Tracking Games




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By Sir Robert Baden-Powell




The Patrol-leaders of a troop are each handed a sealed envelope, and being told that the envelopes are important, are put upon their honor not to open them before a certain time. This waiting makes the game more exciting. 

When the moment for opening the envelopes arrives, they find inside a rough outline map of some particular district, and instructions stating that :--All are to meet at a certain point, the patrols will form themselves, and each patrol, proceeding by its special route, will make for the place depicted in the map where the Scoutmaster will be hiding. Naturally, the boundaries of the place must not be too confined, or the Scoutmaster's discovery will quickly take place. 

A reward is offered to the patrol which first finds their Scoutmaster, so each patrol should work together, searching the ground carefully in extended order. If the Scoutmaster is still concealed at the expiration Of half an hour--or some agreed upon time--after the troops' arrival at the spot, he blows a whistle and the game is at an end. Then the troop could go on with other Scouting work. 

The spot selected should contain undergrowth in plenty and should be physically suited for concealment.  In the envelope of each Patrol-leader would be placed a paper showing the route his men must follow to reach the spot, and these routes should be equal in length otherwise one patrol will have an advantage over another. This is done so that the patrols shall feel they are working on their own. 

The sealed orders would teach the Scouts to restrain their curiosity. 

This game can be played after dark if necessary.


The treasure hunt needs observation and skill in tracking, and practically any number can take part in it.

Several ways of playing the game are given below: 

1. The treasure is hidden and the Scouts know what the treasure is; they are given the first clue, and from that all the others can be traced. 

Such clues might be: (a) Written on a gatepost: "Go west and examine third gate on north side of stream "; (b) on that gate Scout's signs pointing to a notice-board on which is written "Strike south by south-east to telegraph post No. 22," and so on. 

The clues should be so worded as, to need some skill to understand, and the various points should be difficult of access from one another. 

This method might be used as a patrol-competition, starting off patrols at ten minutes intervals, and at one particular clue there might, be different orders for each patrol, to prevent the patrols behind following the first. 

2. The clues may be bit of colored wool tied to gates, hedges, etc., at about three yards interval, leading in a certain direction, and when, these clues come to the end it should be known that the treasure is hidden within so many feet. 

To prevent this degenerating into a mere game of follow-my-leader, several tracks might be in working up to the same point, and false tracks could be laid, which only lead back again to the original track. 

3. Each competitor or party might be given a description of the way--each perhaps going a slightly different way; the description should make it necessary to go to each spot in turn, and prevent any "cutting" in the following way: "Go to the tallest tree in a certain field, from there go 100 yards north, then walk straight towards a church tower which will be on your left," etc. 

All the descriptions should lead by an equal journey to a certain spot where the treasure is hidden. The first to arrive at that spot should not  let the others know it is the spot, but should search for the treasure in as casual a manner as possible.


A secret hiding-place is known to exist somewhere in the neighborhood, but the only clue to it is a torn piece of paper upon which the key to it was once written, (A description of the way to the spot could be written on a piece of paper, and then the paper torn down the middle roughly, and half given to each of two competing Patrols.) The key was torn in two purposely for safety, just as in a bank the two chief clerks each have a key, but it needs both keys together to open the safe. Two parties have got hold of this key, and each with the half are trying to find the spot, because some old, smuggled treasure is thought to be hidden there.


A lion is represented-by one Scout, who goes out with tracking irons on his feet, and a pocketful of corn or peas and six tennis balls or rag balls. He is allowed half an hour's start, and then the patrol go after him, following his spoor, each armed with one tennis ball with which to shoot him when they find him.

The lion may hide or creep about or run, just as he feels inclined, but whenever the ground is hard or very greasy he must drop a few grains of corn every few yards to show the trail. 

If the hunters fail to come up to him neither wins the game. When they come near to the lair the lion fires at them with his tennis balls, and the moment a hunter is hit he must fall out dead and cannot throw his tennis ball. If the lion gets hit by a hunter's tennis ball he is wounded, and if he gets wounded three times he is killed. 

Tennis balls may only be fired once; they cannot be picked up and fired again in the same fight. 

Each Scout must collect and hand in his tennis balls after the game. 

In winter, if there is snow, this game can be played without tracking irons, and using snowballs instead of tennis-balls.


 Cut up some skeins of wool into pieces about a foot long--the cheapest kind will do, but do not select very bright colors. With this lay the trail across country. It goes without saying that the permission of the farmers over whose land you travel is first obtained, and patrols are given strict orders to shut all gates after them, and not to break through fences. 

Do not put all the wool on the ground, but tie some of the pieces to gates and hedges, on low branches of trees, and so on, leaving about twenty yards between each piece. Then two or more patrols are started on the trail, the idea being to follow the trail as expeditiously as possible, and at the same time to collect all the pieces of wool. When a Scout sees a piece he gives his patrol-call loudly in order that the rest of the boys of both patrols may know where the trail was last sighted, and he at once hands over the wool he has found to his Patrol-leader.

While the scouting is in progress no boy may give his patrol-call except when he has hit off the trail.

The patrol wins whose leader has at the end of the run collected most pieces of wool. Marks will also be given for ingenuity displayed by the Scouts in spreading out and making the best use of their numbers. This game gives a good opportunity for the Scoutmaster to notice who are the best individual trackers. If the trail is ingeniously laid the resourcefulness of the Scouts will be put to a severe test. 

This form of scouting has one great advantage over the use of tracking irons. The signs to be found are not all on the ground, so Scouts learn to look upward for signs and not keep their noses always on the ground.


One Scout goes off with half a raw onion. He lays a " scent" by rubbing the onion on gateposts, stones, tree trunks, telegraph poles, etc. 

The troop follow this trail blindfolded--the Scoutmaster, however, is not blindfolded, so that he may warn his boys of any danger (as when crossing roads). 

The Scout or patrol which arrives at the end of the trail first wins the game. 

The boy who lays the "scent" stays at the end of the trail till the first "scenter" arrives.


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No fellow can justly call himself a Scout until he can both swim and climb. Climbing is as good an activity as any in this book. It supplies a field of adventure and sport that cannot be beaten whether you take to rock climbing, tree climbing, mountain climbing, or even, and the most dangerous of the lot--house climbing. Moreover, it is by being able to climb that many Scouts have been able to save life or prevent accidents. 

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But climbing of any kind is not a thing that every fellow can do right off without practice, so my advice to every Cub and Scout is to teach it to yourself. 

One of the first things to learn is to be able to keep your balance, and for this the practice of, " Walking the Plank" and "Stepping Stones" has been devised and is most valuable. 

Walking the Plank is practiced on an ordinary plank set up on edge, and you walk along it from end to end.  Every day you raise it a few more inches above the ground until you can use it as a bridge.

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Stepping Stones are imaginary stones across a river, marked out on the floor by chalk circles, pieces of cardboard or flat stones, tiles, etc. in a zigzag course at varying distances. 

The difficulty and sport of this game is added by carrying a flat board with a ball upon it, and he who crosses the " river " without missing his footing and without dropping the ball wins the competition.

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Some fellows get jolly good at these games with practice, and once they have gained a good balance in this way they generally make good climbers. Many troops have now set up for themselves a climbing apparatus on which you can practise exercises that will make you good for almost every kind of work, whether it is climbing trees or masts or rocks or mountains or chimney stacks. 

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This apparatus is made of a few timbers or scaffolding poles, securely lashed together with climbing ropes" suspended from the top bar, and on such an apparatus you can invent all manner of stunts and competitions, such as will make you an adept climber.

 Baden-Powell's Scouting Games






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Scouting Games ] Stalking Games ] [ Tracking Games ] Indoor Games ] Camp or Playground ] Cycists' Games: Bikes ] Town Games ] Night Games ] Seamanship Games ] First Aid Games ] Games for Strength ] On Trek ] Kim's Game ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Baden-Powell's  Games ] B-P's Adult Military Games ] Dan Beard's Games ] A. Mackenzie's Games ] G. S. Ripley's Games ] Ernest Seton's Games ] J. Thurman's Games ] Smith's Advancement Games ] Wide Games ] Relay Games ] Special Needs Boys' Games ] Politically Incorrect Scout Games ] Game Leadership ] Compass Training Games ] Highland Games ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.