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Camping Lore, The Art Of Tracking Animals!

Discussion in 'Nature' started by 2sweed, Jul 20, 2013.

  1. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Recently I was reading an article that was written in a hunting magazine from 1965. It was talking about learning how to track animals for sport, as well as, teaching it as a camping lore activity. This article had some interesting tips on how to track deer by knowing their foot prints in the snow or dirt, and being able to tell the difference between a buck and a doe, just by certain ways in which they place their feet and the way they walk.

    The article mentions that any good tracker will never mistaken a buck's track for that of a doe's if he can see a clear plain impression of the feet. The toes on a buck's front feet are more blunt and rounded then those of a doe's. It is not always possible for someone to see the tracks of these front feet because deer walk in such a manner that the back feet are placed into the impressions of the front feet which obliterates the print.

    In young deer this is almost always true, but as the deer ages the back feet do not always cover the entire track, and the shape of the toes may be seen just ahead of the impression of the back feet. However, when the deer runs the back feet do not cover the front foot tracks but these tracks are often distorted and so their exact shape cannot be determined.

    The clearest tracks will be where a deer has been feeding or just walking about. Sometimes the easier way to distinguish between a buck's and doe's trail is to notice the difference in gait. The doe's tracks will point straight ahead while the buck walks with a sort of swagger which causes him to toe out. This toeing out while not very pronounced can easily be seen by someone who is looking for such a difference.

    Often times it is thought that any large track was made by a buck, but this is not always the case, yet any track that measures over three inches in length might be a buck's track. Also to be considered is the freshness of the tracks as time can remove the slight imperfections which set one deer's track apart from another.

    Few will confuse the track of a 200 pound buck with that of a 50 pound fawn, but the writer said he has seen men following the tracks of sheep and cows, and even wild hogs with the expectation of coming across a deer. Learning tracking is a art that campers should test themselves on and teach their children, for self knowledge, as well as, camping fun.

    Are any of you good at tracking animals, or shared this skill and hobby with your friends and family? Please share your comments and stories here.
  2. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    I found a bit more information about whitetail deer and thought it might help anyone who is trying to track them for pictures or during the hunting season.
    Often times you are out looking for that deer trail and yet while they are often heavily used they can be difficult to find before winter comes. Instead of looking for well worn paths, look for slight depressions in the ground. Often times they are covered over with leaves in the autumn months. Try starting your search on the ridge tops and figure the trail will not be straight but often will go around obstructions and under low branches. Then move a ways down from the ridge as deer often use the shelter of a hillside to avoid windy weather. Then search the valley floor and look for the easiest path. Deer will often follow a waterway as it is often clear a bit along the creek banks, so follow it and look for trails that run parallel to it or cross the stream at different times.

    Look for wore places on the banks where deer have dug up the soil from leaping upon it with their sharp hoofs. When you find a path follow it in both directions and try and determine if there seems to be increased activity in the area. Then check the wind direction and try and place yourself or your stand downwind from it. Remember deer don't always travel in single file they can be all over the place, but when you find large areas that look like the leaves have been poked into the soil with a stick, this is a place deer have grouped together in that spot to feed or bed down.

    Bucks are usually easier found then does, as they leave signs with rubs and scrapes, and like thick tangled masses of thickets to hide in. Does on the other hand like to be around their favorite food supplies which is usually on the edges. Meaning the edge of where a forest meets a field, or a pine forest meets hardwoods. Here are areas thick with many plants like sumac and honeysuckles, blackberries and other good browse material. And when the deer browse the edges they very often do not use trails but wander here and there. Deer also use the edges to move from one place to another, simply because the edge offers camouflages and they feel safer in this type of environment. Plants on the edge are usually at deer height and often bushier do to more sunlight.

    If you have any tracking skill knowledge please share some of what you know to help others who enjoy the outdoors get a glimpse of a whitetail deer or other wildlife. :)
  3. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    If you have a love and curiosity for the outdoors, you can learn to track wild animals. After much practice you will develop an Indian-like stealth and be tiptoeing through the woods unheard and unseen by the animals your tracking. Remember to avoid wearing clothes that smell of laundry soap or mothballs. Don't wear shaving lotions or hair tonics, or strong soaps as animals have strong powerful sense of smell and the above items are a dead giveaway in alerting them that a person is in the area.

    Don't carry keys or change or other loose objects that could jingle and giveaway your presence to the wildlife. But be sure to carry a compass and a map of the area, and a small first-aid kit and a notebook and pencil for recording moments of your tracking adventures.
    Learn how to walk like a Indian by remembering to never step on anything that you can step over. Take a few steps then stop and listen. Check the wind and don't charge through the brush, and always check your position with your compass before entering the forest and as you go along. Winter makes good tracking weather as the snow holds the hoof or paw prints of every animal. It also muffles the sound of your footsteps.

    Spring is another good time as the ground is soft and moist. Early morning and late evening before dark is a good time because many animals like deer and bear and bobcats are foraging for food at those times of day. It is important during the different seasons to learn the terrain and pay attention to the weather. Soon you will know just by looking whether the animal was leisurely walking along or frightened, or just feeding. When finding tracks follow the freshest one that leads into the wind. Most animals move into the wind to smell out danger or food, moving ahead slowly. Many will double back walking along a gully for several hundred yards and then climbing uphill, and then walking back to see if anything is following them.

    Try to learn the tracks and habits of the muskrat or raccoon, beaver or opossum, fox or mink, weasel or skunk, deer or bear, squirrel or rabbits, etc... Soon you, like the native Indians and trapper hunter of old will develop a uncanny sense of determining how old a track is and if each print is freshly cut or eroding from time. Even the color of urine in the snow will be a good indicator of the time frame in which the wild animal created in passing. Your new found skill with add to your pleasure of spending time on the trail or camping in the beautiful forests no matter where you live.
  4. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    That's quite interesting but I wonder how much of this knowledge can really by applied practically. I don't know if you've seen the show Mantracker on TV but sometimes I question whether it is real or not. The information he is able to gain from simply scanning around the grass and looking at markings in the dirt that would otherwise have been meaningless to someone like me is really quite fascinating.

    I've sometimes spotted white tailed dear by accident driving along country roads or when I am walking through the woods at a camp site. They are usually pretty timid though and will go running off in the opposite direction if you look their way or make any sudden noises/movements. I am pretty sure that most of the ones I've seen are female because I didn't notice any antlers and they were more slim.
  5. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    I have not seen the show Mantracker, but if he is good at what he does his profession must be of a very professional tracker. Remember in the old days when in history books we read of the men (scouts) that the military hired to track Indians, as well as, when scouting out new regions, scouts were always able to tell how old a trail was or how long it had been since a human foot or horse, or bear had pasted a certain way. I think it takes a lot of practice and time to learn this craft, but worth the effort in the end.
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