Experienced Tracker Stories
Mary - Walking as a Deer
I bypassed rich bear, deer, fox, bobcat, and other tracks in an unsuccessful effort to find mountain lion tracks. Seeing particularly interesting deer tracks - meaning there was a lot of expression/action in them - I said "Okay, I’ll think like a mountain lion and follow these tracks." I realized we were definitely on our way someplace so I said something like "I hope you don’t mind if I walk with you" noting that I was not, in fact, a mountain lion. I got something close to "Do what you want, I’ve got some place to go" so I took off with my new friend, the deer.
The tracks were not particularly difficult to follow, it was moving on a well-used trail and were, without a doubt, the freshest tracks there. I had fun going with the deer up a couple of hillsides, back down and up again, not really losing the trail at any point, but always having a confirmed track nearby. We then hit the top of a hill. I wondered, why come here, nothing to eat. We were now off any worn trail but I did discover a very comforting day bed nearby under a tree. I continued on the trail and then found that my clear deer tracks continued right through a heavily layered set of pine needles, pine cones and other debris and I could not see a single track or indication of any movement after my last confirmed track right before the heavy area of debris. So I asked "Where did you go?" and got a clear straight ahead, around the rock and onward. I must have worked on this for a good 30-45 minutes, not finding a single track anywhere to confirm any possible avenue through this area. I said as strongly as I could that I was not leaving until I confirmed the next track. I checked what appeared to be the only three avenues through this area numerous times, circled around, crawled through the debris, everything I could think of to no avail. I took a deep deep breath and walked to where I thought the deer told me it went and continued to the clearest soil I could find. And there was its track! I tracked it backwards where it seemed to go up over a rock and back through the debris. I said "Okay, you do have some place to go" and off we went.
From that point on, I have no words to describe what was going on, but I was walking as if I were the deer. Something happened after I recognized the deer’s intent and we became one. I didn’t track the deer from here, I just walked as the deer. Every once in a while I looked down and there were its tracks. I never thought about it, I moved as naturally as possible through the landscape going where I was to go, up and over another hillside and back onto a well-worn trail. It would be challenging for me to recall a time I felt either more relaxed in nature or more a part of it. It was my home. And I had someplace I was going.
Ellie - Walking with the Opossum
I went in to my tracking area with a total sense of openness, tracking an animal whose identity was confirmed, so that rather than worrying about being right, I could just spend time studying the animal itself. I returned to some of the same intuitive techniques I had practiced earlier in the summer, including getting a sense of color, and a pull from the animal. I was able to really see the landscape through the eyes of an opossum, and to feel a deep sense of connection to the animal and land, as well as a sense of creativity and freedom with tracking. I felt comfortable with where I left my opossum and her offspring - we had overcome a wall together, and left things without physical verification, but a bond and deep understanding of what their story had continued to be. I felt a renewed sense of the importance of developing and using my intuition when tracking.
Alice - Finding the Pronghorn Trail
I was at work in the Carrizo Plain area checking water sources. As I walked down a dirt road, behind a locked gate, I observed pronghorn antelope tracks. Normally, I do not see pronghorn in this particular area. The road was dusty and the tracks were textbook.
I asked the pronghorn for permission to follow his tracks and felt nothing but welcome. As I followed the tracks, I found myself bending down lower and lower to the ground as if to see them better. This made no sense to me as the tracks were so perfect and easy to read. Going along with the obvious draw downward, I knelt beside a set of tracks. I cupped my hand over a track but still felt the draw so I gradually lowered my hand into a flat position, touching the earth that held the track. It was very warm! This made no sense to me either as the air temperature was quite cool, almost cold. The pronghorn track was made over truck tracks made from a co-worker. I knew he had been there 2 days before. I also knew it was his truck as I have studied the tire tracks left by the few people that have keys to access this remote area by vehicle. I quickly pressed my hand against the soil in the track of the truck. It was very cold! Once again, this made no sense to me as the tracks were on the same dirt road on top of each other. I found myself touching the pronghorn track, then the tire track, back and forth, back and forth, warm then cold, 4 times in disbelief.
I quickly emptied my logical mind and continued to follow the pronghorn track into an area where I quickly lost track of him. Although his hooves were sharp, the ground was rock hard. I could not find any more tracks. At this point, I sat down, closed my eyes, and asked the question, "What do you want to tell me? I will listen." I sat and I sat and sat, eyes closed, mind empty. Through my closed eyes, I saw a shadow pass. I quickly opened my eyes, stood up, looked both right then left, then without hesitation walked over a rolling hill and there, at my feet near a badger den, were his tracks. I did not go any farther as I knew this was where I was to stop. I thanked him for what he had taught me that day then made the long walk back to my truck.