By Gillcraft

Before going any further it is advisable to refer to the Tracking test for a Second Class Scout. The rule reads that the Tenderfoot must "Follow a track half a mile in twenty-five minutes." Two observation alternatives are provided: "Describe satisfactorily the contents of one shop window out of four, observed for one minute each," and "Kim's Game, to remember sixteen out of twenty-four well-assorted small articles after one minute's observation."

Naturally the wise and thoughtful Scoutmaster will try all the alternative methods of the rule, and many more if necessary. He will look to the spirit of the rule, and utilize the test to found and strengthen the boy's powers of observation. Mention has already been made of the two alternatives, but I have purposely referred to them again in connection with the Tracking test because they give a clue as to what amount of proficiency should be expected in the boy in that test.

If you ask the Tenderfoot to follow the track of a motor-car on a soft dirt road, he will be able to follow it for half a mile with very little difficulty. If you ask him to follow the track of a man across hard, stony ground, he will lose it in under twenty-five yards. Your choice in testing the boy lies somewhere between these two extremes; your choice in training the boy to follow a track will start with something even simpler than the following of the motor-car. The rule purposely gives no definition of the word "track," because local conditions vary so greatly, and there is no intention of hindering the boy or placing obstacles in his way, but every intention of pointing the way to an activity which will be of interest and use to him For this purpose the various practices in following a trail mentioned in the last chapter are of more value in connection with the Second Class Test than the tracking of men and animals, and a number of the trails indicated there can be used as the "track" for the actual test.

I must quote again from an article in the Belfast Scout News:

"One boy may be interested in birds, if so, when in the country, scouting, let him find out all he can about the various birds. Oh yes, but that is going into the Naturalist Badge, you might say. It may be, in a sense, but Tracking does not necessarily mean following anything by marks upon the ground. Birds can be tracked by their calls or by their plumage, and even by marks upon the ground. Take, for instance, the Hawk, you will frequently find the bones and feathers of small birds scattered below trees where it has made its nest. This method will develop both sight and hearing. Scouts interesting themselves in this line should be able in due time to distinguish the different birds by their calls, plumage, and flight. Take another boy who may be desirous of following up animal life. A very pleasant Saturday afternoon may be spent by two boys, or a Patrol, following a stream to its source, or rambling through a glen, noting the footmarks of the various animals as they go along. Interest will be experienced in finding out to which animal various tracks belong.

"Always keep in view our object to teach the boy how to develop and use his latent power, and to help him until he feels he is taking hold; to show him the beauty of God's world and his manifold activities in it, to help him to realize his actual unity with God and the universe."

That quotation puts, more clearly than I could do, what our object should be in connection with the Tracking clause of the Second Class Test. Make use of it to bring on the boy as an individual. Do not lay down any hard and fast rule in the Troop which all Tenderfoots have to follow despite their personal inclinations. Utilize the boys' own inclinations to lead on to other Tracking practices. Suit the practice and the test to the individual Tenderfoot.

It is this question of individuality which I wish to stress in your further training in Tracking. A certain amount of foundation work will have already been done. You have trained your Scouts in observation, and have founded in them habits of going about, indoors and outdoors, in the town and in the country, with their senses fully alive. Their eyes see what is going on round about them, and take in both objects that are near at hand and objects that are distant. Their ears are open to every strange sound, even amidst the crash and bang of modern urban traffic, their noses are keen to scent the unusual and to detect the difference in smells due to atmospheric changes - for does not the town brewery smell stronger when it is damp? Their hands and feet can be used to feel their way in a fog or in the dark. But they see and hear and smell and feel almost unconsciously, no extra effort being required.

You have trained them to keep their heads, and to keep cool no matter what strange incident occurs. For it is more important that they should have their wits about them in cases of emergency than at any ordinary time.

In stalking practices you have trained them to move quietly, to have an eye for the ground, to study the habits of animals and birds, to keep their senses alert amid strange surroundings, and, which is more difficult, amid ordinary surroundings.

By simple trails you have taught them to follow from one sign to another, to use their ingenuity in marking a trail for others to follow, to overcome difficulties.

Their further training will develop largely on the lines of their individual taste, but, with this foundation to work on, it will be possible for them to take up and master some of the more difficult, more intricate, and yet more interesting phases of Tracking as practiced even to-day in the backwoods and deserts and jungles and forests of outlying parts of the world.

In a sense this chapter marks the attainment of an important stage, the practices and training of the Tenderfoot and Second Class Scout have been completed, but not forgotten, and the Scout enters upon a still more adventurous stage and sets out to make himself a Tracker. If he has forgotten his previous training and practice, he will have to start all over again, for without the knowledge and experience that these have given him he will not get far; the marks that are there to see will be neglected; the problem that confronts him will be incapable of solution.

In Rajputana, in India, the professional tracker is known as a Khoji. These Khojis are illiterate, their knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation; it has not been acquired in a scientific manner, nor can it be passed on or fully explained to an outsider, but they are not born trackers, nor do they become trackers in a week. They go through a long and arduous system of training, not necessarily the best system that can be devised, but certainly a form of training which it will be of use to the Scout to understand. Because not only will he gain an insight into the powers obtainable, but he will also have to undergo a somewhat similar form of training if he is to acquire anything like proficiency in the art of Tracking.

I cannot do better, therefore, than quote a passage from G. W. Gayer's book on Foot Prints. I make no apology for quoting from the writings of others, because I believe it is best to give you the original rather than some half-baked paraphrase of my own. If we can gain from the experience and knowledge of others it is all to the good. We should never be behind-hand in profiting by such knowledge and experience. None of us is so proficient in any one subject that we cannot learn from other people, and none of us can ever reach such a stage that there is nothing more to be learnt, although some of us may imagine secretly in our hearts that we have reached such a pinnacle!

Gayer writes, then:

"A Khoji explained the system of training to the writer thus: - ' The Khoji's teacher or Guru gets some person in the village to leave a clear impression of his naked foot on suitable soil, and carefully protects it by placing an inverted box over it; the pupil is then sent for, and the characteristics of the foot - or its "chin" - are explained to him in detail, and he is set to study the footmark until he thinks he will be able to distinguish it from others; when he feels confident, he is made to cover it again, and told to try and find another impression made by the same foot. When he thinks he has succeeded, he has to confirm his conclusions by referring to the original impression. The conditions are gradually made more difficult until he is able, quickly and certainly, to commit the features to memory, to obliterate the original impression, and, some days later, to commence his search for a corresponding impression; he has then to track the maker to his home. It not infrequently takes years of practice before the Guru is satisfied with his pupil, for the latter must finally be able, not only to track down his quarry, but also to say, after studying the track, whether it is that of a man or woman, whether the person is old or young, fat or lean, burdened or unburdened; whether he or she was running, walking fast, walking ordinarily or loitering, and what he or she was probably doing while moving along.'"

The prospect in front of the would-be tracker becomes somewhat alarming when he is confronted with that list of requirements; but in the succeeding chapters I will endeavor to show that it is not so impossible a task as it would seem to make these distinctions, nor to deduce these facts from different tracks with some degree of correctness.

The description of the Khoji's training certainly does support the progressive method of training which Scouting has adopted. If we were to apply that method to our further practice in tracking, it would lead to some such advice as this.

The wise Scouter will start by taking a Patrol, no more, along a road, and let the Scouts study the tracks that are on it. The road must be an ordinary one where there is dust or mud, the tarred, macadamed highway does not show much in the way of tracks. The boys should be asked to say which way that motor was going, what kind of a conveyance made that track, whether these footprints were made by a man, woman or child, how long a time has passed since that old cart horse came down the road.

Only a small portion of the road should be taken, and each Scout should be encouraged to reason for himself. The boys will make many mistakes to start with, one cannot learn without mistakes; but they will get interested and soon learn what to look for. The Scouter should discourage all guessing and wild speculation, and, when any theory is advanced, should ask for the reasons that have led to that theory.

The main point is to let the Scouts find out things for themselves, they have to think for themselves, and not let someone else do the thinking for them. This is the same method to apply to their Scouting in general as to their Tracking.

 Training in Tracking

Outdoor Skills