Sunday, July 31, 2011


The other day I stopped by the U. S. Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Texas. On the way out, after checking out the hands-on displays (cow hoof soled shoes used to confuse trackers, homemade boat used by Cubans escaping Castro's "People's Paradise" an airplane and patrol car retired from the Border Patrol's inventory among other things) I purchased a paperback copy of Joel Hardin's Tracker

Turns out I got a good deal. The book had been signed by the author and had one of his business cards inside. But the real deal was the information I found inside.

Joel Hardin is an old school mantracker from the days when the Border Patrol was more into tracking than electronic surveillance. After honing his craft along both our southern and northern borders he retired and started an international tracking business and school.

In thirteen fascinating chapters Joel gives detailed accounts of tracking everything from lost children and outlaws to Bigfoot. He gives a detailed account of how he captured one Special Forces trained outlaw at gun point and tells, in detail, how he disproved one Bigfoot sighting.

There's a fascinating fact laden chapter on how he tracked a "mountain man" to within 100 yards of his lair (and, not knowing they were so close, ate lunch) only to be denied the capture. However information Joel gave local LEO's (Law Enforcement Officers) led to the arrest of "mountain man" Mincio Donciev shortly thereafter.

That's an occurrence that would develop into a pattern. Often distance and direction information provided by Joel would be used by LEO's to jump ahead and rescue/arrest the person he was tracking. Hardin says he doesn't mind others getting the credit although in a couple of cases, knowing how hard he'd worked, I'd have been hopping mad.

If you read the book Incident at Big Sky that I used as a teaching point you may remember it was tracks in the snow that lead to the downfall of mountain men Don & Dan Nichols

Although he repeatedly opines that tracking can only be learned by doing he gives the reader plenty of tips get started on. With minimal effort I've identified half a dozen animal tracks when walking around on soft ground. Whether I'd be able to follow them over hard ground like Hardin routinely does is another matter.

Although Joel clearly states he is not an animal tracker he devotes an entire chapter to the story of how he, as a hunter, tracked and killed an elk admitting "Tracking people and tracking animals are very closely related skills."

Where Hardin may jump ahead from one track to another based on his feeling of what the person being tracked is doing and his or her condition (It's important to note that he marks the last confirmed track before jumping ahead to where he thinks the next track should be so as to be able to go back to it and do things the old fashioned way if it turns out he's wrong.) he knows animals don't behave like humans and (other than tending to take the path of least resistance) can't be predicted the way human tracks can.

So, what's this book review got to do with your survival?

In hard times the ability to track an animal to its bedding area or follow wounded prey may make the difference between whether your family eats or not.

Separated from your family in the wilderness? Did a child wander off from your Bug Out Location? During a WTSHTF (When The $#!t Hits The Fan) or TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) event there will be precious little manpower available to form a search party for your loved ones. You may even have to track down someone who stole essentials your family needs to survive.

Gaining tracking skills now could be an inexpensive and fun to gain survival skills.

Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

On a recent episode of some bow hunting show Fred Eichler showed how to dress out an elk with a (very sharp) three inch knifeperiod. No saws no axes; nothing but the little knife.

First he made a cut under the "armpit" of the front leg cutting up around to take the shoulder with the skin still on (to keep the meat from getting dirty on the ground). Then he did the same with the rear leg. Backstraps were removed and the animal turned over so the procedure could be repeated on the other side.

By cutting down to and around in the joint he could remove whole limbs quickly without chopping or sawing.

Unless you want to tan the hide for a rug or something using the animal's hide to protect its meat until you get back to camp is an excellent survival solution.

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