Merry Christmas! Life, Tracking, Trees, and a Painting.

Merry Christmas!! And now, welcome to my special Christmas edition update on Track Much? !

So, now that I’m on Christmas break, if you guys saw on my Facebook page, I was going to be doing sneak peeks; obviously, that only happened once (lol…). If you would like to follow with some more of my small time thoughts and what not, please take a second and follow my Facebook page. The one sneak peek I gave was that there was going to be some new, fresh, intense, and needed tracking. And here it is 🙂

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Can you find the tracks? Here’s a hint, there’s three of them in this picture. Remember, with pictures, move the mouse over the picture to get the full resolution.

I did kinda put these ones in plain sight, just as an example so you guys get what leaf tracking is. Leaf debris tracking is a whole step up from sand and dirt tracking. Most tracks in this substrate aren’t like this and take some good splatter vision and dirt time to find. Pretty lucky I found some easy ones to show you guys, because anything harder than this, is quite hard to show through a lens. Although I can track on leaf debris, it does challenge my skill sometimes, unlike sand, garden soil, mud, and dirt. Sometimes it’s quite easy to find the tracks, but you lose them after three feet and will spend 10 minutes only to find 2 or 3 more tracks. If any of you guys had a hard time finding these or seeing them, don’t feel bad!

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See em now? 😉

If any of you have been practicing this stuff and have wanted to learn how to do this, here’s some tips. First and foremost, put in the research and dirt time. Dirt time is, basically, any time you spend in the dirt tracking 🙂 . You can’t read about tracking,put in no dirt time, and expect to be a master tracker overnight. It happens over dozens and hundreds of hours putting in the work. However, in my opinion, it’s definitely worth it!

Second and lastly, keep a journal. I recently started doing this, and it’s been very helpful! Any track you come across, journal the substrate type, track, what animal you think it is (after looking it up in field guides), and some general notes and impressions you get. However, be sure you start every log with the date, time of day, and weather!

So, here’s a crazy story. Me and my naturalist uncle went out to do some night tracking with the nearly full moon to our advantage. We slipped on some jackets, slid our shoes off our feet, put our phones and all modern equipment on the shelf, and left the house.

First, he had me walk over some small mounds in the soft, easily compactable dirt. Now, I did not know of any creature that would do this, so when he asked me what creature made it, I was like, oh crap  * brain explodes*.

I didn’t have a clue, but my gut told me it was probably a vole or a field mouse. However, field mice don’t burrow like how these raised bumps were, so it had to be a vole.

“Is it vole mounds?”

“Haha, yeah, correct! Good job!”

We moved on through the forest.

As we walked down trails, I was fascinated by how easily animal trails were found. It was like I could almost just feel where the trail was, and then I would look, and my eyes would fill the picture in, and voila! There was a rabbit trail!

As I’m thinking about this and how gut feeling works and what not, my uncle suddenly stops.

“What tree is this?”

“Ummm….” *brain explodes a second time*

To begin with, my uncle knows I don’t know beans about trees and that I’m just now beginning to seriously start studying plants and trees. Second off, it’s dark with tree cover, so dark that you can’t read and any detail is lost without you feeling it. Third off, there are thousands of trees that it could be.

“Here, come over here and feel this, Evan.”

So I walk over, completely expecting to get it wrong, although giving the tree my complete attention and awareness, and feeling everything I can to come up with the best guess possible. As I feel it, my logical mind knows it’s not a hardwood, but rather a softwood. However, I know it’s a tree that isn’t in my woods and one of which I have no experience with. About to give up, I try and see what my gut says, as a last, noble attempt to get as close as possible to the real thing.

Lately, I have been learning a little bit about what natives would call, “inner sense”, also known to modern civilization as what most people call “gut feeling.” Everyone knows this feeling, you know you’re being watched, only to turn around and see someone staring at you, only to quickly look away. You may think of this as some imaginary figment of your imagination, but I think it’s a real thing that God intended us to use. After all, if it proves itself time and time again, as it does in this story, there’s no way it can just be coincidence.

Even the natives acknowledged it as something real. When people would ask an elder how he knew a plant was edible, the native would reply with, “I don’t really know exactly, the plant just told me in my gut how to prepare it and what sicknesses it would heal.” There’s no way that can be coincidence, for there are thousands of plants, dozens of look-alikes, and some plants, if not prepared exactly right, will make you come down with deathly sickness! How could the Native Americans have survived this??

Back to my story. I didn’t have a remote clue as to what in the world this tree could’ve been! My logical mind had given up and I was about to say it’s a birch or something, dismissing the fact that birch is nothing like this tree. However, in a last, noble attempt, I consulted my gut.

Juniper.

“Is it, uh, maybe a juniper tree?”

That was exactly what the tree was.

After receiving a very hearty congratulations, we decided to head back for his house, knowing I would be leaving soon! Turns out, it was perfect timing, for when we got back, we were only 6 minutes late of when we were supposed to come back. Another instance of inner sense proving it works.

Lastly, I said something about a special piece of art that would be featured on here. Well, I’ve finished it, and it is now ready for the world. Here it is 🙂

 

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Here’s a close up:
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It’s a tad bit beat up, coming back from being graded at school, but this is a picture of an owl I drew, and our assignment was to make an Impressionistic style watercolor. So yup, there it is!

So, there’s my super fresh Christmas post! If you liked this, please consider dropping the post a like, comment, or share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,  or whatever social media you use! Feel free to explore around here and read the other posts uploaded here, and please consider subscribing! Every subscriber helps remind me how important it is to publish frequently, and it helps push my drive to show you guys the world. And lastly, I would like to wish everyone a warm, Merry Christmas!

By the way, if you thought leaf debris tracking was hard, try tracking over solid rock 😉

Keep calm and track on!

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The Answers!!

Hey everyone I had many people vote on my two polls and it is now time to reveal the answer!

For the first poll, I had this picture:

Tracks

The track was two depressed pieces of dirt in the center of the picture. I gave many answers for you guys to choose from. The correct answer was a deer track! Congratulations to all who correctly guessed! And congrats to all who didn’t get this! This was honestly a intermediate-difficult track to decipher, without actually being there or zooming the picture.

One clue, that was not easily visible to you guys, is that when I was there in person, I could see the dew claw marks that would come from a deer. This deer was running very hard and fast to show some dew claw marks! If you wanna try and find the marks, one is just to the left of that three leafed plant on the bottom half of the picture. Look for a small depression in the ground. Try clicking on the picture and then zooming it. It’s a LOT easier to find that way. Good job to everyone who participated!

The second track was, honestly, easier than the previous one.

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I wanted to see if I could throw anyone off by getting all serious 🙂 . The answer is a deer track, again. When I said to look at what isn’t obvious, I was wondering if you guys would notice the bit of boot tread in the bottom center of the picture. This looks like it would make the deer track the front of a cowboy (don’t know what else to call it :D) boot. Then in the bottom-right corner, with the other boot print, I wondered if you would think because that was there, that meant the main track had to be a boot.

The reason it’s deer is because 1: it’s a tad bit too small to be a boot print. And 2: It’s too rounded on the corners to be a boot print.

But everybody got it right! Every single person said deer on the second poll! That is absolutely amazing. I can tell you guys have really learned a lot about tracking, and in less than three months, many of you can decipher deer tracks from armadillo, rabbit, and human :D.

Really impressed with you guys! Y’all don’t know how happy it makes my heart to know that you guys can actually do this stuff, even without me being there to guide and teach you personally. Even if you got the answer wrong, you still have learned a lot, I’m sure of it!

Congrats to all, and like always,

Keep calm and track on!

Stubborn Turtles and Curious Bears! (Plus Some Other Stuff)

Hey guys! I hope y’all haven’t gotten too impatient with me, but *bear* with me, cause I’ve finished! This is gonna be a great post so let’s get going!
First off, can you find the track in the picture? If so, then let’s see if you can recognize what track this is. This is an intermediate level track to identify. There is a poll below so I will let you vote on what you think it is, then in a day or two I will reveal the answer.

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Now let’s get to the featured animal since we’re in the mood to reveal some mysteries! I had a poll with many animals that could’ve been featured in this post. But only one made it. The story begins at Vogel State Park in Dahlonega, Georgia. I was camping with my brother and my dad, but I was playing UNO! at another campsite when this incident happened :D.

It was our first night up in the mountains camping and my dad was hanging out by the campfire with some friends. At about 10:30 at night only 50 feet from the campfire, my dad heard a noise. It was the noise of something extremely large, but not human. It stirred up the leaves and the campfire suddenly flared up, casting shadows upon the trees and slowly revealing the large being. Immediately picking up the flashlight, my dad shined it upon the giant beast to reveal a mother black bear and 2 of her cubs! Looking at my dad and his friends, the bear pondered what these people were doing up in the high clutches of the mountain. It then gave a grin and continued traversing through the landscape. I was not there to take a picture, but I figured that I could at least share the story :). Either way, here’s a picture of a black bear, all credit to http://bchuntingblog.com/  for the picture:

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A Black bear.

While I was exploring in my woods one day I was headed back home and decided to take a detour through the (not so) Dead Marshes. As I kindly tramped along through the meadow grass untroubled by the time and bugs, I came across a turtle shell. The first thought that came to my mind was: “OOH, A TURTLE SHELL!!! Maybe there will be a turtle, or maybe if there isn’t one I can take the shell home and make it into a pouch!” So I went to take a peek, excited like a little boy on Christmas morning, and discovered a turtle inside. Quickly looking at the head before the turtle tried to run away from me, I realized it was an Eastern box turtle.

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An Eastern box turtle. Notice the interesting shell pattern; no two patterns are the same.

After I snapped that picture, it immediately began bounding away eager to get back to its nap. Slowly realizing this could possibly be a nesting ground, I stopped the unaware tramping I had been doing and began taking each step slowly and carefully. Funny enough, I only had to take two steps to find a baby turtle. I do only have 3 free gigabytes of media uploading memory so I will not post a picture of that one, besides the fact that I couldn’t get a good one, but know that it was only about half the size of the one above. However, instead of letting me pick it up and get a good picture, the baby was stubborn and went 2x the speed of the one above and began to dig a small burrow under the grass to hide under.

As I was exploring the area I call the Desert (pretty much nothing but dry dirt, dust, some sand, more dust and dead, black trees) I found a really cool dragonfly!

A twelve-spotted skimmer.

A female twelve-spotted skimmer.

After doing some research, I have concluded that this is a female twelve-spotted skimmer. I found it resting on a wildflower and just couldn’t help not taking a picture! This is a really cool bug and if you get the chance to observe one in the wild, I would by all means spend a few minutes watching it.

One of my favorite things to do in my free time is watch birds! They are fascinating creatures, always extremely quick and alert, never hesitant to fly away at a moment’s notice. One of my favorite birds are the Carolina chickadee. They are one of the bravest of birds, flying in the harshest of rains and always looking for someone to play with or something to do. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen very many lately, so I decided to get a cardinal instead.

A female red cardinal. Ironically, the female red cardinal is actually brown with an orange beak.

A female red cardinal. Ironically, the female red cardinal is actually brown with an orange beak.

Finally, to close the post, I have one more track for y’all to figure out! This is also an intermediate level track to distinguish if you know what to look for. If you guys have been paying attention to some of the tracking tips I have been giving you guys, then you should probably be able to solve this. It shouldn’t be too hard. Here’s a tip: DON’T ponder over the obvious. Figure out what you think the track in the top could be and then move on. Look at what isn’t there (and should or could be there), and figure out what you can from what you know or assume. Be a detective. Also, this track is probably only about 3 weeks old. Just FYI.

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A deer or a human boot. That leaves a very narrow margin for error. Two choices. One answer. Let’s see if your tracking knowledge has grown 🙂

Thanks guys, and I hope y’all are enjoying this! I think this is a new and exciting post, so I really hope you guys think so too! Be prepared for the answers to both polls in a day or two.

Keep calm and track on!

P. S. By the way, did you notice the faint shoeprint from four weeks ago in the bottom right hand corner of the picture? I did that 🙂

Only a Little Bit Longer…

Hey everyone!! Here’s the poll I promised you guys! I’ve been working on the next post lately and it is gonna be a really cool one 🙂 If you guess the right animal and comment what you voted, you could be featured in the next post as one of the few winners!

Tracking + Lot’s of Photos #2

What’s up everyone? I know some of you would like to see some more tracks, so I’ve got em. I won’t be posting tomorrow or Thursday, but I will hopefully post Saturday. Figured I could get one more post in before the weekend. So here is the unexpected second part of “Tracking”

Tracking is a lot more than just finding tracks and following them. It’s finding tracks, looking for all you can to know what the animal’s purpose is for traveling there, following the tracks, and learning more about the animal and it’s habits. To find the animal you need to know it’s purpose for traveling. But if you want to find an animal with it’s feet still in the tracks, it takes more than just tracking.

You may see a deer from time to time driving on the road or a trail, but have you ever seen one from only 15 feet away? In that 15 foot distance, you can see the shiny, fine coat of hair that the deer has, you can see it’s piercing eyes, and just about every other detail you could want. I can only speak from experience, not from what I’ve heard, about these topics. I’ve had that experience, and that is why I can say that you can see the tiny speck of dirt on that deer’s shoulder.

If you want to do this, it requires an even greater level of commitment than what tracking does. Tracking is tough.

Trailing, now that is even harder.

While tracking involves following tracks, old or new, for a limited amount of time, trailing involves a couple hours of searching for a fresh track, typically no more than 12 hours old, and following it for anywhere from 30 mins to 8 hours until you see the animal standing there. This also involves, if possible, stalking up on the animal unnoticed and watching it and learning about it for as long as possible, and even touching it once you’ve watched it for awhile. This requires far more than just the skill of tracking. You also need to know how to stalk, walk without making a sound, and keep the animal from noticing your scent, while being camouflouged.

I will not talk about trailing much, as enough is already said, and I have not practiced trailing yet. I, at the moment, only do tracking. Now knowing about trailing, you might have you some reason to learn these skills. If you have practiced them for awhile, you will eventually be able to touch a deer. My uncle is the one who got me into being a naturalist, and he has touched a living deer before. He said it was an experience like no other, but then again, he has been practicing this stuff for over 8 years and he is a skilled tracker.

Now that I’ve raised your awareness about trailing and tracking, I can begin the post knowing you will want to read it 🙂 So here we go!

The tracks of a

I do not have a clue what track this is. There’s not enough of it, but it looks like a burrower, ground hog or mole maybe?

This is a track of

This is a track of umm, I am not sure. Any ideas anyone? 😛

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A coyote track.

A track.

After looking it up in my field guide, I have come to the conclusion that this is probably a fox squirrel. SO TINY!!

A nice big jumbled up mess of opossum tracks.

A nice big, jumbled up mess of raccoon tracks.

So that’s my follow up to my previous post. Hope y’all liked it! From here on out, I will not be posting as frequently due to time schedules, so expect a 3+ day wait before my next post. If you guys would rather not check my site every day manually, you can always follow this blog and recieve an email every time I post. Remember that I am always open to questions, so don’t be scared to comment. As a preview of my next post, I will be posting about primitive shelters and, hopefully, show you guys just how effective they are. Like always,

Keep calm and keep tracking!

Tracking + Lot’s of Photos!

Hey guys and girls! Today’s post is about tracking wildlife, such as deer, coyote, dog, or rabbit. First off, let me tell you something while we’re on a clean slate. Tracking is very fun and exhilirating!! Think about knowing what an animal likes to eat, where it lives, and it’s daily habits. You could know him like a brother or sister. Let me also tell you, tracking is hard work!! It does not come easy, and as another naturalist has told me “It takes 1-4 years of tracking every day before it will come extremely easy.” And as I have learned, as you track more, the only way you can keep learning and getting better is by pushing your limits. You go from tracking in mud or sand, to dirt or dry ground. While tracking on harder surfaces you will also be learning and memorizing habits of animals you track, such as where they like to sleep, what they eat, if they travel on open ground, if they stick to trails, if they skirt along the edges of brush, and lots of other stuff. You will also be learning more about animals you don’t know much about, such as minks, opossums, mice (yes, you can even track mice!), and lots of other animals.

Before you rule out tracking as some useless, dumb, boring, impossible, crazy person thing :), read this post. I will do my best to show you what tracking is like and just how fun it is! If ANYBODY wants to learn more about tracking or something I didn’t mention, just comment. I will respond.

Now, on to the trail!

One of the things to do while tracking is to imagine the animal right in front of you standing in the tracks. It may sound stupid and crazy, but if you can do that, it will help you so much in the long term! If you’re wondering why a branch is clipped off a tree and there’s a deer track beneath it, then think like the animal. I’m standing here in the middle my trail and I’m hungry. Hmm, there’s some dandelions and wild onions or, OOH!!!! TWIGS!!! Yes, deer love to chew on twigs. It’s a main food source, especially in the winter. Now you know several things about this animal! You know this is a deer trail and that deer chew on this type of tree (go identify the tree later). This could also mean that nearby this trail is a bedding spot, that there could be a source of water somewhere nearby, and that there is adequate food here. Just with finding a deer print, a trail, and a chewed twig, you already you know a lot about the deer’s life. That deer is no longer this mystical, mysterious, invisible being in the woods.

One of the most helpful things for tracking are field guides. Field guides give you insight and decades of research, all in the palm of your hand. My personal favorite, Mammal Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species, by Mark Elbroch, is definitely the one I recommend you getting if you live in North America.

Several whitetail deer tracks I found in some mud by the creek.

Several whitetail deer tracks I found in some mud by the creek.

Here's two deer tracks. If you notice, the hind(back) foot stepped on the front track. This is called a direct register.

Here’s two whitetail deer tracks. If you notice, the hind(back) foot stepped on the front track. This is called a direct register. Sorry for the blur.

Deer are plentiful in many parts of North America, and if you can find a creek or stream, four-wheeler trails, or anywhere that has some mud, you are almost sure to see deer tracks. In the process of finding these locations and searching them, you will probably find other tracks.

A track in extremely soft dirt. I believe this is coyote or Gray Fox, but I'm leaning toward Gray Fox by the size of the track.

A track in extremely soft dirt. I believe this is coyote or Gray Fox, but I’m leaning toward Gray Fox by the size of the track. Should’ve remembered to bring something to scale.

I believe these are Eastern Cottontail tracks in mud. They're pretty small though. I couldn't clearly find the last track to show y'all, but the rabbit tends to make a y shape when hopping.

I believe these are Eastern Cottontail tracks in mud. They’re pretty small though. Look for the funny shaped trianglular shapes in the mud. I couldn’t find the last track to clearly show you guys, but the rabbit tends to make a y shape when hopping.

And for the final picture, tracks in mud.

And for the final picture (again, sorry for the blur). I can’t tell for sure because I haven’t dealt with tracks like these that much, but I believe this is either raccoon, striped, or hooded skunk. The top left one is the front track, bottom right is the hind track. This looks more like raccoon but it is still a possibility of being a skunk track.

So as you can see, tracking can be quite interesting! Please don’t judge or disregard tracking because I couldn’t positively identify these tracks. I am pretty new at this too, and from November to January hardly ever had time to track. So I have only been tracking, realisticly, about 3 months. As I keep tracking, I will be able to provide better results, but like I’ve said before, this is a time-consuming and demanding practice.

I hope you guys and girls like the post, and I hope this alone encourages y’all to go into the woods more.

For my next post, I will continue on tracking. I still have many pictures taken of good quality tracks that are clearly recognizeable. I will also tell a little more about tracking that I didn’t say today. And finally, to close, all I have to say is…

Keep calm and track on!