We’re not talking about the popular reality show on the Outdoor Life Network, but real tracking where evidence is collected and lives are at stake. I’m not trying to knock the TV show. After all, I would love to get paid to ride my horse through new country and chase down contestants when the odds are stacked against them. But let’s face it, what makes for good TV isn’t usually reality. What I discuss here is the art of learning to see what others look at but do not see: to recognize what human sign is and to understand that wherever a person walks, he creates sign.
Most of us in the wildlife conservation profession think we can track. We grew up in the outdoors and spend a large amount of time dealing with wildlife and recreational users. Everybody expects us to be “trackers.” I thought I was a pretty good tracker. I grew up hunting and fishing, had a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management, graduated from the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, passed the SARTECH II class through the National Association for Search and Rescue and had been a game warden for ten years before I took my first class with Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services (JHPTS). I quickly realized I was walking over more sign than I was seeing. I struggled at first and doubted the claims of the instructors when they told me where the sign line progressed because I just couldn’t see it. After my second class, my eyes were opened.