Unfortunately, it is widely believed that there is really no quick shortcut to learn to track. As described with the piano practice mentioned under “Why focus on Training?”, it is a skill that simply has to mature over time. We can learn basic skills easily and we can expand on those skills by simply reading a book or looking something up online. What we can’t do is gain the neural pathways or build our mental database of what sign actually looks like, without some level of effort over time.

What we can do is focus our training on the specific area of specialization that we are passionate about. If we love animals and want to track them, then let’s read biology books and animal tracking guides that provide an expert analysis of habitat, behaviors, scat and related sign. If we are passionate about SAR tracking and recognizing the signs of a human passing, then let’s study that. And in both cases, if we want to accelerate our learning as much as possible, we need to look to leaders in our field of interest and take every opportunity to obtain formal training from them. Then, let’s come together and practice the skill of tracking and share with others what we have been learning.

While the skills between animal tracking and human tracking are not mutually exclusive, they do require familiarization with different knowledge areas to gain a high level of proficiency. Both require us to know how to see, recognize and interpret sign for instance,  and animal sign and human sign do often confound each other in the wilderness (so it is nice to recognize common animal signs like deer possibly), but we can still learn to track our primary subjects of interest more quickly if we focus our efforts as much as possible.

Regarding SAR tracking, unlike previous generations and early man who learned by total and constant immersion in nature, we are now able to benefit from the work and achievements of those who have gone before us. We have proven teaching methods that use repeatable, systematic approaches and we should take advantage of these as often as possible. GTA relies on Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services (JHPTS) as the basis for our individual certifications and we encourage our members to study a step by step approach under professional direction regularly.

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