Free Tips & Easy "How to" Instructions
If you have decided to take up hiking, one of the coolest things you can do in a big, unruly forest is track animals. Hunters learn how to track animals once they have wounded but not killed something they have shot, and nature lovers can track any number of animals using everything from scent to droppings to tracks.
The following is a basic primer for those looking to learn how to track animals all over the great outdoors. Above all else, tracking animals takes patience and a good degree of analytical skill. You have to know the animal you are tracking pretty well and you need to know how they move to be able to anticipate where they are going.
First, once you have found a trail that you want to track, make sure you aren't a clumsy oaf and step on it or do anything to obscure it. These animals aren't leaving you a trail on purpose and properly tracking one takes a keen sense of observation. Try to always stay to one side of the set of prints you are following. You also want to go very slowly so you don't have to backtrack.
If you are tracking an animal using a trail of blood, you can carry a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide with you. If you come across what looks to be brown splotches on leaves or on the ground, spray the brown dots with hydrogen peroxide to see if it is actually blood.
If you are out tracking at night, you are better off using a gas lantern than a handheld flashlight. Blood will show up much easier in the light given off by a gas lantern than it will by a regular flashlight, and don't think for a second you have the ability to track an animal at night relying strictly on moonlight. You would have to be an eagle to accomplish that task.
If you are worried about losing the trail, you can leave behind small markers that will show you where the trail was if you get lost. Make sure you choose a material that is environmentally friendly like small pieces of food or even little scraps of toilet paper. This way, when the next rain comes, there won't be any sign that you were there, but you can easily find the trail again if you lose the path.
One of the problems that animal trackers have is that they get so honed in on a blood trail or a trail of footprints that they miss much larger signs that are far easier to track. You may pass bits of dead animal as your animal had lunch while they were walking or you could miss tufts of hair, fur, or even broken teeth. If you are tracking a bleeding animal, look for blood on passing trees and bushes instead of just on the ground. In short, you want to be aware of your total surroundings, not just the tiny path you are tracking.
According to most woodsmen, a wounded animal will make a beeline for the nearest lake or pond. If you are tracking an animal and you are getting close to a body of water, be careful. The last thing you need is to get attacked by a wounded and terrified animal. The same goes for any tracker who eventually tracks down the animal they are looking for. Take your pictures, do your observing, but be careful, even a small animal like a raccoon or fox can jump at you or attack you and rabies shots are no fun at all. This is especially true if you are with children. As much fun as tracking and observing nature might be, it isn't worth getting bit or endangering someone's life over it.
Would you know how to behave if you come across a wild animal?
Do you know how to attract wildlife?