There are tons of great books on tracking, more specifically tactical tracking. I can’t really post any text from those books but, one that I can post is made publicly available. The Army field guide to sniper training(fm 23-10) contains a chapter on tracking/anti-tracking for snipers, but I think some of the principles are valuable in the war game of woodsball.
When a sniper follows a trail, he builds a picture of the enemy in hismind by asking himself questions: How many persons am Ifollowing? What is their state of training? How are they equipped?Are they healthy? What is their state of morale? Do they know theyare being followed? To answer these questions, the sniper usesavailable indicators to track the enemy. The sniper looks for signsthat reveal an action occurred at a specific time and place.For example, a footprint in soft sand is an excellent indicator, sincea sniper can determine the specific time the person passedBy comparing indicators, the sniper obtains answers to hisquestions. For example, a footprint and a waist-high scuff on a treemay indicate that an armed individual passed this way.
Any indicator the sniper discovers can be defined by one of sixtracking concepts: displacement, stains, weather, litter, camouflage, andimmediate-use intelligence.
Displacement takes place when anything is moved from itsoriginal position. A well-defined footprint or shoe print in soft, moistground is a good example of displacement. By studying the footprint orshoe print, the sniper determines several important facts. For example, aprint left by worn footgear or by bare feet may indicate lack ofproper equipment. Displacement can also result from clearing a trail bybreaking or cutting through heavy vegetation with a machete. These trailsare obvious to the most inexperienced sniper who is tracking. Individuals may unconsciously break more branches as they follow someone who is cuttingthe vegetation. Displacement indicators can also be made by personscarrying heavy loads who stop to rest; prints made by box edges can helpto identify the load. When loads are set down at a rest halt or campsite,they usually crush grass and twigs. A reclining soldier also flattensthe vegetation.
a. Analyzing Footprints. Footprints may indicate direction, rate ofmovement, number, sex, and whether the individual knows he is being tracked.
- If footprints are deep and the pace is long, rapid movementis apparent. Long strides and deep prints with toe prints deeper than heel prints indicate running (A, Figure 8-l) .
- Prints that are deep, short, and widely spaced, with signs ofscuffing or shuffling indicate the person is carrying a heavy load (B, Figure 8-l).
- If the party members realize they are being followed, they may tryto hide their tracks. Persons walking backward (C, Figure 8-1 ) have ashort, irregular stride. The prints have an unnaturally deep toe, and soilis displaced in the direction of movement.
- To determine the sex (D, Figure 8-l), the sniper should study the size and position of the footprints. Women tend to be pigeon-toed, whilemen walk with their feet straight ahead or pointed slightly to the outside.Prints left by women are usually smaller and the stride is usually shorterthan prints left by men.
- Determining Key Prints. The last individual in the file usuallyleaves the clearest footprints; these become the key prints. The snipercuts a stick to match the length of the prints and notches it to indicate thewidth at the widest part of the sole. He can then study the angle of thekey prints to the direction of march. The sniper looks for an identifyingmark or feature, such as worn or frayed footwear, to help him identifythe key prints. If the trail becomes vague, erased, or merges with another,the sniper can use his stick-measuring devices and, with close study, canidentify the key prints. This method helps the sniper to stay on the trail.A technique used to count the total number of individuals being trackedis the box method. There are two methods the sniper can use to employthe box method.
- The most accurate is to use the stride as a unit of measure (Figure 8-2) when key prints can be determined. The sniper uses the set of key prints and the edges of the road or trail to box in an area to analyze.This method is accurate under the right conditions for counting up to18 persons.
- The sniper may also use the the 36-inch box method (Figure 8-3)if key prints are not evident. To use the 36-inch box method, the sniperuses the edges of the road or trail as the sides of the box. He measures across section of the area 36 inches long, counting each indentation in thebox and dividing by two. This method gives a close estimate of the numberof individuals who made the prints; however, this system is not as accurateas the stride measurement.
- Recognizing Other Signs of Displacement Foliage, moss, vines,sticks, or rocks that are scuffed or snagged from their original positionform valuable indicators. Vines may be dragged, dew droplets displaced, or stones and sticks overturned (A, Figure 8-4) to show a different color underneath. Grass or other vegetation may be bent or broken inthe direction of movement (B, Figure 8-4).
- The sniper inspects all areas for bits of clothing, threads, or dirt fromfootgear that can be torn or can fall and be left on thorns, snags, or the ground.
- Flushed from their natural habitat, wild animals and birds areanother example of displacement. Cries of birds excited by unnaturalmovement is an indicator; moving tops of tall grass or brush on a windlessday indicates that someone is moving the vegetation.
- Changes in the normal life of insects and spiders may indicatethat someone has recently passed. Valuable clues are disturbed bees, antholes uncovered by someone moving over them, or tom spider webs.Spiders often spin webs across open areas, trails, or roads to trapflying insects. If the tracked person does not avoid these webs, he leavesan indicator to an observant sniper.
(4) If the person being followed tries to use a stream to cover his trail,the sniper can still follow successfully. Algae and other water plants canbe displaced by lost footing or by careless walking. Rocks can be displacedfrom their original position or overturned to indicate a lighter or darkercolor on the opposite side. The person entering or exiting a streamcreates slide marks or footprints, or scuffs the bark on roots or sticks(C, Figure 8-4). Normally, a person or animal seeks the path of leastresistance; therefore, when searching the stream for an indication ofdepartures, snipers will find signs in open areas along the banks.
A stain occurs when any substance from one organism or article is smearedor deposited on something else. The best example of staining is bloodfrom a profusely bleeding wound. Bloodstains often appear as spattersor drops and are not always on the ground; they also appear smeared onleaves or twigs of trees and bushes.
a. By studying bloodstains, the sniper can determine thewound’s location.
- If the blood seems to be dripping steadily, it probably came froma wound on the trunk.
- If the blood appears to be slung toward the front, rear, or sides,the wound is probably in the extremity.
- Arterial wounds appear to pour blood at regular intervals as ifpoured from a pitcher. If the wound is veinous, the blood pours steadily.
(4) A lung wound deposits pink, bubbly, and frothy bloodstains.
(5) A bloodstain from a head wound appears heavy, wet, and slimy.
(6) Abdominal wounds often mix blood with digestive juices so thedeposit has an odor and is light in color.
The sniper can also determine the seriousness of the wound and how farthe wounded person can move unassisted. This proms may lead the sniperto enemy bodies or indicate where they have been carried.
- Staining can also occur when muddy footgear is dragged over grass,stones, and shrubs. Thus, staining and displacement combine to indicatemovement and direction. Crushed leaves may stain rocky ground that istoo hard to show footprints. Roots, stones, and vines may be stained whereleaves or berries are crushed by moving feet.
- The sniper may have difficulty in determining the differencebetween staining and displacement since both terms can be applied tosome indicators. For example, muddied water may indicate recentmovement; displaced mud also stains the water. Muddy footgear canstain stones in streams, and algae can be displaced from stones in streamsand can stain other stones or the bank. Muddy water collects in newfootprints in swampy ground; however, the mud settles and the water clearswith time. The sniper can use this information to indicate time; normally,the mud clears in about one hour, although time varies with the terrain.
Weather either aids or hinders the sniper. It also affects indicators incertain ways so that the sniper can determine their relative ages.However, wind, snow, rain, or sunlight can erase indicators entirely andhinder the sniper. The sniper should know how weather affects soil,vegetation, and other indicators in his area. He cannot determine the ageof indicators until he understands the effects that weather has on trail signs.
- By studying weather effects on indicators, the sniper can determinethe age of the sign (for example, when bloodstains are fresh, they arebright red). Air and sunlight first change blood to a deep ruby-red color,then to a dark brown crust when the moisture evaporates. Scuff marks ontrees or bushes darken with time; sap oozes, then hardens when it makescontact with the air.
- Weather affects footprints (Figure 8-5). By carefully studying the weather process, the sniper can estimate the age of the print. If particlesof soil are beginning to fall into the print, the sniper should becomea stalker. If the edges of the print are dried and crusty, the prints areprobably about one hour old. This varies with terrain and should beconsidered as a guide only.
- A light rain may round the edges of the print. By rememberingwhen the last rain occurred, the sniper can place the print into atime frame. A heavy rain may erase all signs.
- Trails exiting streams may appear weathered by rain due to waterrunning from clothing or equipment into the tracks. This is especiallytrue if the party exits the stream single file. Then, each person depositswater into the tracks. The existence of a wet, weathered trail slowly fadinginto a dry trail indicates the trail is fresh.
- Wind dries tracks and blows litter, sticks, or leaves into prints.By recalling wind activity, the sniper may estimate the age of the tracks.For example, the sniper may reason “the wind is calm at the present butblew hard about an hour ago. These tracks have litter in them, so theymust be over an hour old.” However, he must be sure that the litter was not crushed into them when the prints were made.
- Wind affects sounds and odors. If the wind is blowing toward thesniper, sounds and odors may be carried to him; conversely, if the wind isblowing away from the sniper, he must be extremely cautious since windalso carries sounds toward the enemy. The sniper can determine winddirection by dropping a handful of dust or dried grass fromshoulder height. By pointing in the same direction the wind is blowing,the sniper can localize sounds by cupping his hands behind his ears andturning slowly. When sounds are loudest, the sniper is facing the origin.
- In calm weather (no wind), air currents that may be too light todetect can carry sounds to the sniper. Air cools in the evening and movesdownhill toward the valleys. If the sniper is moving uphill late in the dayor at night, air currents will probably be moving toward him if no otherwind is blowing. As the morning sun warms the air in the valleys, itmoves uphill. The sniper considers these factors when plotting patrol
routes or other operations. If he keeps the wind in his face, sounds andodors will be carried to him from his objective or from the party being tracked.
(3) The sun should also be considered by the sniper. It is difficult tofire directly into the sun, but if the sniper has the sun at his back and thewind in his face, he has a slight advantage.
A poorly trained or poorly disciplined unit moving over terrain may leavea trail of litter. Unmistakable signs of recent movement are gum or candywrappers, food cans, cigarette butts, remains of fires, or human feces.Rain flattens or washes litter away and turns paper into pulp. Exposure toweather can cause food cans to rust at the opened edge; then, the rustmoves toward the center. The sniper must consider weather conditionswhen estimating the age of litter. He can use the last rain or strong windas the basis for a time frame.
Camouflage applies to tracking when the followed party employstechniques to baffle or slow the sniper. For example, walking backwardto leave confusing prints, brushing out trails, and moving over rockyground or through streams.
8-6. IMMEDIATE-USE INTELLIGENCE
The sniper combines all indicators and interprets what he has seen to forma composite picture for on-the-spot intelligence. For example, indicatorsmay show contact is imminent and require extreme stealth.
- The sniper avoids reporting his interpretations as facts. He reportswhat he has seen rather than stating these things exist. There are manyways a sniper can interpret the sex and size of the party, the load, and thetype of equipment. Timeframes can be determined by weathering effectson indicators.
- Immediate-use intelligence is information about the enemy thatcan be used to gain surprise, to keep him off balance, or to keep him fromescaping the area entirely. The commander may have many sourcesof intelligence reports, documents, or prisoners of war. These sourcescan be combined to form indicators of the enemy’s last location, futureplans, and destination.
- Tracking, however, gives the commander definite information onwhich to act immediately. For example, a unit may report there are nomen of military age in a village. This information is of value only if it iscombined with other information to make a composite enemy picture in
the area. Therefore, a sniper who interprets trail signs and reports thathe is 30 minutes behind a known enemy unit, moving north, and locatedat a specific location, gives the commander information on which he can act at once.
8-7. DOG/HANDLER TRACKING TEAMS
Dog/handler tracking teams are a threat to the sniper team. While smalland lightly armed, they can increase the area that a rear area security unitcan search. Due to the dog/handler tracking team’s effectiveness and itslack of firepower, a sniper team may be tempted to destroy such an“easy” target. Whether a sniper should fight or run depends on thesituation and the sniper. Eliminating or injuring the dog/handlertracking team only confirms that there is a hostile team operating inthe area.
- When looking for sniper teams, trackers use wood line sweeps andarea searches. A wood line sweep consists of walking the dog upwind ofa suspected wood line or brush line. If the wind is blowing through thewoods and out of the wood line, trackers move 50 to 100 meters inside a wooded area to sweep the wood’s edge. Since wood line sweeps tend tobe less specific, trackers perform them faster. An area search is used whena team’s location is specific such as a small wooded area or block of houses.The search area is cordoned off, if possible, and the dog/handler trackingteams are brought on line, about 25 to 150 meters apart, depending onterrain and visibility. The handler trackers then advance, each movingtheir dogs through a specific corridor. The handler tracker controls thedog entirely with voice commands and gestures. He remains undercover,directing the dog in a search pattern or to a likely target area. The searchline moves forward with each dog dashing back and forth inassigned sectors.
- While dog/handler tracking teams area potent threat, there arecounters available to the sniper team. The beat defenses are basic infantrytechniques: good camouflage and light, noise, and trash discipline.Dogs find a sniper team either by detecting a trail or by a point sourcesuch as human waste odors at the hide site. It is critical to try to obscureor limit trails around the hide, especially along the wood line or areaclosest to the team’s target area. Surveillance targets are usually themajor axis of advance. “Trolling the wood lines” along likely lookingroads or intersections is a favorite tactic of dog/handler tracking teams.When moving into a target area, the sniper team should take thefollowing countermeasures:
(1) Remain as faraway from the target area as the situation allows.
- Never establish a position at the edge of cover and concealmentnearest the target area
- Reduce the track. Try to approach the position area on hard, dryground or along a stream or river.
- (4) Urinate in a hole and cover it up. Never urinate in the same spot.
- Bury fecal matter deep. If the duration of the mission permits,use MRE bags sealed with tape and take it with you.
- Never smoke.
- Carry all trash until it can be buried elsewhere.
- Surround the hide site with a 3-cm to 5-cm band of motor oil tomask odor; although less effective but easier to carry, garlic may be used.A dead animal can also be used to mask smell, although it may attractunwanted canine attention.
- If a dog/handler tracking team moves into the area, the sniper teamcan employ several actions but should first check wind directionand speed. If the sniper team is downwind of the estimated search area,the chances are minimal that the team’s point smells will probablybe detected. If upwind of the search area, the sniper team should attemptto move downwind. Terrain and visibility dictate whether the sniper teamcan move without being detected visually by the handlers of thetracking team. Remember, sweeps are not always conducted just outsideof a wood line. Wind direction determines whether the sweep will beparallel to the outside or 50 to 100 meters inside the wood line.
- The sniper team has options if caught inside the search area of aline search. The handlers rely on radio communications and often do nothave visual contact with each other. If the sniper team has been generallylocalized through enemy radio detection-finding equipment, the searchnet will still be loose during the initial sweep. A sniper team has a smallchance of hiding and escaping detection in deep brush or in woodpiles.Larger groups will almost certainly be found. Yet, the sniper team mayhave the opportunity to eliminate the handler and to escape thesearch net.
- The handler hides behind cover with the dog. He searches formovement and then sends the dog out in a straight line toward the front.Usually, when the dog has moved about 50 to 75 meters, the handler callsthe dog back. The handier then moves slowly forward and always fromcovered position to covered position. Commands are by voice andgesture with a backup whistle to signal the dog to return. If a handler iseliminated or badly injured after he has released the dog, but before hehas recalled it, the dog continues to randomly search out and away fromthe handler. The dog usually returns to another handler or to his former
handler’s last position within several minutes. This creates a gap from25 to 150 meters wide in the search pattern. Response times by the othersearchers tend to be fast. Given the high degree of radio communication,the injured handler will probably be quickly missed from the radio net.Killing the dog before the handler will probably delay discovery onlyby moments. Dogs are so reliable that if the dog does not returnimmediately, the handler knows something is wrong.
(3) If the sniper does not have a firearm, one dog can be dealt withrelatively easy if a knife or large club is available. The sniper must keeplow and strike upward using the wrist, never overhand. Dogs are quickand will try to strike the groin or legs. Most attack dogs are trained to gofor the groin or throat. If alone and faced with two or more dogs, thesniper should avoid the situation.
If an enemy tracker finds the tracks of two men, this may indicate that ahighly trained team may be operating in the area. However, a knowledgeof countertracking enables the sniper team to survive by remainingundetected.
Evasion of the tracker or pursuit team is a difficult task that requires theuse of immediate-action drills to counter the threat. A sniper team skilledin tracking techniques can successfully employ deception drills to lessensigns that the enemy can use against them. However, it is very difficultfor a person, especially a group, to move across any area without leavingsigns noticeable to the trained eye.
The sniper team may use the most used and the least used routes to coverits movement. It also loses travel time when trying to camouflage the trail.
- Most Used Routes. Movement on lightly traveled sandy or softtrails is easily tracked. However, a sniper may try to confuse the trackerby moving on hard-surfaced, often-traveled roads or by mergingwith civilians. These routes should be carefully examined; if awell-defined approach leads to the enemy, it will probably be mined,ambushed, or covered by snipers.
- Least Used Routes. Least used routes avoid all man-made trails or roads and confuse the tracker. These routes are normally magnetic
azimuths between two points. However, the tracker can use the properconcepts to follow the sniper team if he is experienced and persistent.
c. Reduction of Trail Signs. A sniper who tries to hide his trailmoves at reduced speed; therefore, the experienced tracker gains time.Common methods to reduce trail signs areas follows:
- Wrap footgear with rags or wear soft-soled sneakers, which makefootprints rounded and leas distinctive. (2) Brush out the trail. This is rarely done without leaving signs.
- Change into footgear with a differenttread immediatelyfollowing a deceptive maneuver.
(4) Walk on hard or rocky ground.
8-10. DECEPTION TECHNIQUES
Evading a skilled and persistent enemy tracker requires skillfully executedmaneuvers to deceive the tracker and to cause him to lose the trail. An enemytracker cannot be outrun by a sniper team that is carrying equipment,because he travels light and is escorted by enemy forces designedfor pursuit. The size of the pursuing force dictates the sniper team’schances of success in employing ambush-type maneuvers. Sniper teamsuse some of the following techniques in immediate-action drills anddeception drills.
- Backward Walking. One of the basic techniques used is that ofwalking backward (Figure 8-6) in tracks already made, and then stepping off the trail onto terrain or objects that leave little sign. Skillful use ofthis maneuver causes the tracker to look in the wrong direction once hehas lost the trail.
- Large Tree A good deception tactic is to change directions at large trees (Figure 8-7). To do this, the sniper moves in any given direction and walks past a large tree (12 inches wide or larger) from 5 to 10 paces.He carefully walks backward to the forward side of the tree and makes a90-degree change in the direction of travel, passing the tree on itsforward side. This technique uses the tree as a screen to hide the new trailfrom the pursuing tracker.
NOTE: By studying signs, a tracker may determine if an attemptis being made to confuse him. If the sniper team loses thetracker by walking backward, footprints will be deepened at the toe and soil will be scuffed or dragged in the direction ofmovement. By following carefully the tracker can normally finda turnaround point.
- Cut the Corner. Cut-the-corner technique is used whenapproaching a known road or trail. About 100 meters from the road, thesniper team changes its direction of movement, either 45 degrees left or right.Once the road is reached, the sniper team leaves a visible trail in the samedirection of the deception for a short distance on the road. The trackershould believe that the sniper team “cut the corner” to save time.The sniper team backtracks on the trail to the point where it entered theroad, and then it carefully moves on the road without leaving a good trail.Once the desired distance is achieved, the sniper team changes directionand continues movement (Figure 8-8).
- Slip the Stream. The sniper team uses slip-the-stream techniquewhen approaching a known stream. The sniper team executes thismethod the same as the cut the comer technique. The sniper teamestablishes the 45-degree deception maneuver upstream, then enters
the stream. The sniper team moves upstream to prevent floating debrisand silt from compromising its direction of travel, and the sniper teamestablishes false trails upstream if time permits. Then, it movesdownstream to escape since creeks and streams gain tributaries that offermore escape alternatives (Figure 8-9).
e. Arctic Circle. The sniper team uses the arctic circle technique insnow-covered terrain to escape pursuers or to hide a patrol base. It establishes a trail in a circle (Figure 8-10, page 8-16) as large as possible. The trail that starts on a road and returns to the same start point is effective.At some point along the circular trail, the sniper team removes snowshoes(if used) and carefully steps off the trail, leaving one set of tracks. Thelarge tree maneuver can be used to screen the trail. From the hideposition, the sniper team returns over the same steps and carefully fillsthem with snow one at a time. This technique is especially effective if itis snowing.
f. Fishhook. The sniper team uses the fishhook technique to doubleback (Figure 8-11) on its own trail in an overwatch position. The sniperteam can observe the back trail for trackers or ambush pursuers. If thepursuing force is too large to be destroyed, the sniper team strives toeliminate the tracker. The sniper team uses the hit-and-run tactics, thenmoves to another ambush position. The terrain must be used to advantage.