Chapter 13: Tracking



o       Track or print (p. 210-211)

o       Sign (p. 211)

o       Sign-cutting (p. 212)

o       Step-by-step tracking (p. 212, 214-215)



I. Resources

PowerPoint slides, Chapter 13, walking/tracking stick, white board, LCD projector


II. Teaching Points


A. Definitions and terminology (p. 210)

  1. A track or print is an impression left from the passage of a person that can be positively identified as being human.
  2. A track may be:

a.       Complete: meaning that the entire impression is visible

b.      Partial: meaning that it is not visible in its entirety

c.       Identifiable: meaning that, complete or partial, it has at least one characteristic that differentiates it from others similar to it

  1. Sign is any evidence of change from the natural state that is inflicted on an environment by a person’s passage.
  2. Tracking is simply defined as following someone, or something, by stringing together a continuous chain of their sign.
  3. Sign cutting is looking for sign in order to establish a starting point from which to track.

a.       Sign cutting is done by looking for a sign in a path that would intersect that of the person who laid the tracks.

b.      It can substantially reduce the search area by detecting sign that indicates direction of travel.

  1. Jump tracking is a form of tracking that involves finding a big, obvious footprint, then proceeding along the presumed direction of travel until another obvious track is found.

a.       Involves guesswork, luck, essentially no skill, and can be dangerous when a life depends on skillful tracking

  1. Step-by-step tracking is a disciplined teaching system where a tracker sees each step in sequence and proceeds no further than the last visible track, using the stride to determine where next to look for sign.
  2. Bracketing is an occasionally acceptable method of interpolation between tracks that can be used when standard step-by-step approaches fail.
  3. Bracketing is meant as a stopgap measure that uses a predetermined stride to skip one step in sequence in order to find the next, and then use it to find one skipped.


B. Equipment for tracking (p. 213)

1.      Clothing¾Should be appropriate for the terrain and durable

2.      Walking/sign cutting stick¾A light, durable stick is best.

3.      A measuring device¾A tape measure for measuring print size or stride

4.      A small notepad and pencil¾To record measurements and fill out track reports

5.      Trail tape¾To cordon off evidence or sign

6.      A flashlight¾For when light is not optimal

7.      A mirror¾To redirect natural light low across sign


C. Light (p. 213)

1.      Tracking is far simpler when the light is of the proper intensity and from the right direction.

2.      Tracks are usually easier to see while facing the light source, and with that source at a low angle to the ground.


D. Labeling tracks (p. 215)

1.      Tracks should be marked in two ways:

a.       Indicate whether they are right or left.

b.      Circle them if they are fully identifiable.

2.      To mark a track, start by using the sign cutting stick to etch a semicircle to the rear of the track.

3.      A short hash mark is placed at the right end of the arc to indicate right, and at the left end of the arc to indicate left.


E. The tracking team (p.  215)

1.      The three-person team or crew composed of a Point Person and two Flankers has several advantages:

a.       It allows for consultation in difficult situations.

b.      It builds confidence and reduces errors.

c.       It allows rotation of the Point Person who is physically on the ground searching for sign.

d.      It allows the team to split up if several trails diverge.

2. Point Person

a.       Stays just behind the last track found

b.      Uses a sign cutting stick to search for the next one

c.       Marks the tracks as the team progresses

d.      Keeps Flankers from obliterating sign by getting ahead

e.       Coordinates efforts of team


3. Flankers

a.       Watch the side for incoming tracks that might confuse the situation

b.      Watch for a sudden turn of the trail being followed

c.       Help the Point Person find the next track from their vantage positions