few animals to use actual tracks (rather than scent trails or heat trails)
Changing direction when out of sight does suggest that the "prey" has an awareness that they are being visually tracked, and an "understanding" (perhaps instinctive) that if they keep in the same direction a predator may be able to guess their intended route and intercept. Since many predators hunt from down-wind, changing direction may also disrupt the scent trail ? If prey moves at right angles to the wind (and changes "intended direction"), the predator may loose the scent more readily and not be able to pick them up visually ?

... as this level of deception would require an advanced 'theory of mind'
that only seems to be posessed by modern humans and maybe by our close extinct relatives. .

I guess the ability to read tracks is somewhat akin to reading and writing skills. See a series of marks on a surface and derive a meaning from the shapes and sequence – tracks on the ground or letters on a screen.
Just as R&R allows us to get meaning from people distant from us (in time and place), tracks allow us to see what has happened in an area at some time in the past, it’s a written record. Even the deterioration of tracks adds to their meaning ….

Let me pose this thought – is tracking a pre-cursor to human reading and writing ? …
 

Hairyman

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Hmm...thats a very good question Aussie...."is tracking a pre-cursor to human reading and writing ?"
Sounds plausible to me, its certainly abstract thought. I wonder if its been considered by paleoanthropoligsts?
It could be at least part of the picture. Going against it would be that reading and writing seemed to blossom
just when tracking game became less important, that is when argriculture was first developed.
It could be just a different use of an older skill.
 

auscraft

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Aussie good thoughts. If you look at early cave paintings they are mostly of hunting/fighting type subjects.
cania gorge has paintings by Aboriginals that are very different to what we are accustomed to seeing.

"There are nine recorded Aboriginal art sites in Cania Gorge, but these are not accessible to the public. Paintings include handprints and images of animals and their tracks. The art of Cania Gorge is freehand painting—a very different style of art to that recorded to the west and south-west. Cania Gorge has no stencilled art like the hands, feet and boomerangs found at Carnarvon National Park. Most paintings in Cania Gorge are weathered, faded, and very fragile.

Grinding Groove Cave is one of the sites being investigated by archaeologists at Cania Gorge. Grooves were created as Aboriginal people used sandstone to grind the edges of hatchet stones, made of hard rock such as rhyolite. Water is needed to help the abrasive process, so the groove sites are usually found near creek beds or under the drip-line of caves.

Aboriginal people have lived in Cania Gorge for at least 19,000 years, back to the height of the last Ice Age. Australia was a much colder and drier place at that time. It is thought that Aboriginal people may have used gorges, such as this one, more frequently during this period as they offered access to predictable water and food resources. Continuing research by local Aboriginal people and archaeologists in the Cania Gorge region will increase understanding of how Aboriginal occupation of the gorge changed over long periods of time.

The walls of the pit in Grinding Groove Cave cut through hearths—layers of material resulting from fires lit within the cave. The white areas of ash often contain teeth, burnt bone and sometimes pieces of stone tools. A pit excavated in the floor of Grinding Groove Cave descends 4.5 m until it reaches bedrock. This pit reveals evidence of 10,500 years of Aboriginal occupation.'
http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/cania-gorge/culture.html
 

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Hmm...thats a very good question Aussie...."is tracking a pre-cursor to human reading and writing ?"
Sounds plausible to me, its certainly abstract thought. I wonder if its been considered by paleoanthropoligsts?
According to Louis Liebenberg The Art of Tracking The Origin of Science
Quote LL. (The art of tracking,as practiced by contemporary trackers of the Kalahary is a science that requires fundamentally the same intellectual abilities as modern physics and mathematics.It may well have been the first creative science practiced by the earliest members of anatomically modern (AM) homo sapiens who had modern intellects. Natural selection for ability to interpret tracks and signs may have played a significant role in the evolution of the scientific intellect.)



However I have also heard the theory that music, poetry and art all stemmed from archery. The first monochord and all that, it’s plausible but personally I don't believe a word of this one considering percussion instruments must have been around long before the invention of the bow and arrow.



Sorry, Forget everything I said earlier, getting my Neanderthal and Homo Sapien evolution all up mixed.
Anyone who listens to me only have their self to blame.......
 
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Aussie123

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That looks like an interesting book.

There need to be a lot happening cognitively to get the process starting.

Tracks are an “object symbol” ie some form of symbol which represents an animal, and the animal represents meat and food. So ultimately a mark on the ground = (potential) food.

In early child development there are phases of cognitive development starting with the object itself and moving on to more and more abstract concepts.

For example the most basic “representation” of an antelope is a antelope it self (sight, sound and smell)
More abstract may be a toy antelope, which looks just like the real thing. But is perhaps scaled down.
More abstract still may be a photo of an antelope
Then a drawing of a antelope
A simple drawing of a antelope (eg perhaps a highly stylised kid’s type picture)
Eventually you reach the point where totally abstract symbols can convey the meaning like the squiggles A,N,T,E,L,O,P and E in sequence

We see all these “things” in ancient human history:
Cave paintings of animals, people and hunting scenes
Cave paintings of abstract figures (usually referred to as ceremonial or spiritual. Sometimes sexual/fertility related)
Carving of stone, bone and occasionally wooden figure (human, animal and “abstract”)
Ceremonial grave goods
Skull masks and head dresses (presumably skins and furs too)

These are all very abstract ways of interacting with and representing the world and seem (to me) to show well developed cognitive processes and the ability to think abstractly
 
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