Stalking and Tracking

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Plaster casts and Leaf impressions


Stalking is a way of approaching or following a quarry without being detected or observed. Baden-Powell used his stalking skills to avoid masters at boarding school and later to observe enemy movements and installations. Nowadays, stalking is often used for photography or observing of animal behaviour.

The stalker has to approach the quarry without being detected and remain hidden to take the photos or make sketches. Animals are sensitive to the presence of predators and their sense of smell and hearing is developed to protect them. Any unusual scent, sound or movement will cause alarm and may cause flight.

The stalker needs to approach with skill and care to avoid being seen or heard. Stalking is a good skill to have and one that can quite easily be mastered with a bit of training and practice. We use games like Stalk-the-lantern or Searchlight to practice these skills.

The six secrets of successful stalking:

Move Quietly

Learn to "freeze" and keep 100% still. Movement attracts attention, especially quick movement.

Break up your outline

Study your background and dress to blend in to the background. Face camouflage can be used to break the lines on your face.

Avoid the skyline

Take off your watch and other shiny articles that reflect the sun and the moon.

Look around not over rocks - look through bushes

Do not form a silhouette.

Exploit the shadows

Shadows conceal and break up your outlines.

Avoid water

Your reflection may betray you!

Progression in Stalking

There are different phases in the process of stalking - it would be really tedious and way too slow to start leopard crawl from a kilometer away.

Cautious Approach

The Cautious Approach begins when you are far away from your quarry. This is what a lion or leopard does when it is still investigating if a hunt is going to be worth it. The scout is walking upright but calmly and slowly, with hands by the side , or in the pockets. Keep clear of the skyline and make use of natural cover to obscure the line of sight between you and the quarry. You are are trying to act natural and not too interested in the quarry.

Tread carefully to avoid making a noise by breaking sticks or kicking stones. Definitely don't trip and fall!

Upright Crouch

You are now within range, your approach is still cautious but now the proper stalking begins. Keep your toes pointed forward for balance and place your hands on your knees as you bend down at the waist to reduce your profile against the skyline (silhouette). Take care to lift your feet clearly from the ground (do not shuffle!!) and consciously place your foot on the ground. Slowly transfer the weight of the body to the front foot before lifting the back foot.

Use this position when moving through shoulder height bush as you approach from one piece of cover to the next. Be prepared to freeze at any moment.

Feline crawl

Sometimes also referred to as the baboon walk. This position is on the hands and knees. Feel and explore with the hand before placing the hand - bring the knee forward to take the place of the hand (watch how a cat stalks, study its movements and imitate them). Take care to lift the knee and toes off the ground. Keep the head and body as low as possible.

Move slowly and keep your eyes on the quarry.

Flat Feline Crawl

Also known as Leopard crawl. Lie flat on your stomach, keeping your head and hips down. Turn your toes outwards and have the heels down so that practically the whole inner side of the foot rests on the ground. Bring up the alternate knees up sideways and lever the body forwards on the forearms slightly lifting the body off the ground.

Turn your head to the side to reduce your profile, this technique is used when cover is sparse.

Seal crawl

Lie flat on your stomach with your weight on your forearms, move forwards by using your toes as levers to lift the body slightly and roll forwards on the forearms to inch forwards. The elbows are kept close to the side of the body. This is a good position to remain still for a long time as the body is in a very stable position.

Progress is very slow.

See Also:

Trails and Tracking