Today we prep so tomorrow we can live. Prepping is the best form of life ASSURANCE there is. Developing a prepping schedule at the beginning of the year will allow you to spend 52 weeks learning new skills, honing existing ones, and keeping track of your stockpiles by working in time for the boring but necessary task of updating your inventory list.
Make the most of the winter by not only learning and perfecting your skills, but by cross-training the rest of the folk in your family or mutual assistance group. Gardening and outdoor building season will soon be upon us, vastly reducing the amount of time for seated survival learning and exploratory sessions with new skills.
With all of the snow and/or mud on the ground, it is a great time to work on tracking skills – of both the animal and human variety.
I am a still a novice tracker, but eager to learn more and eventually reach expert level. I can identify the tracks, droppings, and sign of the animals on our survival homestead retreat and the predators that want to eat them.
This week I decided to take advantage of all the mud that we are living in after the big snow melt, and start teaching our daughter, son-in-law, and youngest grandchildren to learn the basics of tracking.
As a former educator, I strongly believe two things about the learning process. One, hands-on on it the best way to not only learn, but commit a new concept to memory – and its a whole lot of fun.
Two, the learner has to understand the practical application of the concept, how they will need or want to use the concept in their lives to fully learn, commit to memory, or care about the lesson.
More times than I can count, both as a youthful student and an adult learner studying for a professional license or required continuing education certificate, I knew I had to only memorize the information just long enough to take a test…and then forget it.
Self-reliance is a lifestyle, one that must begin as early as possible and cultivated on a regular basis. Learning how to track is an essential survival skill.
It will allow you to find wayward animals that escape your barnyard, know what predator are lurking about so you can trap or kill them, become a better hunter to put more meat on the table, and be alerted to human activity near or on your homesteading survival retreat.
After a week of fun in the mud, our youngest grandchildren can now tell the difference between duck, chicken, guinea, baby goat, mature goat, horse, pony, and miniature donkey prints and dung.
We got dirty, we had a blast, and created wonderful memories while making videos of the kiddos using their new skills to track the free ranging flock around the survival homestead.
My son-in-law combed our hills perfecting his beginner deer tracking skills. He can easily identify their footprints and their bedding down areas, but he wanted to learn more about locating their pathways in the woods by looking at fallen leaves, etc.
Our daughter loves to hunt as well, but has not had much experience tracking. She and her husband made a “date night” our of the kid-free survival skills learning sessions in the woods, with him helping her learn how to identify deer and turkey tracks and identify different types of animal droppings.
It is not difficult to notice a footprint from a shoe in the mud, snow, or dirt, but by honing your displacement skill, you can find out a lot more about who made the print: gender of wearer, weight, age (adult, teen, or child) and if the wearer is suffering from some type of injury or physical disability.
You may also be able to determine if the person is carrying a heavy load that they shift from one side to the other while packing it or if the load is switched to the arms or back of another person shoe prints were also found for along the same path.
Analyzing Human Footprint Tips
There are six basic tracking concepts you need to learn (and master) to identify and trace the movements of either animal or people: detection, displacement, stains, weather, litter, and camouflage.
1. Direction – Pay attention to any even slight change in either depth or direction inside the actual footprint when following human footprints. Walking backwards is just one really old trick used to baffle potential followers.
When a person is walking backwards to misdirect a tracker, they usually put a lot more weight on the heel. If the prints are placed at what seem irregular length or more dirt or ground cover seems disturbed than necessary, the person might be walking backwards to hide their true direction.
2. Displacement – This means learning how to notice something in the natural environment has been disturbed or removed from its original or likely position.
3. Pace – If you encounter footprints that appear to be placed at an unusually long pace and are made deep impressions, the person or people are likely waking at a very fast pace and are feeling strong – not weakened by hunger, thirst, or injury.
If the deepness in the prints is primarily in the toe area, the person or group is probably running. If the prints are either very close together or at an unusually wide distance, as well as deep, the person is probably carrying a heavy load and struggling to keep it in their arms or on their back.
4. Gender – Typically, many women walk with more of a pigeon-toed stride. Men often walk in a straighter line with their turning outward. The average shoe size of American women is an 8, but a significant number of women wear anywhere between a 6 and ½ and a 9 ½ shoe. The average shoe size of of an American man is a 10.
5. Counting Prints – Count footprints like a sniper by using the “box method.” This will help you decipher how many people are in a group when encountering a large number of prints along a path The 36-inch box method uses the sides of the road or path to establish the exterior print parameters to create your “box.”
Next, measure the cross section of your box to create a 36-inch long section to review. Get a twig and break it to match one of the prints or your own shoe.
Examine the prints and put them into pairs so you are not counting duplicates as a singles set of prints. Count every footprint indentation or full footprints in the box and then divide the results by two.
There is obviously a whole lot more to identifying and deciphering human and animal prints that what I shared here, but these few tips will hopefully help other beginners garner some basic concepts and spend some time adding tracking skill to their own preps this week.
Remember fellow preppers, One is none and two is one – stockpiling “things” and skills is the only way to increase the chances of your and your family surviving a SHTF disaster.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.