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Tracking and the Art of Observation – Fundamentals

Developing the Innate Tracker Within; Through the Enhancement of Sensory Acuity Skills
Rich P Hungerford
203 students enrolled
English [Auto-generated]
At the end of this course, students will be able to fully observe the environment around them while remaining fully present in that moment. You will be able to follow an identified quarry across the landscape and glean information regarding that quarry from the many sign and marks it leaves behind it. You will understand how to train your skills of observation and to use various equipment to both observe and track more efficiently. Ultimately you will be able to immerse yourself in the natural world with deeper and more meaningful understanding. You will also be capable of building on your skills to assist in search & rescue, law enforcement or military applications of the art of tracking.

Tracking is the art of being able to track a human being or animal by the many signs and marks (sign) left on the ground and surroundings after their passage through an area. It is one of the most ancient of skills, mastered by our human ancestors as they relied on it to hunt and procure food. Many traditional cultures still practice this art but regrettably it is slowly dying out.

The course is ideal for anyone involved in search and rescue teams as employing tracking skills allows search areas to be reduced and efforts to be refined when searching for lost persons. Tracking teams can supplement ground and aerial searches and are used extensively as a vital component of search and rescue efforts.

People with an interest in observing nature, monitoring or photographing wildlife will benefit from the skills taught on the course as animal behaviour is discussed among other topics. Anyone seeking a more intimate understanding of the natural environment in any respect will gain much from the observation and perceptual training presented during the course.

Introduction to Tracking and the Art of Observation

Introduction to Tracking and the Art of Observation

This is the opening lecture to your Tracking and the Art of Observation course by your instructor Rich P Hungerford. Rich will explain what the course is about and what you can reasonably expect to gain from the completing the course material.  

How the Course will be Delivered

Offering a skillset such as tracking in an online format is challenging due to the very nature of the subject. Tracking ideally is something that we learn from a teacher in the field environment. However, despite the technical challenges of an online offering, learning the principles and techniques is more than achievable. In this overview discussion I highlight some of the potential limitations we may encounter from an instructional perspective and seek your cooperation in working through any presentation deficits with the aim of learning the material as the primary focus rather than the technical capture of the audio and video quality.

What is Tracking?

Within this lecture we begin to more fully define what tracking actually is and what it is all about. We define the term tracking here as well as discuss the long association human beings have had with the skill of using all of their physical senses to protect, procure and pursue prey and territory. By the lectures end you will understand that tracking is a human trait that is not unique to any particular racial grouping of humans and is therefore a skill that each one of us is able to develop and enjoy today. You will also have an understanding of some of the modern day applications tracking is now put to use in.

Tracking Jargon and Terminology

This lecture is where you come to grips with some of the particular jargon and language of tracking as a subject and as used by trackers. Trackers use this terminology to assist them to effectively communicate information concerning the tracks and marks they detect and are subsequently pursuing. By the end of the presentation you will be familiar with the key terms and jargon employed by trackers which will aid your journey into the tracking and observation world.

Understanding Baseline

Baseline is everything to a tracker. When it is disrupted or disturbed it is the changes that are noted by the acute tracker. To track without a thorough understanding of the baseline state of the wildlife, substrate, vegetation and other factors is tantamount to guessing where the quarry has passed through. During this lecture we will explore what we define baseline to be as a concept and how we as trackers utilise it. By the lectures end you will have good understanding of what baseline is and how to determine it in any given environment.

Developing Your Tracker Senses

Developing Your Tracker Senses - Introduction

During this lecture we examine the human senses that most of us are equipped with and how they are potentially degraded by modern living as well as how we can begin to develop them to peak performance once again. We will introduce here the follow on lectures relating to the development of your senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

We will also explain that tracking is a full sense actitivity and get you to understand that it is not as many believe, a skill that is predominately achieved with your sense of vision alone. 

By the lectures completion you should be comfortable with the understanding that no matter your current level of sensory acuity limitation, there is scope to improve and maximise each of your five primary senses. I have worked with trackers & bushmen who were either blind or deaf and they proved to be exceptional with their other senses as a consequence.  

Developing Owl Vision

Owl vision is the comprehensive use of peripheral vision as it relates to human sight. In this lecture we will explain what it is and why we are able to utilise it effectively to enhance our level of sensory acuity as trackers.

Developing Eagle Eyes

Eagle eyes refers to the human vision capability of focused vision. We may also refer to this modality of sight as searching or even social vision as humans employ this type of vision extensively in the modern world as a result of the intensity of technology use. In this lecture we will explain what it is and why we are able to utilise it effectively to enhance our level of sensory acuity as trackers.

Developing Deer Ears

During this lecture we discuss how to enhance your directional hearing to enable you to pin point more accurately any specific noise you may detect while on a spoor line. 

Developing Wolf Nose

Trackers utilise the full range and capability of their physical senses inclusive of their sense of smell. In this lecture we explore the use of our sense of smell as it may pertain to tracking.

Using Taste & Touch in Tracking

The senses of taste and touch are used less in tracking however even these senses have their place in eliciting information from a spoor line. During this lecture we examine how a tracker might call upon their senses of taste and touch.

Understanding Why Things are Detected

The important principles of why objects are detected by the human sensory system are examined in this lecture. By lecture's end you will have a sound understanding of how you are able to see and detect items in a complicated nature environment scene. This training will assist you to further develop you vision capability as a tracker.

Visual Searching Techniques

In addition to understanding how your eyes are detecting objects in your field of vision you also need to be conversant with how to search and scan an area such that your eyes and neurology are best able to notice the key information that may be available. After completing this lecture you will understand how to effectively visually search any area of terrain.


In order for our senses to be optimised within any given tracking environment we must 'Tune-In' to the baseline of that particular space. This is critical when commencing a track as it ensures that vital primary information is not overlooked or missed completely. After completing this lecture you will possess a good grasp of how and why we undertake a Tuning-In process as trackers.

Sit Spots

Sit spots are an extension on the Tuning-In processes previously discussed. They also aid us to develop our sensory acuity and tap into wildlife and bird language patterns at a baseline level in the environment. This lecture will cover what is involved, how to set up a sit spot and what to do while in it.

Understanding Bird Language

Bird language is the language of the hunter. Throughout human history hunters the world over have been aware of the various and numerous calls and warnings issued by birds who remain to this day the sentinels of the wild places. To a tracker, tuning into bird language and the behaviour of many other wild creatures allows us to  develop an almost superhuman ability to be aware of subtle information in the ecosystem we are tracking within. after completing this lecture you will understand how complex the web of life is and how to utilise it to garner an increasing level of information while tracking.

Maintaining Your Optics

Optic devices such as binoculars are essential equipment items for the tracker. Understanding how to maintain them in the field is important if we are to maximise their use and efficiency. This lecture takes you through the vital steps of cleaning and maintaining your binoculars.

Tuning in Binoculars

Binoculars are a fundamental tool for the tracker. Like all precision equipment items they must be tuned into the eyes of each user. Not undertaking this process may lead to eye strain, headaches and a lack of effective optic use while tracking. This lectures explains how to step by step go through the process of tuning in your optics to suit your eyes.

Using Optics for Tracking

After tuning in your binoculars you next need to understand how to employ them effectively. During this lecture we will explore a range of techniques to ensure you maximise your use of optic aids in the observation process.

Understanding Sign

What is Sign

During this lecture we will begin to get familiar with the base fundamentals of sign/spoor, being the evidential marks and imprints left behind by a subject as they move through the terrain. By lecture's end you will possess a comprehensive understanding of what constitutes sign.

The Characteristics of Sign

We now begin to examine sign in detail and in particular those attributes of sign that make it noticeable to us as trackers and allow us to describe it to other trackers. In this lecture we outline the particular descriptors (characteristics) of sign. By the end of this lecture you will know how to describe sign and further tune in your sense of vision to detect sign in the environment.

Classification of Sign

Sign is classified into two base categories being; conclusive sign and substanitating sign. In this lecture we will explain what each of these terms means in detail and how we employ that understanding in the pursuit of track on a spoor line.

Ground Sign & Top Sign

Sign is further classified into two other categories being; top sign and ground sign to aid trackers in communicating to each other where to focus attention. In this lecture we will explain what each of these terms means in detail and how we employ that understanding in the pursuit of track on a spoor line.

Factors that Affect Sign

All sign is weathered and gradually returned to a baseline state within the environment. Factors such as wind, rain, sunlight, other animals, time and more are constantly at work to ensure all sign returns to baseline. During this lecture we will discuss these factors and how they impact the tracker while following up on sign. After completing this lecture you will possess a sound level of knowledge related to the impact of the factors that affect sign.

Ageing Sign

Obtaining an approximate assessment of the time a piece of sign was made is vital information to the tracker. In this lecture we will consider the methods of comparison and bracketing as techniques to judge the time a piece of sign was made. By the end of this lecture you will understand how to make your own assessment of spoor and illicit timeline information.

Setting Up an Ageing Stand

An Ageing Stand is a highly useful activity a tracker can undertake to both assist with developing thorough understanding of how certain items degrade and breakdown in the environment as well as represent another tuning in process for the tracker. During this lecture we discuss the why and how-to of setting up an Ageing Stand to enable you to undertake this activity in your own tracking journey.

Understanding the Use of Light

Trackers are always working with the element of available light in order to effectively observe track information on any given spoor line. After completing this lecture you will understand the nuances of both natural and artificial light as they relate to increasing or decreasing track detail.

What Sign can Tell Us as Trackers

Each piece of individual sign can yield an incredible amount of detailed information. This is not guesswork rather it is a deductive process based in acute observation skills, logic and common sense. After completing this lecture you will understand some of the vast amount of information that can be illicit from spoor by a competent tracker.

Where to Find Sign

Using a Tracking Stick

During this lecture we explain and demonstrate the use of a 'Tracking Stick'. This is a useful tool in the trackers tool box that allows the tracker to hone in focus and attention while tracking as well as to capture some 'ready-reckoner' information related to the subject being pursued. This lecture will enable you to use and construct your own personal tracking stick for use in tracking activities.

Using Track Traps

Track traps are simply locations in the environment that lend themselves to the capture of imprint and sign. In this lecture we examine both naturally occurring track traps and deliberately set track traps as processes and aids to better tracking ability.

Identifying a Start Point to Track - Casting

Most tracking activities require the identification of a start point to allow a spoor line to be followed up on. In this lecture we will discuss how to cast for sign in order to identify a workable start point. By the lecture's end you will understand how to apply your skills to date to the task of casting for sign that will then allow you to continue tracking a particular subject.

Searching Edges

Continuing on from the previous lecture in terms of identifying a start point for your tracking as well as representing a method to apply tracking skills in the pursuit of a subject with the explicit aim of re-identifying a lost spoor line or to jump ahead and close the time-distance gap between tracker and subject. Searching edges is a practical tracking skill that will assist you to track more effectively and after completing this lecture you will understand how to incorporate it into your tracking capability.

How the Tracker Thinks

The tracker must learn to think and see the environment as the subject sees it. This requires comprehensive understanding of behaviour. In this lecture we examine the concepts of 'The path of least resistance' and the 'who, when, where, what, why and how' questions any tracker must continually ask of him/her self to retain a 'subject's' eye view of the tracking environment. After completing this lecture you will possess this understanding.

Using the Tracking (Spoor) Pit

Trackers have long used the 'Tracking Pit' both as a teaching tool and a tuning in tool to further refine and enhance their ability to understand fine detail associated with the making of sign by a subject. This lecture will demonstrate to you how to use the tracking pit in your own tracking skill development  and will discuss how to make one for your own use. 

Course Close Out

Course Close Out

This final lecture simply concludes the instructional material delivered in the course.

You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
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