… they’re good! This was Butch Cassidy’s comment on trackers pursuing him in the wilderness despite crossing rivers and solid rock. I recalled this quote while learning tracking skills with Woodland-Ways a few days ago.
Somewhere between an art and a science, following signs left by animals and humans is a fascinating jigsaw. The diverse evidence of a creature’s movement through an area is as varied as the senses. I was absorbed by spending time tuning in to what was going on around us in the woodland perceived by sound, smell and touch, as well as sight. The subtleties within a set of footprints were teased out by Jason Ingamells, as he taught us how to identify direction, speed and even consider the mood of animals as they passed.
Practical training was enhanced by wide games to hone our stealth skills. The first challenge of creeping up on a blindfolded man, through woodland, without making a sound, was considerable. Especially when the individual has acute hearing and Jedi direction finding skills, well done Jay!
The second challenge of creeping up on a Border Colly dog sat in camp seemed virtually impossible. However, the advantage of a headwind, smearing mud and ash on my face (next time I’ll remember my balaclava!), and 45 minutes of crawling on my toes and finger tips through foliage put me within 15 feet of my prey before being detected.
It is amazing how much information is out there on the ground describing the activity of woodland creatures. I appreciate I have only begun to recognise some of the headlines, but look forward to spending more time examining the fine print!