What is Tracking?
Tracking is, of course, the study of animal footprints. But it is far more. Beyond the simple identity of an animal, tracking gives rise to many questions—When was the track made? Why is it here in this particular place? How did this animal move to create this pattern of tracks and what does that tell us? What was this animal doing? What was it thinking and feeling? Where did it come from and where did it go?
Beyond this, we begin to learn from tracks what the whole story of the landscape is—who lives here? How do they fit into this landscape? How are they interacting? What do they eat and where do they find that food? Where do they rest?…
If we take a step further, we can learn to read other signs of animal presence—scat, feeding signs, trails and runs, territorial marks, and much more. Once we build up a reasonable level of knowledge and experience, we can enter any landscape and immediately begin putting the pieces of the puzzle together until we have a comprehensive sense of the pulse of life going on mostly invisibly right around us.
In the language of the Apaches, perhaps the world’s greatest trackers, tracking and awareness were the same word. Tracking is simply one aspect of awareness. To be a tracker is to be aware of everything going on around us and to sense how it is all interconnected. It is a way of bringing the world to life at a level of intensity and vividness that few, in our culture, have the privilege to experience.
Tracking is a profound inner journey too, a powerful spiritual path, as we learn to slow down, to quiet our minds, to believe in ourselves, and tune into our body and our senses. In this way, tracking becomes a living journey, a path that will change us for the better, a path we will be on for the rest of our lives.