The other day I was practicing, or possibly honing, my tracking skills, using my dogs as the reference. Their feet are large and easy to see and they are heavy enough to leave a deep imprint in the dirt, mud, and sand. This reminded me of a time when I was younger and I was tracking a two legged animal, my dad.
My dad has always been a stickler for once he has said it, it must be done. We arrived on our hunting land and he gave me directions. I had been looking out the window trying to determine patterns for the game trails so I could actually kill something that season. I snapped to attention when the driver side door slammed to the old Dodge truck.
In a hurry, I almost fell out of the truck trying to keep up with my dad. It was too late. He took off and I got my gear together as I was wondering what were the directions he gave me and what was I supposed to do since he was nowhere around. I saw his general direction but that was about it as he was soon shrouded by the branches of the tall pines and the disfigured cyprus trees that shot out of the swamp.
After gathering my wits and pulling up my big boy pants, I shouldered my Noble 12-gauge shotgun with the BB site. I loved that gun especially since it was the first shotgun I actually owned. The ones I had used during previous hunts and scouting trips were borrowed 16 or 12 gauges. There was even a double barreled 20-gauge on one of the trips.
Between the heavy, long barreled shotgun, my bulky coat, and the shoulder pack that contained a few extra shells and some jerky, I was weighted down for a 10 year old. At least that is what went through my mind as I crossed through the swamp. But I had a more important mission, finding my dad.
I started off in his general direction but with over three hundred acres to cover, I was not sure if he would keep the same direction or switchback. Keeping my eyes peeled and using the scatter method of stopping and scanning, I came up with nothing.
Suddenly, there on one of the cyprus stumps, a boot scrape. we had never seen a gator on the land, so I was pretty sure this was a boot scrape. It had the rough edge of what looked to be my dad’s boot tread but I was not sure whether it was fresh, intentional, or even him.
I started to scan other tree stumps then the actual sides of the trees to see if there were impressions in the soggy bark or displaced moss. After a few broken branches from the thick areas, I was sure to be heading in the correct direction.
Upon reaching the other side of the swamp, I saw no signs. No tracks meant I had lost him somewhere in the middle of the swamp and I was not one hundred percent sure of where I was anymore. I kept wondering if I had gone to far and ended up on the adjacent land or was I still on ours.
There! About five paces ahead of me, at the edge of the swamp, was some disturbed pine straw. I could tell it was not natural by the fluff and the way it was shifted. No quail, rabbit or dove made this and it was an unnatural way for it to be moved for it to be a deer. I moved towards it while constantly scanning for the next sign.
Ah, comfort. I saw mud at the edge of the tree line and there was another track where the mud and straw met. Three, four, five prints right in a row. This was definitely a man.
I continued walking for another ten minutes after stopping for some water from a fresh mud hole. If I remembered correctly it was from a Virginia Whitetail deer print that was left just as they were making the next step. There had to be two because of the patterns made in the mud but I was thankful for the drink and I knew we were not hunting today, only scouting.
The morning started getting warmer and I was at ease in my woodland surroundings. This was where I spent a majority of my time in one way or another. If I was not hunting or scouting, I was fishing, camping, or just hiking.
I kept the scatter approach going and there in the distance I caught the glimpse of a bright orange cloth peaking out from under some low hanging branches. I walked about ten paces then hollered as not to surprise whoever it was.
The man slowly turned around with pure shock on his bearded face. After questioning me on how I tracked him, my dad asked how did I know to do that since he never taught me how to track a man. I told him that I used my instincts.
For the record, none if the tracks or signs were intentionally made by him. This is where I truly learned about how to be INSTINCT SURVIVALIST and use my instincts to survive.