A Tracker's


Overview of Curriculum

Trailing Wildlife is divided into four parts, based on the student’s ability: Introductory (the Trailing section of this website), Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.  The Introductory section provides a taste of the overall curriculum and helps you to locate a trailing site.  The Beginner section is about learning the basics of following trails.  The Intermediate section is about learning the basics of assessing a trail's age.  The Advanced section is about learning when and how to approach so that you can see the animal.

By the end of the Introductory section of Trailing Wildlife, you should:

  • Have a convenient site where you can reliably find and follow a wild ungulate’s trails for 30-60 minutes at a time

By the end of the Beginner section of Trailing Wildlife, you should:

  • Have at least one additional site, perhaps less convenient, where you can trail wild ungulates and other animals in either 1) a different substrate or 2) a different habitat, relative to humans (more like wilderness or more suburban, for example)
  • Be confident in your ability to identify the maker of the trails you usually follow
  • Be able to recognize in the trail when the animal was and was not moving in its natural rhythm (its “baseline gait”)
  • Be able to use weather sequencing to estimate the age of tracks and
  • Have a fair understanding of how fresh tracks look different from old tracks if recent weather has been the same
  • Be able to move along a trail and pay attention to the broader environment at the same time
  • Have ideas about where to look for the trail when you “run out” of tracks
  • Have basic ideas about how and where to look for productive tracking sites
  • Have a sense of a trailing practice that you can reasonably do and goals that you can reasonably meet
  • Probably have followed at least 50 trails for at least 25 yards each in a variety of substrates

By the end of the Intermediate section, you should additionally:

  • Have a site where you can trail the largest wild ungulate in your region
  • Be able to anticipate what trails in the field will look like based on recent weather and current conditions
  • Have greater clarity about the age of tracks and sign, including scat, broken twigs, crushed leaves, browsed vegetation
  • Have familiarity with bird alarms and what they might indicate in the environment around you
  • Have experience of rhythm and momentum in how you follow a trail
  • Have a better memory for landscape features and be better able to locate them when you need to
  • Be able to tell from the track patterns when an animal has sped up and slowed down, even when  it is not running
  • Have improved ability to see tracks in difficult and very difficult substrate
  • Be better able to anticipate when you will find feeding sign and where
  • Know when you have spooked the animal you have been following
  • Know some options for what to do after you’ve spooked the animal
  • Have a fair sense of the animal’s preferred areas in your tracking spots
  • Have strategies for dealing with frustrating trails
  • Be better able to distinguish the tracks of individuals that moved in a group of animals
  • Be better able to anticipate the locations of beds
  • Have better awareness of your environment as you move along the trail
  • Have followed approximately 75 more trails, probably totaling a distance of at least 10 miles

By the end of the Advanced section, you should additionally:

  • Be able to recognize trail conditions that indicate that the trail is extremely fresh
  • Be able to identify a running gait based on a single track
  • Know strategies for approaching the quarry without it being aware of you even if you have previously spooked it
  • Have a greater awareness of wildlife alarms and how to get past them
  • Recognize signs of predator/prey relationships on the landscape
  • Have improved recognition of fresh trails
  • Have improved ability to see the quarry when it is camouflaged by the environment
  • Be able to lead people on a trail as well as support someone else who is leading
  • Have improved intuition for the movements of wildlife
  • Be able to move with momentum even when you cannot see tracks
  • Have greater confidence in your ability to discern routes that the quarry did not follow
  • Know strategies for making an approach and an exit
  • Have improved ability to follow trails in a wide variety of substrates
  • Have improved ability to recognize the trail in extremely challenging substrate
  • Have an improved sense of where on the landscape it would be easiest for the animal to sense your presence, not just by sight
  • Have an improved sense of where animals like to position themselves on the landscape in particular conditions
  • Have followed approximately 100 more trails, probably totaling a distance of at least 25 miles

© Nate Harvey, 2015