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Reading Sign: Prints
- I.D. the specie (I will be adding a track print I.D. field guide to the site soon!)
- Gait Pattern (Stride and distortion on tracks)
Look to identify the print by it's general shape first. Some prints are pretty unique and make identification a breeze, for example everyone knows the deer print. As you begin to identify closely related species, for example: the dog and coyote, you'll need to inspect the track a little closer. Heres a list of some of the common species I track here in Ohio.
Another beneficial sign is determining the sex of the deer. I have been asked how I know when I'm tracking a buck or doe and I can usually detect this by looking at the straddle of the track set. Doe's have wider hips (like women) which are specialized for birthing the fawn while bucks have slightly wider shoulders (like men). The trick is to find the front and rear prints that aren't distorted too much. Take a look at the diagram to see what I mean. Wider rear prints means your tracking a doe.
*RF=Right Front, RR=Right Rear
As far as other species goes I haven't patented a knuckle system as of yet, but in general the more prints you see the better able you'll be at determining the size of your game.
Gait Pattern (and clues to behavior)
It's a beautiful thing.
Get to know the mood of the prints you've found. If they are evenly spaced and register close to straight down your animal is walking or browsing through the area. Animals usually run to catch food and to not be food. Theres just no need to waste precious energy for no reason. If you encounter erratic prints that are spaced far apart you know the animal is running, and for a reason.
- Is the animal traveling solo? Groups are more aware and with more eyes and ears keying in on the environment your technique might need to adjust if stalking.
- Does the track look old or recent? (I'm going to tackle this topic next post)
- Try to track after known weather events, a big rain or snow after a dry spell gives you a definite timeline for when the animal passed through.
- If tracking during the summer track in the evening or mornings. The angle of light from the low sun gives excellent shadows and causes track to "pop" out.
- Use the morning dew to track
- Look for disturbances in grit or dust if tracking on very dry ground
- Be sure to look ahead every so often, sometimes the fresh tracks will allow you to literally walk up on your game and if you are too concerned with what's on the ground you'll miss it. Also remember to pause for a minute and remain completely silent from time to time.
- Check for vegetative breaks in the brush or look for chewed plants.
- Be heads up for scat lots of valuable info in it (Yep going to talk about this one too)
Subscribe to my newsletter to catch the next installment of my tracking series and all the other adventure tips offered up here on Wildfound. I'll be teaching you how to age tracks to help you determine how old the tracks may be. GoPro time lapse?