A dense triple canopy jungle is the hardest of tracking terrains in my opinion. Its characteristics of dense cluttered vegetation and little penetrating sunlight, knee to shoulder height underbrush, soil moisture, heat, and uneven terrain will slow a tracker down dramatically. So many places for a bad guy to hide in waiting. The tools a tracker needs to deal with the worst of situations are the tools of the mind.
A positive and enduring mental attitude is number 1. This positive and enduring mental attitude will keep you focused when you are experiencing friction. It will speak to you to fall back on your training. It will remind you of lessons learned in training and combat.
This positive and enduring attitude is developed through realistic and efficient training. Although common practice, it is not realistic for a tracking school to have a policy of leaving purposefully placed footprints every meters, so that students can make sure they are on the right trail. After teaching tracking for the USMC and the US Army for the biggest tracking schools at the time, I found there was a lot of questions I had which were not being answered.
So really what prompted me to write Index Tracking was my hope to introduce a new way of learning and performing the process of visual tracking. I hope they get a solid understanding of what it takes to become a tracker.
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Our Index Tracking method is based on a foundation of 3 pillars. These 3 pillars are like a progressive formula which collectively create a Greenside Tracker. We evaluate and grade every single student in every single drill to come up with grade point averages. Imagine being graded quantifiably on how well you use your nose, ears, eyes and intuition. How well you age a footprint or scat. How accurately you can read directional indicators in a footprint.
Along with military and law enforcement consulting and classes, we just released our calendar and will be teaching all over the US. Other than that we are staying fluid. How To Draw from a Sarah Satchel. Without giving away the farm, this first city track tested many things about us as a team: We would need to tune in to everything at once and use all of our senses to find our quarry.
We were doing very well as a team using all of our techniques and had tracked our quarry to a very small area. A few of the local tourists however, for some reason or another guilty conscience perhaps? It was very easy to spot this. Rather than cause any disturbance for Old Tucson who were incredibly gracious hosts, we moved back to the classroom for hydration and a quick debrief.
We also had long distance tracks to cover and we wanted to get out into the brush. After the city exercise, we realized we needed to move and communicate better if we were to function as a pure unit. We would all continually rotate through the roles on the upcoming tracks. It became clear to me who were the natural leaders, the natural trackers, and the natural communicators.
We were all strong in one area or another but supported each other for the betterment of the team. It was great to see this behavior.
All alpha-male egos so commonplace in tactical training were non-existant in our group. The rest of the afternoon was spent tracking through the thick underbrush and wide open spaces of the Arizona desert. For me, it was like making a first shot bullseye with a handgun at 75 yards: As a team we just did everything right and it felt great.
We performed a few more tracks, getting longer and more complex each time, culminating in the final drill of tracking Osuna himself at speed. During these exercises, the hawk-like overwatch of Osuna and the assistance of Reeder shaped our methods, tightened our communication, and made us an extremely solid team.
Our discussions turned to the philosophy of the track, rather than just physical signs; the full sensory awareness, rather than just visual cues, and the importance of every role within the team to support the Tracker. I carefully watched Osuna when I knew he was within earshot and I could trace a barely perceptible smile across his face.
We must be doing something right to elicit this from his normally stoic behavior.
Greenside Training: Tracking the Human Spirit
Each night during October, Old Tucson hosts Nightfall where the town turns into a Halloween theme park. But they serve adult beverages, so a few of us stuck around to people watch. Shenanigans may or may not have happened after several boots of beer. But that voice in my head just kept telling me to calm down, process everything around me, shut out extraneous thoughts and just give myself over to the track.
We were taken through the drills one by one and again scored by Osuna. We put that out of our minds and concentrated on the task at hand. Rallying us up, Osuna briefed us on the mission: Now go do it for real. Arriving downtown, we were told that there would be more people than usual in the area due to an outside festival in our AO.
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The degree of difficulty for this track just went up. We found our initial track at the last known location a parking lot , determined our direction of travel and split into tracking teams of two while Osuna, Reeder, and Hondo were in a mobile command car monitoring our progress and acting as an intelligence hub as we captured information. After about 90 minutes we found our quarry, but there were some significant lessons to be learned. Our communication as a team broke down almost immediately as the group splintered off with no real TL calling the shots. We all wanted to be the lead Tracker and in a situation like this, that needs to be governed by the TL which we had failed to clearly designate.
Cell phone service was difficult and I got separated from the team, so several times I would hold the last known location while the team searched for the next track. Adrenaline was high, communication and coordination was poor even with the Instructors guiding us with new intel occasionally , but somehow we managed to finish the task by locating our quarry, master tracker Jim Grasky, just outside of a restaurant that was set up to be our lunch spot. Osuna said on more than one occasion that Jim Grasky is his mentor and a legend in the tracking community.
That is scratching the surface. At 80 years old, Grasky moves with the speed and grace of a man half his age, but with the wisdom and quiet humility of a man that was born to track. At this point I was unsurprised at the fact that it came down to being in tune to your surroundings and not taking anything at face value. In the prior days, Osuna had instilled in us a better appreciation for quieting our minds, staying relentlessly curious, and having the patience to see what is not obvious. First, I was caught completely off guard by this as I felt like I had been an average performer at best during the week.
But for me, the experience was not about scores, it was about strengthening a skill set. I was incredibly humbled to be given the shirt by Osuna, who once again shook my hand and looked me directly in the eye. Three days earlier, I was an unknown, a variable, and Osuna needed time to validate and judge my worthiness to be a Greenside Tracker. Photo courtesy of David Reeder. He gave us an incredible amount of information in the 25 minute return trip to our vehicles and I consider that an invaluable part of the exercise.
Jim Grasky working with the team during a backtrack of his route through Tucson. The last demonstration that Osuna gave us was at the end of TD3 in another location on the opposite side of Tucson. He discussed wavelengths and frequencies of different colored lights, and why some were more effective than others. Using his simple, easy-to-employ search methods, you will learn to identify tracks and determine your prey's precise direction of travel.
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Index Tracking instructs you in the steps to trail and catch your prey quickly and effectively, while remaining aware and safe in your environment. Index Tracking provides tested, quantifiable techniques for trackers at any skill level. Index Tracking was developed for the benefit of professional and amateur trackers, and its techniques are also useful for anyone who wants to be more observant and comfortable in his or her surroundings.
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