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There is no easy answer to this. Tracking can be following an animal in order to hunt it for food. It can be trying to find the source of that dribble of water coming down your wall during a rainstorm. It can be studying the prints of a person or animal to gain some knowledge as to how they moved, how fast they were moving, why they moved in such a way or any number of other possibilities.
Tracking can also be much more than these things. Tracking is a way of viewing the world and the beings that live there. You can gain much insight into a persons (or animals) state of mind by viewing their tracks. Were they relaxed, scared, tired, worried, preoccupied, or lost? Who was in charge in a group? Why were they traveling in that direction? What time? How many days ago did they make the track? Were they carrying anything? There are countless questions a track can answer…the important part is to ask the question and look for the answers!
We look at pressure releases when we track. When you (or an animal) take a step, the ground reacts in a certain way. Every motion of your body, a head movement, lifting your arm, bending over, all of those movements are 'recorded' in your tracks.
Looing at pressure releases enables the tracker to see a snapshot in the life of an animal…a solitary moment in time. It is a link in a chain which is constantly being tugged at by the movements of the animal or person at the far end of that chain. It connects you with that animal.
Within the track lies more information than most people could possibly fathom, a tracker simply takes the time to look for this information.
Where can I see tracks?
Tracks are EVERYWHERE! Every mark on the ground is a track of something, whether it is the track of a person who walked that trail, a stick that fell from a tree and hit the ground, a beer can that was tossed out of the window of a moving vehicle (I hate these kinds of tracks), or the tracks of the sun as he makes his way across the sky and dries or parches the damp sand.
Tracks do not only lie on the ground. You can see the track of a truck antenna where it strikes a tree limb overhanging a road. You can see the claw marks of a bird in the sap of a limb. You can see the track of a huge pine tree that no longer exists if you know what to look for. You can see the torn bark of a tree on which an animal has scraped his antlers.
Once you start looking for tracks, you find that they are all over the place, and the more you look, the easier it will be to see them.
A deer scrape on a pitch pine - Copyright 2005 Dan Atkinson