What Is It All About?




Search  Inquiry Net

Home ] Up ] Next ]

What Is It All About?
General Training of the Senses
Observation Indoors
Observation Outdoors
Training in Tracking
Human Footprints
Booted Tracks
Human Tracks
Human Tracks: Characteristics
Tire Tracks
Animal Tracks: General
Animal Tracks: Characteristics
Bird Tracks & Snow
Tracking Rules
Author's Note
Scouts Cubs

Scout Books

Site Contents

By Gillcraft

In an address at Oxford, B.-P. prefaced his remarks with the following story:

"A party of savants and explorers who were carrying out a scientific expedition into the interior of Australia very nearly came to a tragic end in the great Thirstland in which they found themselves involved.

"That they came out again alive was due to the powers of observation, deduction and ingenuity displayed by a little savage girl of fourteen.

"Half-perished with thirst, they were searching the plains for a drop of water, when the girl noticed some ants creeping up the stem of a tree and making their way into a small hole in the bark. She at once inferred that they were going there for some purpose, and, passing a twig into the hole, she discovered that water was contained in the tree trunk. She thereupon stripped the bark from some green twigs so that they formed a succession of small tubes which she fitted one within the other, and, passing the end of this tube down through the hole into the tree, she provided an instrument by which each one of the party was able to suck up his fill of water, and thus the expedition was saved."

As the Chief Scout went on to say, it was not the knowledge of Greek or of higher mathematics, or of science which the members of this expedition possessed that saved them, but the natural knowledge of one who had been brought up to some of the essentials of life.

The outstanding quality of an educated man, which gives him a very decided advantage over his less fortunate brethren, is his ability to observe, comprehend and analyze. That is rather a difficult saying. Whatever the situation that confronts him, he should be able to observe its main features almost instinctively, to realize the bearing they have on the situation, that is, to comprehend, and to weigh these main features up in his mind, and so analyze them that he is in a position to suggest the remedy and the various steps which will lead to a solution of that particular situation, even although he himself has not the technical or professional knowledge to undertake the execution of these steps himself.

Sometimes we wonder how it is that a politician, when his party is in power, can be considered fit to undertake the discharge of his duties as the head of an important Government Department. It is because he has a trained mind, and so can turn to any problem and by study comprehend and analyze it.

F. M. Crawford says: "One who is in the habit of applying his powers in the right way will carry system into any occupation, and it will help him as much to handle a rope as to write a poem."

If a man lacks this ability, then it will prove almost impossible for him to rise to a position of trust and responsibility.

But this ability can be acquired, and Scouting does offer countless opportunities for its acquisition, and that is why it has now been recognized as a valuable adjunct to our existing scheme of education.

"By the term 'Scouting' is meant the work and attributes of backwoodsmen, explorers and frontiersmen."

The real backwoodsman - not the penny dreadful counterfeit - is the hero of every boy. His life and doings supply examples which will be of value and use in the everyday life of modern civilization. The education of the Australian and Indian tracker, of the African hunter, of the Canadian trapper, contains points which are invaluable to their more civilized brethren, even in cities and slums.

There is no better education than observation, deduction, memory and ingenuity, and it is one which every boy will gladly carry out for himself, if only he is put in the way of doing so.

The practice of observation and deduction, the development of memory in respect of small details and signs, and the ingenuity developed in their application lead to a closer and more effective study of life as a whole and of nature in particular with the result that even the poorest or the least promising boy can benefit physically, morally and spiritually.

Tracking is a very comprehensive term in itself and in Scouting it seems to cover also the preliminaries of Observation so that, not infrequently, the boys are expected to run before they can walk, that is, to track before they have learnt to observe.

According to The New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, the ulterior derivation of the word "Track" is uncertain, but it is generally thought to be from the Teutonic. "If this be the source, the original sense would appear to have been the line or mark made on the ground by anything hauled or dragged, whence also the mark made or path beaten by the feet of man or beast." And so the meaning of the word is variously given as: "The mark, or series of marks, left by the passage of anything; a trail; a wheel-rut; the wake of a ship; a series of footprints; the scent followed by hounds."

Tracking in the vocabulary of the Scout is the science of the study of the marks made by some animate thing which lead to the identification of that thing, to the knowledge of where it has gone, and to an understanding of its special peculiarities. The thing may be a human being, an animal, a bird, or what not, it is all the same. When applied to animals in particular it is known by different names in different continents: Trailing in North America, Spooring in Africa, Pugging in India.

Tracking is undoubtedly a most powerful aid in the development of the powers of both observation and deduction. It teaches the Scout to use his eyes and his brains. With the former he notices every little sign and mark, on the ground or elsewhere, and with the latter he tries to discover what these signs and marks mean.

Who was it? What did he do? Where did he go? It is a regular puzzle. The Scout is on his mettle. Is he going to solve this puzzle or is he going to be defeated? Largely that will depend on the previous training and on the amount of practice he has had. It is not as easy as a crossword puzzle, for many of the clues are missing, and others that are there are most misleading. But, win or lose, it is a good game and well worth the time spent on it.

But Tracking is not an art which is easily acquired. There is a lot of preliminary spade work to be done; there is a lot of hard slogging work to go through; there are habits to be acquired first. The habits of perseverance, of patience, of care, of observation have to be cultivated.

The Scout must be content with small beginnings, just as the wolf cubs in W. J. Long's Northern Trails were taught to hunt grasshoppers before they practiced on larger game: this very instructive story is quoted in The Wolf Cub's Handbook From these small beginnings he can work up gradually to more difficult tasks and problems.

But he must realize that the whole art of Tracking is based on the habit of observation, on a comprehension of what is observed and on the ability to analyze what is observed and comprehended so that a correct deduction is made from it.

And so he should start by practicing the power of observation and the process of deduction whenever, and wherever, he goes about, as advised by the Chief Scout in Chapter IV of Scouting for Boys, and he will soon be able to mark his progress for himself.

In this book we propose to take stage by stage those various practices which lead up to Tracking itself, and then to discuss the various qualities that have to be acquired, and the various facts that have to be learnt in order to make some sort of a success of Tracking when we come to it.

When you have read through the book, if you get that far, you will not know how to track, but I hope you will know something of how to set about it.

The rules of success are the same now as they were hundreds of years ago - hard, conscientious work - and that does not apply to Tracking alone, as you will readily realize. It is a mighty easy phrase to say or write down, but it is extremely hard for some of us to perform.

Anyway, it is up to the Scout to do his best. And that is what it is all about!

Training in Tracking

Outdoor Skills






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
[ What Is It All About? ] General Training of the Senses ] Observation Indoors ] Observation Outdoors ] Training in Tracking ] Human Footprints ] Booted Tracks ] Human Tracks ] Human Tracks: Characteristics ] Tire Tracks ] Animal Tracks: General ] Animal Tracks: Characteristics ] Bird Tracks & Snow ] Tracking Rules ] Appendix ] Foreword ] Author's Note ] Scouts Cubs ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Activities ] Archery ] Axe, Boy Scout ] Axe, Saw, Forestry ] Axe, Saw,  Knife ] Axe Use: Beard ] Axe Use: Seton ] Axe Use: Traditional ] Axe Throwing ] Beds, Woodcraft ] Bedding Materials ] Bicycle Maintenance ] Birch-Bark Torch ] Birds ] Bird Houses ] Blocks Tackles Purchase ] Blood Red Cross ] Broom: Camp or Witch's ] Buttons ] Campcraft ] Camp Hygiene ] Camp Planning ] Campfire Programs ] Catapult ] Chainsaws ] Checklists ] Chuck Box Riddance! ] City-Craft ] Compass Bear Song ] Compass, Home-Made ] Cooking ] Cotton Kills Bear Song ] Deduction in Tracking ] Deduction & Detective ] Drum ] Dyes ] Edible Plants ] Equipment, Leader ] Equipment, Personal ] Equipment Maintenance ] Equipment, Lightweight ] Equip, Pickle Bucket Camp ] Estimation ] Field Signals ] Fire-Building ] Fire Building ] Fire Laying ] Fire Lighting ] Fire Starters ] Fire: Rubbing-Stick ] Fire Types, Wood Types ] Fire Council Ring ] Fires: Woodcraft ] First Aid ] First Class Journey ] Flint & Steel ] Flowers ] Forest ] Gesture Signals ] Ground to Air Signals ] Handicraft Stunts ] High Adventure ] Hiking ] Hike Planning ] Indian Sundial Clock ] Insect Collecting ] Insect Preserve ] Indian Well ] Knife & Hatchet ] Knots, Bends, Hitches ] Knots: Diamond Hitch ] Knots: Lashings ] Knots: Rope Work ] Knots: Seton ] Knots: Traditional ] Knots & Whipping ] Lashings ] Lashing Practice Box ] Lace or Thong ] Learn by Doing ] Leave No Trace ] Leave No Trace ] Lights ] Local Knowledge ] Log Ladders, Notched ] Log-Rolling ] Logs: Cut Notch ] Logs Split with Axe ] Loom and Grass Mats ] Lost in the Woods ] Manners ] Maps ] Map & Compass ] Maps: Without Compass ] Measurement ] Measurement Estimation ] Menu Worksheet ] Menu (Adult IOLS) ] Mosquitoes ] Mushrooms ] Night Tracking ] Observation ] Old Trails ] Paints ] Pioneering, Basic ] Pioneering Models ] Plaster Casts ] Preparations ] Proverbs ] Rake ] Rope Care ] Rope Making ] Rope Spinning ] Scout Reports ] Signal & Sign ] Sign Language ] Silent Scout Signals ] Smoke Prints ] Snakes ] Spanish Windlass ] Spoons ] Staff/Stave Making ] Stalking Skills ] Stalking & Observation ] Stars ] Stools ] Story Telling ] Stoves & Lanterns ] Summoning Help ] Sun Dial: Scientific ] Survival Kit ] Tarp Poles ] Teepee (4 Pole) ] Tent Care ] Tent Pitching ] Tom-Tom ] Tomahawk Throwing ] Tomahawk Targets ] Totem Making ] Totem Animals ] Totem Poles ] Training in Tracking ] Tracks, Ground, Weather ] Tracking & Trailing ] Trail Following ] Trail Signs & Blazes ] Trail Signs of Direction ] Trail Signs: Traditional ] Trail Signs for Help ] Trees of the NE ] Wall Hangings ] Watch Compass ] Weather Wisdom ] Wild Things ]

The Inquiry Net Main Topic Links:
 [Outdoor Skills]  [Patrol Method [Old-School]  [Adults [Advancement]  [Ideals]  [Leadership]  [Uniforms]

Search This Site:

Search Amazon.Com:

When you place an order with Amazon.Com using the search box below, a small referral fee is returned to The Inquiry Net to help defer the expense of keeping us online.  Thank you for your consideration!



Amazon Logo



Scout Books Trading Post

Dead Bugs, Blow Guns, Sharp Knives, & Snakes:
What More Could A Boy Want?

Old School Scouting:
What to Do, and How to Do It!

To Email me, replace "(at)" below with "@"

If you have questions about one of my 2,000 pages here, you must send me the "URL" of the page!
This "URL" is sometimes called the "Address" and it is usually found in a little box near the top of your screen.  Most URLs start with the letters "http://"

The Kudu Net is a backup "mirror" of The Inquiry Net.  

2003, 2011 The Inquiry Net, http://inquiry.net  In addition to any Copyright still held by the original authors, the Scans, Optical Character Recognition, extensive Editing,  and HTML Coding on this Website are the property of the Webmaster.   My work may be used by individuals for non-commercial, non-web-based activities, such as Scouting, research, teaching, and personal use so long as this copyright statement and a URL to my material is included in the text
The purpose of this Website is to provide access  to hard to find, out-of-print documents.  Much of the content has been edited to be of practical use in today's world and is not intended as historical preservation.   I will be happy to provide scans of specific short passages in the original documents for people involved in academic research.  


Last modified: October 15, 2016.