By now it should be clear to you that a sniper team's operating environment demands independent and immediate action since external support may not be available or is too distant. This is just as true for police sniper teams as military ones. Indeed, several police sniper team missions, such as clandestine drug lab recon and remote airfield surveillance, require skillful interpretations of signs of suspect activity, both to develop intelligence and to enhance officer survival, while tracking is the essence of any police cordon and search operation. Most police departments have integral K-9 teams, but would a dog be available? Could a dog even be employed without compromising your presence?
As a minimum, any sniper should be able to determine the number of people in an opponent's party, estimate their direction of movement, learn when they passed this point, interpret what they were doing at this location, reasonably anticipate where they are going and when they'll get there, and follow their trail so long as required.
Put Yourself in Your Quarry's Mind
Consider the dynamics of zvho your quarry is and what he's attempting to do. He acts differendy if he's fleeing you than if he doesn't think anyone's on his trail; he shows less caution in a body of 20 than a party of four; he travels slower and more carefully en route to an objective than on his return; he walks faster during the day than at night; he moves more deliberately over unfamiliar ground than in his own backyard; he chooses his route differently if he's an urban creature rather than rural born; his tactical use of terrain will say much about how experienced and well-trained he is; his route will make more sense if he's using a map than if he doesn't have one; he probably follows natural line of drift unless he's afraid or following a rigid predetermined route; he will bypass difficult terrain if he is an obese or middle-aged man in poor condition; he might sleep during the day and move at night, or vice versa; and so on.
Consider, then, these dynamics: who he is versus what he's up to. By examining what he is doing, you can gradually fill in the unknowns about who he is. By considering what you already know about who he is, you simplify your search for his sign and can more easily discern where he is going. Like a crossword puzzle, each conclusion in one area suggests new conclusions in the other. Taken to its ultimate, the truly gifted tracker learns to "see" his surroundings through his quarry's eyes. He isn't following him; he anticipates his quarry's next move and "heads him off at the pass."
But first you must learn the fundamentals.
When you think about tracking, undoubtedly you visualize following footprints— so let's start by talking about footprints.
If you observe your own foot as it touches
Shapes, sizes, and gaits tell much. Thinner width and shorter steps tell you the left tracks were made by a woman. The next set to the right were made by a man. The middle set of tracks, again a man's, show he was running since his toes scraped more earth and the gait stretched. Deeper impressions and longer scrapes on the tracks second from right disclose that he was carrying a heavy load. The last set on the right indicates deception and danger—this man is walking backward but dragging dirt in his true direction.
the ground, you'll notice that first your heel conies into contact. It's the heel that presses heaviest into the ground and, due to its sharp edge, it's more likely than any other portion of your fool to leave a mark.
Your toe is the last portion of the foot to leave die ground, and usually its tip drags a bit of earth with it. This is of great significance, for no matter how evasive your quarry may be, this dirt scrape always shows die true direction of movement.
We've shown this on die far right of our first illustration, in which you can see that an attempt to walk backwards would fail because the earth is dragged in the true direction. You also see that a man's footprints (second from left) tend to be larger and point straight ahead or to the sides, while a woman's tracks (far left) usually are thinner and somewhat pigeon-toed.
Being often smaller of frame, women have shorter legs and therefore a shorter stride.
If a person is running (third from left), his stride is longer and his toes press deeper than a norma) pace. And finally* when carrying a heavy load, a man's prints will show longer and more pronounced toe drags, as seen second from right.
There are two techniques for estimating the number of persons in a party: the "stride method" and the "36-inch method." These are depicted in the illustrations on the next page.
The first shows the stride method, where you must identify one particular set of tracks, which is called the "key print." Then, in an especially soft spot in which all other tracks also are visible, draw a line behind the heel of one key print and another line through the opposite
STRIDE MEASUREMENT. Identify one set of tracks, key print.
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