BY: Karl Lewinsky, Bushwise student 2020
Our week began by being divided into two groups, track and sign, and rifle handling. My group, the cheetahs and half of the bateleur group, started with tracking. Our tracking teacher and assessor was Collin and his dog Annie.
The first day we were given an introduction to our tracking week. We had to introduce ourselves and why this course and tracking is so important for us. Collin explained to us what will happen during this week and how we will progress. That same afternoon we spent time in the bush to get the first impressions of track and sign (with a nice puza stop). Collin also showed us Annie´s skills, she was able to track two of us even though we were hidden on the top of a huge tree.
On Wednesday morning we started our tracking journey at 6 am. We learned the four principles of track and sign:
- Position yourself in the most optimistic position
- Get your direction right with a start and an end
- Study/ analyze the track
- Get the whole picture
We carried on by learning and identifying different tracks and how to separate them. After brunch at 1.30 pm we kept learning and practising. During this time it was raining a little bit, so it was more difficult for us to identify or even get a nice track, but in nature nothing is perfect and you have to get used to every type of condition out in the bush. We were finished by 6 pm.
The next day we headed off at the same time in the morning. We learned about the different shapes of antelope tracks, like the triangle and parallel pieces. We also looked at the front of the tracks ( sharp, blunt or mixed), the edge profile, the under soil and the gate. We also learned to identify if the animal was walking, trotting and running. We got to know many more animals each time when we were out. After brunch, we had a lesson in our classroom and Collin showed us all the different tracks you are able to find in this area and how to actually tag the different bird feet structures. We watched videos about what dogs are able to do during anti-poaching, how fast they are able to run, and how well-trained they can get to listen to human commands. That was really awesome to watch. He also shared his experiences of how dangerous it can get while tracking poachers.
On Friday morning we practised for our assessment in the afternoon. We got to know Collin´s daughter who is already a professional tracker. Luckily we had found some more interesting insect tracks that morning. The assessment took us one day and we finished at 11 am Saturday morning. Afterwards, we got our results considerably fast and then had a nice brunch in a Big Five reserve in the bush.
Tracking is like reading a newspaper but it´s always telling the truth. You never stop learning, because there is always something new. Never give up on your passion, it´s easy to give up, but when you keep pushing yourself you will reach what you´re dreaming for.