SAR Tracking Course

by Woodsbum

One fine, Western Washington day I was talked into taking a SAR tracking class. It was at the end of January, wet, cold and duck season had just ended so I was available. At first, I was afraid of getting into another one of those classes where everyone tries to “one up” the next person with regard to their experience or knowledge. Many classes I have been to end up being that way, so with some definite apprehension I paid the money and took the drive to the first day of class.

The first day was nothing more than an evening PowerPoint presentation. We met each other and got to know our instructor a little bit. Our class was taught by Fernando Moreira. He was originally from Portugal, did some time in the military there, and while in the USA came to realize that the skill that he had developed throughout his life was actually something that he could made money from. He has some great stories and is a fountain of knowledge.

Our second day started pretty early. We met at Sauvie Island, OR to head out and get dirty.

Fernando getting us started.
Tracking class, 1st day

This portion of the class involved tracking movement with many of the footprints erased. We had to use only one track to determine where the direction of travel would place the next track. It was a great drill to truly see how disks released, debris fields pointed to the next track, and how weight distribution on the foot was visible during direction changes, etc. Whomever created this “game” was really on to something for it really got us all on “track” (sorry for the pun) for the rest of the training day.

Looking at the details in a footprint.
Examining the ground

We then moved on to other terrain and worked on various techniques to help us stay on trail. Fernando was like a magician.

Fernado spotting things that no one else could see.
Fernado spotting things that no one else could see….. yet!

He had us do several other drills and finally had us following each other over varied terrain. By the end of the day, we were becoming fascinated by the smallest thing out of place. We were becoming transformed into trackers. Believe it or not, this was worth at least 15 minutes of examination.

Human track.
Human track.

Here is some transfer as my “prey” stepped on the log and jumped over.

Sand transfer
Sand transfer

After all this, the rest of the class drove to a second location to work on night tracking. This was my son’ birthday weekend, so I had to skip out on this training so that I could be with him. From what I hear, it was incredible training and I definitely missed out.

Our next day started as early as our Saturday did. We were lucky that we got to begin with a warm fire and coffee. The class then moved quickly out to the woods to see how tracks looked in a less forgiving environment. Here is what Fernando called “top sign.” If you look, you can see that the fern branches have been disturbed and are “loaded.” Also, a couple of the leaves are broken. These are the types of things that Fernando pointed out and had us follow.

Some loaded fern branches and top sign.

Some loaded fern branches and top sign.

This is a great picture of transfer, bruising and a broken stick all due to our “prey” walking through.

Leaf bruising, some transfer, and a broken stick.

Leaf bruising, some transfer, and a broken stick.

All being said, it was a great class and worth every penny I spent for it. If you get a chance to attend one of Fernando’s classes, jump all over it. Even with no experience, you will learn to be more track aware and be able to perform basic tracking functions. If you are more advanced, it will help hone your skills all the more. The instruction, my fellow students, and even the weather for January was great. What more could I have asked for?

Fernando Moreira.

Fernando Moreira.

 

 

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