Friday, September 3, 2010


I spent some time last week with the local Police Department and County Sheriffs Office Combined Search and Rescue (COMSAR) Team conducting an Orientation to Man Tracking. As an Army Range Rider I had worked with this group a couple times in the past on search and rescues in the Mountains. The group was pretty apt students, seeing from the get go that this can help them as they search for lost hikers or whoever. One search and rescue in particular was where I tracked an emotional disturbed old man into the Mountains and found him before he was dead. I brought a medical response team, with a couple of the COMSAR members, and they were able to save this man's life.

There were several members of the SWAT team as well, and they thought Man Tracking Skills are essential for tracking escape convicts or other criminals. Once I tracked two archeological thieves 8 miles before I caught and arrested them.

The basics of Man Tracking are the same for tracking animals and really just involves being aware like the horseback trail rider should be at any given time. Maybe you are separated from your riding partners and need to find them, or maybe you live close to an area with a missing child and you volunteer to help search for the child while on horseback. The advantages of tracking on horseback are obviously that you cover more ground in a quicker fashion, your elevated position often allows you to see sign and disturbances better without putting your ground sign and tracks into play and possibly confusing other trackers.

The tracking subjects that I focus on are:

Principles of Tracking and Signcutting

Print Report

Griding Tracks

Reading Common Pressure Releases

Movement Patterns

Aging of Sign

Use of the Tracking Stick

Reading Above Ground sign

Counter Tracking Measures

Tracking Formations

Conduct of the Search and Search Techniques

Use of technology, primarily cell phone photos and sending those e-mail and use of tracking beacons.

The area I was conducting this tracking school for the City/County COMSAR was pretty rocky and a lot of ground sign was missed, however using lost sign search techniques, often the team would locate the fairly subtle ground I left for them such as a rock pushed into the ground or a rock separated from the soil. See below photo.

If you are part of a local horseback group you may want to consider doing some tracking training to prepare yourselves to help in any local area searches – missing children are common. It is something you can practice each time on horseback to sharpen your skills and adds another aspect to trail riding. Safe Journey.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fascinating subject that is still pretty new in the USA. Because it is so highly specialized, I would like to see some info on various links. Tracking--and man tracking in particular is a highly specialized field and my own research has indicated the majority of tracking training is both very expensive and focused on both the East and West Coasts. If you have any more info on training and groups, please list them. Someday soon, someone is going to be doing some videos on a tracking presentation for purchase. In terms of reading sigh, we are now at the same place natural horsemanship was 30 years ago--just beginning to obtain some level of interest.