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Introduction to Human Tracking
for Search and Rescue Volunteers
- Use freely for any not for profit training use

- Click Here to download .pdf files of the manuals -


Part IV - Good Teamwork Equals Better Tracking

While tracking you might find many of the indications listed in the Tracking Terms Glossary in one footprint. Or, you might find only the slightest hint of one of them. Teamwork will be critical for two reasons. mertle.jpg (41628 bytes)

1) In difficult terrain only one team member may have the right angle to see a sign, so it is important that everyone contribute to the best of their ability

2) There are decisions to be made, for example: Is it a track or not? Do we go on, or do we go back to the last track we were sure of? Should we take a break?

ferns2.jpg (72933 bytes)(Above right - myrtle and low, hearty ground cover can tough to track in
Left - Tall ground cover like these ferns are much easier to find sign in)

By focusing everyone from three different angles on the "Prime Sign Area" determined with a tracking stick, the team will eventually find some indication of a footfall. Then you work it as a team to find as many items as you need as a team to convince yourselves that you have a track. If you don't find anything else after a focused team examination you must decide as a team to go back to the last track and start the process again.

After gaining a little experience, some prints will almost magically appear. And I don't say "appear" lightly. There are times when you can look and look and see nothing, and then one little item is spotted and suddenly, the entire footprint appears to the whole team. I believe this phenomena  is a direct result of training your eyes to see sign. line.jpg (51849 bytes)

(Right - A marked line of sign in difficult tracking terrain)

It is helpful now and then to stand up and look back at the marked "line of sign." That is the line created by flagging each heel print that indicates the path the subject has traveled. The line of sign tends to go in a relatively straight line because that's how people walk, unless a natural barrier is in the way, like a fallen branch or a large puddle. Then you have to figure out which route they took around the obstacle.

The goal of the tracking team is to move along, marking the line of sign as fast as possible while remaining sure that you are on the right track.

Don't always look down. Rest your eyes now and then and use common sense. When you arrive at tall ground cover you'll be able to track quickly.

(Right - a footprint in the sand)

sand.jpg (34599 bytes)Finding an obvious footprint in the sand or mud  after tracking through difficult terrain will be a welcome sign that you are on the right track.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to recover the lost individual.

Your knowledge of tracking and an awareness of what constitutes sign can make you a more effective search and rescue volunteer in the field.

Link to: Glossary of tracking terms having to do with the specific indicators of a foot print

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- Content and images copyright Roy Reehil, 2004
This tracking training page is hosted by the Forager Press, LLC
  Copyright The Forager Press, LLC - Use freely for any not for profit Search and Rescue Volunteer Training