allows a searcher to use visible clues (sign) and combined with keen
mind to locate someone or something.
sign cutting are used to detect the direction of movement of someone or
something. Sign is any evidence of change from the natural state
that is inflicted on an environment by a persons' or animals' passage.
Tracking is following signs of track left by someone or something.
story has been printed on the ground and We as "Track Aware"
searches must discover its' existence and learn to read it.
and Sign Cutting takes a long time to acquire skills, and continual
practice to maintain abilities. This is Not something to jump into
to Man Tracking
a person walks through an area, whether it be at home or in the
wilderness, evidence is left of that passage. Humans must contact
their environment in order to travel by foot, the most common type of
travel. A person requires contact approximately every 18-20 inches
when they are walking, (the stride will vary with the height of the
person). Some disturbance (sign) is made through this contact and
this is the first phase of tracking, incorporating detecting sign.
The next phase of tracking includes following track after finding initial
jumping right into what sign looks like, the acts of "looking"
and "seeing" need to be addressed.
we all participate in the act of looking. We look at each other,
we look at traffic signs, we look around, we look forward to going home
after work, and we also occasionally look funny. But what do we
actually see when we look? Most people in an urban environment,
frankly, don't see much at all. They simply look. The signs
they view are stark and consistent, usually full of color, rarely
require close scrutiny, and are easily discernable from their
surroundings. Let's face it, most folks in today's world are
passive viewers, seeing only what they need to see to get by. In
tracking, as in most natural settings, this type of vision - passive,
non-aggressive, unconscious - will not work.
tracking, a tracker must not only know what to look for, they must know
how to look, subsequently, "see." In the natural or wilderness
setting, colors are not stark and bold as they are in the urban environment.
Nature has a way of using milder tones with uneven boundaries, rougher
textures that tend to blend objects into each other, and the weaker
contrasts that make delineating one object from another more
difficult. An unconscious, urban approach to looking will not lead
to a successful tracking career. In the natural environment, what
we see is not always what we are looking for. Therefore, we must
adjust our viewing skill to interpret more clearly what nature has to
offer, and to learn to see what once we only sought.
a tracker looks for certain signals or visual cues (cue: a stimulus that
guides behavior) that catch the eye, rather than track or prints, then,
in the end, far more will be seen. When a tracker has a
preconceived notion of what he or she is looking for, much of what could
be of help is disregarded. A tracker must keep an open mind and
look at everything that might possibly be of assistance. From
there, bits of information can be objectively disposed of, rather the
see track or a print, a tracker first needs to be able to discern one or
more of certain common visual cues. These cues no only offer
specific attraction to seek, they also serve well as general categories
of sign. These items are what a tracker should be seeking:
- A boundary or perimeter line around an area, delineating it from
surroundings. May be a small line or a complete track perimeter.
- Large enough to be human; i.e. usually involves flattening,
unusual for the environment.
- Difference in color, texture, or shape fro surroundings. The
greater the difference, the more compelling and attractive the cue.
- Wavelength of light as seen by the eye and interpreted by the
brain. In nature, usually mild tones, but differences can be
detected. Not nearly as important in natural environments as
- Rough or Smooth. The consistency or smoothness of a
the tracker looks for these cues rather than just tracks or prints, much
more is seen, and much more information is available to the tracker for
interpretation. Don't look for the whole look for the parts.
When the parts are found, the whole can be compiled.
that most of the visual cues described are simply different ways of
saying, "look for something that doesn't belong." When
something out of the ordinary is seen, there is a good chance that it
can be valuable to a tracker. Thus, all of the cues listed are
essentially different types of contrast in that they all have the
tracker looking for abnormalities, (i.e., difference in shape; in color;
last consideration regarding vision that should be mentioned is certain
guidelines must be followed if any longevity and effectiveness is
expected for trackers. To see more completely and for longer
periods of time, trackers need to exercise their vision so that they do
not become numb and regress back to looking rather than seeing.
guidelines can help the searcher get the most out of his or her sight
views from the big, overall picture to the small minute objects regularly.
Varying he focus can simulate the eyes as well as the mind and
help prevent unconscious, passive viewing and promote active,
aggressive vision. The point of a tracking can quickly
tire from examining small evidence intensely over long periods of
time. Looking up and away from the micro-environment can bring
back perspective and allow the tracker to see what was invisible
just a moment ago.
for visual cues, not for preconceived shapes or objects. Move
in and inspect more closely anything that seems out of the ordinary
or falls into the category of sign. (i.e., outline, shape, contrast,
any preconceptions and look at everything. Take Your
Time. There will usually be a lot to see.
look for the whole, look for the parts of the whole. There
are more of them and they can lead directly to a desired object.
- The Specifics
going into the subtle details of sign, lets consider what can be learned
from one single footprint. The following is a list of some of the
information available from a single print.
and width can help identify the print and distinguish it from others
that may be similar. Size of a print can also give a rough
idea of a persons' size.
general type of sole (if discernable) can help distinguish it from
others that as well as offer an aid in describing the print to
of specific parts of a sole pattern can help positively identify a
print. That is, lug sizes, areas of wear, or pattern
dimensions can help distinguish one print from others.
prints in a row can help determine direction of travel and stride,
which can aid in finding subsequent prints.
though it is rare to find complete, clear print, fragments of prints and
sign will be common inmost terrain. Because of this, as much information
as possible must be learned from each piece of sign. Tracking is
not race to see who finishes first: it is an exercise in accuracy and
efficiency. Getting there quickly is worthless if you end up at the
a print, particularly a complete and identifiable one can help others
know what print to seek. The drawing can be copied and handed out
to searchers so that one specific print can be sought, thus lessening
the possibilities. When time allows, drawing a print, or part
thereof, is always a good idea. A standard track report that
offers an area to draw and describe is a good for this purpose. Track
would be impossible to mention all the different types of sign that
exist because sign varies so much with terrain, weather, time of day, vegetation,
and more. Therefore, only the most common types of sign and their
general categories will be addressed.
depends greatly on the environment in which it is produced. A
marsh may produce completely different sign than a desert, for instance,
but some similarities do exist.
These similarities must be understood by all trackers, but it's still
important important for a tracker be familiar with the sign most common
to their region.
or a print is an impression left from the
passage of a person that positively identified as being human. Further,
a track may be complete, meaning that the entire impression is visible;
partial, meaning that it is not visible entirely; and/or identifiable,
meaning that, complete or partial, it has at least one characteristic that
differentiates it from others similar to it. Tracking
is simply defined as following someone, or something by stringing together a
continuous chain of sign. Sign is
any evidence of change from a natural state that is inflicted on an environment
by a person's passage. A track , whether complete or partial, is
many individual pieces of sign combined in such a way as to form a
print. The technique is to find some sign, then interpret it, and ultimately
act on it. Simply put, tracking is the ability to put sign together, after
investigation, in chronological order over a large area.
In order to be of any
use, sign must be discovered. Seeing it is usually fairly easy because
there is so much of it. A walking person leaves sign approximately every
18-20 inches, or over 3000 times per mile, so catching even a small percentage
of it should be a problem. The trouble lies not in finding the sign, but
determining what is relevant and which is not. The novice tracker, for
example often sees plenty of relevant sign, yet disregards it because they
felt it to be insignificant. The experienced tracker see the same
information but has learned to glean its meaning.
So, we start with a
missing person or lost person, we then try to find out more about the missing
person through field interviews with the reporting party, from there we can
then start with Point Last Seen (PLS) and from there we can begin a
search. All sound so simple so far.
start with search patterns, all of which start with the point the victim was last seen.
From there, we draw a 360 degree circle, this is called our search perimeter,
depending on the length of time in which the person was last seen and the time
we show up, will dictate just how big that circle will be.
the importance of tracking? The answer is a mathematical equation.
It also is deductive reasoning.
Here is a word
problem, Lets say your victim is able to travel 2 miles an hour, He was
last seen about an hour ago. Not knowing where he was going, he
left in an unknown direction. So, if he could travel at 2 miles an
hour the search area for him would be about 12.6 square miles, but if you
where able to reduce that area down to just 1.05 square miles, wouldn't
it make life easier? So if we can establish a Direction of Travel,
thus eliminating 85% of the search area.
inside the search perimeter should be contacted as potential sources of
information, advising them to take the victim to base camp or to a
search team if the location is known to the informant.
searching, Teams will periodically callout the victims name.
Detail Teams (Hasty
Teams) will check attractive hazards first.
Steams, lake shores, ponds, construction areas, comfort stations,
cabins, service building, caves, gullies, and densely forested areas
adjacent to any of the above.
One or more
searchers from each team should be detailed to check the steep slopes
where tracks are more pronounced in the event the victim tried to climb
Set up a search
pattern: Either Jump tracking, Grid,
Line or Circular
Tracking - If tracks are found that are identified as belonging
to the victim, we will dispatch a team to follow that trail. This Team
will no be used for no other purpose.
Direction of travel will be established if possible. Base camp will be
advised of the magnetic azimuth.
The Trackers will plot the tracks and their coarse onto their
Two teams are dispatched to a point along the projected line of travel,
following the azimuth given by the tracking team.
When the teams arrive
at a predestinated position, the two teams will face away from each
other and search in the line along the given azimuth.
is communicated back to base camp, and to other search teams. If new
tracks are found along the projected path, The team can "Jump
Ahead" and repeat the process.
and Straight Line Search - These methods
may be utilized if the victims' tracks wander without apparent
direction, or if no evidence or sign is found. Manpower must be
available to cover large areas.
Each search team
is given a grid(s) to covering specific areas. The team will
travel to that portion of the grid closest to the victims' last known
location. they will form a parallel ling along one side of the grid.
The Line searchers will sweep to the far end of the grid. the inside man
will keep his position while the other team members form a parallel line
on the opposite side of him and then track back along the azimuth of the
direction they just searched.
coming across an entrance to a canyon, the team may sweep one half mile
up canyon for tracks or other evidence. If the results are negative this
tentatively eliminates that canyon from the search area.
Sweep - This search is used at the last known position of the
victim, or when your search is looking for small pieces of evidence.
It starts by using the last known point as an anchor point or axis, then
the Team forms a parallel line radiating from that point.
A circular sweep
is made around that point until tracks or other evidence is found, or
until the sweep has been completed.
If tracks or
evidence are not found after a 360 degree sweep, the team member on the
outside will remain in place (following the same path as the first
sweep) while other members form up on the outside of their position to
expand the search area. This method may be continued several times
or until another search method is given.
- When walking, the tracks will be closer spaced and the toes will be
pointing out. Measure the stride (back of heel to back of heel) to aid
in step - to - step tracking.
When running the tracks will be spread out, but closer to centerline,
and toes pointing forward.
wavering tracks indicate that the missing person is caring a heavy
weight. If the heels are abnormally deep, the person tracked is walking
backwards. (applies to criminal situations)
Imprint and Effects of Different Terrains
dirt trails provide the best terrain for track detection. However
trackers need to be able to compensate for other elements such as
gravel, grass, sand, snow, and mud. Gravel will not accept a fine
depression the way dirt does. One should look for heel depressions which
are areas of flattened rocks and toe dig areas. If the subject is
passing through a gravel section after a muddy or grassy section, mud or
green scuff marks may be visible on the gravel. In grass the only
indication that the subject had passed through, might be a slight
discoloration where the subject had stepped. A track made through deep
grass will leave a streak lighter than the surrounding area.
searching for sign along a trail covered in old vegetation and hard
packed soil, indirect sign should be sought. Twigs that have been
stepped on by the subject will leave an indentation in the soil beneath
the twig. The depression would normally fill with time, so the fact that
the depression is present is evidence that something has recently
depressed the twig.
may or may not accept a boot print depending on the water content of the
snow. It may be necessary to dig a foot down in the snow to see the
actual boot print if the subject is "punching through" the
layers of snow. Skies and snowshoes also leave characteristic tracks
that may be followed by the tracker. Prints made late in the day in soft
snow will usually freeze in a clear fashion as night time temperatures
drop. Prints made early in the day may be more unclear as the day time
sun warms and melts the top layers. Tracks made on ice may dull the
normal shinny finish of the ice.
tracks appear slightly larger than wet tracks. Tracks are easier to read
in wet soil although the age of the track is difficult to determine.
This difficulty is due to capillary action which draws moisture from the
soil keeping the track perfect for several days.
the Age of the Track
observation of several tracks may reveal whether animal or insect life
has crossed, indicating the passage of at least one night since most
animals feed and hunt during the hours of darkness. Wind action is
observable, which will round off the edges of the track and pile debris
on one side as is depicted below.
noting the coloration of freshly broken twigs to those broken by the
subject may give some qualitative indication of the time that has past
since the subject made the track. This coloration will also be dependent
on the local weather.
made in mud can last for weeks with extreme clarity. This could cause
problems if the subject is lost in an area that they frequents often.
Muddy puddles that contain tracks of the subject can be assumed to be
greater than two hours old if all the mud and silt has completely
settled. Pock marks created by rain or morning dew is an indication as
to whether the track was made before or after the rainfall or dew.