A Tracker's


Envisioning an Ideal Trailing Practice

Bobcat and raccoon tracks in a riverbank.You can go a long way with a regular, short practice that has intention.

The ideal trailing practice is one where the “stress” comes from pushing edges related to skill.  If you or the people around you feel stress because you want to practice more than you can, then the ideal might require you to back off and let the schedule be what it is.  You will learn more, in any event, if you are not stressed about squeezing-in practice.

Do what you can in regular sessions.  15 minutes, if that's what you've got, can be so much better than nothing.  “Regular” is more valuable in many ways than “long”.  Some skills are best learned through regular practice, whether the sessions are short or long.  Other skills require longer sessions, but they do not require constant practice.

Here are some skills or areas of study that are best learned from regular practice, even when done in short sessions:

Here are some skills that usually need to happen in long sessions but can be gained with more occasional practice:

So, you can actually set up a great trailing practice if you can give yourself the occasional long session while regularly giving ½ hour or more a day for 4 days a week or so to #3 and #4 below.  #1 and #2 can simply become part of your workaday life.

  1. Pay attention to the weather
  2. Imagine its effects on the substrate that you anticipate looking at
  3. Move with awareness at your trailing spot and
    1. Notice the ground – simply notice the current qualities of the substrate
    2. When you see tracks and sign:
      1. Consider their age
      2. Follow them, practicing the many things we’ll suggest
  4. Journal – whatever your skill level in trailing, there is an appropriate journal for you.  If you fill it out during the last few minutes of your daily practice, you will bring home your experience in the field, making it more available to you

The more time you can give, of course, the quicker you will break through the frustrations that naturally attend looking for tracks and trails that are not easy to see.

© Nate Harvey, 2015