The other night, whilst staring into the flickering flames of the fire, I was pondering about what it is that makes a good tracker.
I know that a good awareness of nature is key, and part-and-parcel of this is being a good observer. So having finely tuned senses is probably a given.
But what else? What is the other keystone? I would like to venture that it is an irrepressible sense of curiousity. Curiousity is the way into tracking. Curious people wonder why something is the way it is. They see, hear, smell, touch, taste or feel something and this raises a question for them. And it is this questioning that leads them into the inquiry about what is in front of them. They simply like to wonder. If nature awareness and observation is the ‘door’ and good knowledge/memory is the ‘latch’ to tracking then curiousity must be its key.
Jon Young and Tiffany Morgan in their seminal book Animal Tracking Basics frame it well with their “Elders of Tracking”. These are the foundations for your growth as a tracker. These allow your quest(ions) for answers to unlock the potential of awareness and memory. These questions are those of:
- Who – the question of identification. Was it a dog or a cat? Was wild or not? Was it an old male or young female? Was it fit or injured? Was it hungry or full?
- What – the question of interpretation. What was it doing? Was it ambling or running? Was it looking right or left? What made it to look in that direction? Was it searching for food or escaping pursuit?
- When – the question of aging. When was it here? Is it an old or fresh sign? Before or after the last downpour?
- Why – the question of habitat. Why was the animal here? Is it a place rich in its food or a place for mating? Is it out of ite normal habitat, and why?
- Where – the question of following. Where is the animal now? Where is it going?
- How – is the question of emotion. How does the animal feel? Anxious? Hungry? In pain? Relaxed? Hunted? Nervous? Was it hunting or being hunted?
Asking these questions enable you to create a framework for unlocking your potential as a tracker. We often we focus on the creation of awareness and the building of a large memory bank of prints and other sign. However, we often ignore curiousity as the means of accessing this strong-room of precious assets. Naturally curious people excel as trackers. This is often why children can be the ones that surprise us most – their natural sense of wonder and curiousity is at its peak. The great thing about curiousity is that it needs no study or years of apprenticeship to gain. It is within us all – once as children – sometimes lost as adults. So track down your curiousity and unlock the door to nature. You can then walk right in. Need you now question why?