The previous article introduced us to the dimension of tracking skills combined with Survival, learning from the mighty examples provided by legendary figures like Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger, John Colt and so on. With a complete absence of technology, you would be inclined right to think that two skills could work only during those times. But, you couldn’t be more wrong! In fact, in this article, we will learn how Tracking and Survival can and must work together in order to guarantee a successful escape of any emergency situation that could occur even during an easy and relaxing walk in the woods.
“Expect the unexpected” should be the creed for those who like the great outdoors. It is mandatory to be prepared, having on you the proper gear which should contain your Survival Kit, Fire Kit, Water Purification System, Compass, Map and a good stockpile of food. Not to mention convenient clothes and shoes. Well, this is actually the ABCs for any backpacker, or hunter, hiker.., right?
Nonetheless, setbacks are always behind the corner. That’s why it is so crucial to never underestimate the power of knowledge, as it weighs absolutely nothing. By reason, Tracking Skills can turn useful in so many cases, as we will soon see. Before going any deeper, let me recommend you a precious book: “Lost Person Behavior: A Search and Rescue Guide on Where to Look – for Land, Air, and Water” by Robert Koester (2008). This manual happens to be a real mainstay in order to understand how different categories of people – selected by age, sex, activity, even by progressed pathologies – are likely to behave if they find themselves lost in the outdoors.
Not all of them are supposed to be familiar with any Survival (or Tracking) technique. Koester carefully explained that quite most of the selected categories – except for hunters – once strayed, tend to walk in circles: their orientation becomes numb and leads them to follow a hypothetical trail which seems to reach point B from point A. In this way, they lose precious minutes, even hours. Panic took advantage of them. A lot of “adrift” hikers on Appalachian Trail have been reported to do so. Sometimes they even found death a few feet away from the main road.
Inexperience is surely something to avoid. Unpreparedness too. Then the prophetic “WHAT IF” dawns immediately on our mind, right? So let’s try to understand how can we apply our Skills in an emergency situation, not letting panic prevail on us, but using common sense, mind and by keeping control of the whole situation.
In such a situation, the word MUTUALITY can make a big difference, equally using ALL OF OUR SENSES, especially sight and hearing (as stressed up in the previous articles). The collection of information on a specific area is the very basis for Tracking. The proximity to the main road, for example, can be detected by the constant noise of the passage of the vehicle. This is mostly common sense, I reckon it, but panic can deprive us of the capacity to catch clearly any important sound!
If we have accidentally left at home our compass and we find ourselves with no maps and any GPS signal available, we can read the ground in order to backtrack ourselves. Or, at a juncture, we can observe the most recent tracks and decide to follow them: they will lead us somewhere, like a camping site or a main road.
In the remote possibility of being forced to stay overnight, it’s important to carefully choose the best spot where to set our camp. By checking the area for spotting any animal passage allows us to determine a safe place, same speech for aerial spoors, so.. take care of widow makers and wasps nests! Scouting the whole perimeter offers you the chance to look for any debris that can turn useful in collecting waters, like abandoned containers and so on. I am pretty sure you all have seen a bunch of episodes of Dual Survival, Alone or The Walking Dead. Taking advantage of all the resources we have starts precisely from an accurate observation of what surrounds you. And Tracking helps you a lot in that.
Food and Water
What if you have run out your stockpile of rations and energetic bars? And what about the water you had in your canteen? To fix the two issues really soon, you can apply your Animal Tracking Skills. Check the whole area for well-crossed trails – be sure the tracks are FRESH – and follow them. Probably there is a wadi in the nearby. The presence of water means also food, so take your time to study the best spots where to set your traps, or focus yourself on the construction of a proper fishing pot. The river banks, if sandy, will provide you also the chance to observe several animal tracks, making you aware of potential dangerous beasts near your camp.
These are just a bunch of examples. There are tons of good manuals you can rely on in order to develop your Survival Skill. What should never go out of your mind is that observation – and, consequentially, tracking can actually pave you the way to survive.
“Learning to read signs enables everyone to choose a safe route in life, staying safe and avoiding danger!”
John “Lofty” Wiseman (SAS Survival Handbook, 1986)