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36-INCH METHOD. Select a spot with clear tracks, divide total footprints by two.

400 yards or more. But 30 or more prints imply a platoon, which would have two medium machine guns, and since these fire full-size 7.62mm rounds, you would have no advantage—just che need to be more careful when you engage. Since a platoon usually prefers to move through wider forested cover than would a squad, you can anticipate where they'd cross an upcoming stream just by looking at the density of adjacent foliage.

By now I hope you're grasping what I mean about interconnecting knowledge of your opponent with what you can see in his tracks.

key print foot's next instep. Now, count the number of whole footprints in the box you've drawn, only once counting the whole key print track. The total number of whole tracks is the number of persons in the party, which in our example would be three persons.

The 36-inch method, illustrated next, is less exact and used when you cannot find a key print. To do this, randomly line-out a 1-yard length of tracks, count all tracks and parts of tracks inside your box, and divide by two. This will be the number of persons in the group, which in this case is six.

And the number is very important for your interpretation of who they are and what they're up to. For example, if there are only two men, they could be an enemy sniper team, an artillery forward observer team, or an enemy observation post. By closely focusing on where they're going and how- they move tactically, you should be able to learn which they are. Sheer numbers can tell you a lot more: 8 to 11 soldier tracks suggest an infantry squad, meaning they will have assault rifles and perhaps a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, giving you a notable ballistic advantage for engaging them at

Detecting Sign

The biggest problem with tracking is that seldom can you find actual, complete tracks. Even if your opponent isn't wary of being followed, it's unusual for the ground to be so soft and open that a long series of whole footprints can be seen.

What you'll actually find is a host of human-activity indicators collectively called "sign," meaning faintly visible clues of human footprints, handholds, passage, litter, and body waste.

Most sign, depicted in the series of panels on page 418, is usually evidence of walking because that is the way in which our bodies constantly touch the area around us, but any other way we come in contact with our environment can leave sign, too, such as branches twisted or pulled where we climbed uphill or cobwebs corn when we passed between bushes. I will comment only upon those types of sign that need special explanations, the prime one being flattening.

As U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jack Kearney correctly notes, man is the only creature other

FLATTENING PRESSED PEBBLES LOG SCRAPE SLIDES
DISPLACEMENT DEW CRUSHED LICHEN LITTER
CRUSHED LEAF DARK SIDES DOWN URINE STAINS KNOCKEO OFF LEAVES
BROKENTWIGS BROKEN GRASS INTERLACING SPIDERWEBS

are federal law enforcement's premier experts. They're a hardy lot of real pros.)

As shown in the illustrations on page 419, Kearney's tracking stick is simple in design but clever in application. It's only a thin, yard-long pole on which you mark the length of your quarry's foot, then the distance from one print's toe to the next print's heel. These lengths are marked using cither twisted rubber bands or by cutting notches.

Now, with this bit of information, you can pivot the stick from one track you've detected to indicate very closely where his opposite heel should set down next. His stride should average about 20 inches forward and 8 inches to one side. By using the tracking stick to "point" at possible sign locations, you can focus your attention so precisely that you'll find tiny indentations or scrapes or drags that show where a foot has touched.

While one of you is busy using the tracking stick or otherwise searching for sign, the teammate should be nearby overwatching and providing security. Remember this: only one man tracks at a time; the other secures. The tracker should have the sniper rifle, while the security man carries the assault rjfle/M203. To provide effective overwatch, the security man may position himself behind, to one side, or even in front of the sniper/tracker, his only concern being the need for good observation and fields of fire and not disrupting sign as he walks.

To stay fresh and alert—both to keep the tracker sensitive to sign and the security man keen to enemy threats—the tracker and security man should rotate duties periodically, perhaps on the hour or when either man feels the need for a change. When they swap duties, of course, they also swap weapons.

And talking about security, don't underestimate your foe. He could be attempting to draw you into an ambush, so don't be too quick to follow his tracks into an open area. Glass the open area with optics, estimate where the tracks must exit on the opposite side, then circle around the edge until you again cut trail.

Periodically pause and study your map,

which is really a fabulous crystal ball. If you stare at it long enough and hard enough, with what you know about your quarry and can discern about how he's traveling, eventually you'll anticipate his future moves. Examine the map for likely routes, his probable destinations, the routes }:ou wx>uld use to make an "end run," and where to position yourself to ambush him.

Whether he realizes he's being followed or not, a serious opponent still may attempt evasive moves, which aren't usually very effective. These evasions could include:

• Brush dragged on trail, which works swell in the movies but in real life looks ex:acdy like what it is

• Walking backward, which, as we've already noted, still results in earth tossed or pushed in the true direction of movement

» Walking in streams, which means you must focus your attention on the banks where he exits from the water ■ Hopping from rock to rock or staying on a hard surface, which must end somewhere, so focus your search where it gets soft again

• Varying his compass direction, such as heading northwest then northeast, and you respond by averaging his deviations, determine he's still heading generally north, and circle back and forth until you pick up the trail

If you lose his trail, don't get emotional. Take a break, drink some water, pause, think. What about natural line of drift? Study the map. What does your teammate think? Sometimes it's best to back off because you may be too close to the forest to see the trees—literally. Back away and use naked eyes and optics to scan around for sign that may have been too slight or general to be noticed up close.

In order to project where your opponent is tiotv, you must be able to estimate when he made the sign you have found.

Fortunately, nature degrades or "ages" all sign in ways we can observe; it's up to you to interpret this aging correctly. Footprints and other sign age due to the actions of rain, sun, and wind, but not the same way every time or every place. You must sensitize yourself to how quickly nature degrades sign at your location and for your time of year or time of day.

One technique you should use frequendy is to test ground resistance and dampness near tracks by pressing the ground with your own foot as if taking a normal step. Is your track as pronounced, as deep, and as clear as the sign? If not, look closer and see how the conditions must have changed since the sign was made. How long did it take the earth to change like this?

Be especially aware that footprints in soft soil can be just as old as those on firm ground but too easily can be misread as fresher since they're better defined. The way to test this, again, is pressing your own foot beside the sign.

The most often cited yardstick for measuring aging is knowing when the last rain fell— but this could have been days ago. You need a more exact estimate.

How crisp are the edges of your track compared to the sign? Is direct sunlight touching the sign? How long has it been in sunlight? Can you see shade differences where the moisture has left the sign's tiniest edges? How quickly are the edges of your track drying? Notice how the sign is collapsing just enough into itself that the sides are becoming rounded? How long did this take?

Notice how just a few fine grains of sand have blown into the track—when did the wind start gusting? And this footprint is over a fresh vehicle track—recall that you heard that vehicle pass only 15 minutes ago. A leaf blew into this track off that walnut tree. When did the wind shift northeast so this could happen?

In a swamp, where tracks have water standing in them, is the water muddy or clear? Usually the stirred-up mud will settle in less than an hour.

When temperatures hover near freezing, it's easy to misestimate aging because the process becomes skewed by freezing and thawing. I remember one wintry Minnesota deer hunt when my party thought we'd found the "Great Buck Burial Ground," an area absolutely overrun with multiple sets of "fresh" hoof prints. Actually, a lone buck had meandered about a new clearcut for a few days, laying muddy tracks over semifrozen tracks. Instead of spreading over a wide area, we concentrated at one spot and so over-scented the scene that not even the singular buck showed up.

Blood Trails

A special category of tracking and aging estimation regards blood trails.

You can find tiny drops of blood on leaves and ground where they fell freely, or wide smears and streaks left secondarily on tree trunks, rocks, etc., where the subject placed his hands or leaned his body. To ascertain the subject's condition, our greater interest is in free-flowing blood.

Gushes of free-flowing blood imply arterial wounds, while steady, free-flowing blood suggests a serious nonarterial wound. Although the amount of blood usually is indicative of the wound severity, this isn't always true; some serious gunshot wounds may cause only slight external bleeding. While hunting big game I've found pencil-tip size blood drops generated by internal injuries so severe that I later found during field dressing that the entire chest cavity had been sloshing in blood.

It's not unusual to find blood spatter caused by your round exiting through the subject; you'll find it just beyond where he was at impact, from the ground to as high as 6 feet. If you don't find any spatter at all, you probably missed or only "dinged" him—or you're not really looking in the right spot.

As you begin following the blood trail, the kind of blood you find can tell you a lot about the wound's location and type. Pink, frothy, bubbly blood suggests a lung wound, If you find steady, dripping blood, it's most likely a hit to the trunk. Thick, gelatinous blood would probably be from a head wound. And any

and cautiously and yet overtake a briskly moving force several hours ahead of us? Answer: we couldn't.

I tell this story to make a point: the glib, axiomatic "doctrinal" solutions look fine, but that doesn't mean they're realistic. If you must move slowly enough to detect your foe's tracks or to remain invisible, you just plain won't ever catch up to him. So what can you do?

First, you can increase your pace by "jump tracking," which means quickly advancing from any noticeable sign to the most distant bit of sign, in a sense advancing by the largest leaps you can make. You slow down only when it's hard to find another bit of sign.

You must stay quiet as you advance on your quarry, because the first confirmation you'll have of his exact location will be hearing him at close range, which isn't really where a sniper team wants to be. Therefore, at some point when you can see the sign is becoming very fresh, you'll want to shift into a higher gear.

When shifting into higher gear, you slip laterally from his direct rear and take a faster route parallel to his direction of movement, then circle in front of him to find a suitable hide from which to ambush him. We've illustrated this technique on page 423.

However, the fastest and most effective way to locate and engage a traveling enemy is to employ several sniper teams in unison, with one team on the enemy's backtrail and the others ahead, quickly cutting back and forth along his direction of movement, searching perpendicular creek banks and ditches and soft ground for fresh sign. This, too, has been illustrated. This joint effort is coordinated by radio, modified with each new piece of information, until one team is positioned for an engagement. This technique is especially suitable for counterrccon operations and against Spetsnaz-type units.

To estimate your opponent's pace, use the U.S. Army's "official" planning factor for die movement rate of dismounted soldiers: 2.2 miles per hour. Add a bit if your opponent is rested and marching along a flat trail or road; cut his estimated pace if he's heading uphill, he's tired, or it's night.

We haven't covered everything there is to know about mantracking, but if you become proficient with just these techniques you'll be ready for most sniping situations. Remember to try to see your environment as your opponent sees it.

And in case you're wondering: about two hours after we started tracking that North Vietnamese unit, wc were extracted by helicopter so an immediate B-52 strike could go in. What, if anything, the bombers hit, I don't know to this day. That's reality, too.

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Hunting Mastery Selected Tips

Hunting Mastery Selected Tips

Deer hunting is an interesting thing that reminds you of those golden old ages of 19th centuries, where a handsome hunk well equipped with all hunting material rides on horse searching for his target animal either for the purpose of displaying his masculine powers or for enticing and wooing his lady love.

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