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News Link • Outdoor Survival

How to Track Animals: A Primer on Identifying Footprints

• Brett and Kate McKay

The other day while hiking some muddy trails with my family, my son pointed to a set of tracks and asked me what animal had made them. "That's easy," I said, "those are the tracks of a whitetail deer." "What about those?" he asked, pointing to another set of footprints. "Those are, um, hmmm, well, I'm not sure what they are," I confessed. I realized I needed to brush up on my knowledge of animal tracks.

Learning how to track and identify the footprints of animals is an ancient and largely forgotten art — one that's not only important for hunters, but also enhances any outdoorsman's experience in the wild. It's fascinating to know what creatures are sharing the woods with you, and trying to track them down by following their trail is a lot of fun. Learning how to read tracks allows you to pick up on the little dramas enacted by wildlife that usually go unnoticed by the human eye. It's thus a skill that both deepens your understanding of nature and heightens your all-important powers of observation.

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