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Story of the Trailing Eval & Workshop

posted Nov 13, 2018, 7:23 PM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Nov 13, 2018, 7:27 PM ]
Since our inception, the Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project has had a strong focus on track & sign interpretation. Our tracking club and tracking surveys emphasize building an understanding of the landscape primarily through spoor identification. But until now, we have done relatively little to explore the art of trailing. This past October, Blake Southard of North Winds Wilderness School partnered with the Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project to host our first CyberTracker Trailing Evaluation, followed by a four-day long intensive workshop in following deer trails.

The Trailing Evaluation was conducted by Senior Tracker Kersey Lawrence. The Evaluation presented us all with extremely difficult conditions. Day one began with a light snow--the first flurries of the season--then developed into an unseasonably cold day with high winds. The 40mph gusts literally knocked some of us off our feet while we were on trail. Despite the challenges, or perhaps because of them, all four participants surprised themselves by passing the basic level and earning a Level 1 in trailing. Since all four are certified in Track and Sign, they also all earned full Tracker 1 certification. Congratulations to Minnesota's first four certified Trackers, Blake Southard, Donnie Phyillaire, Jonathan Poppele and Kirsten Welge.

Kersey is an amazing asset to the tracking community world wide, and we were very fortunate to have her come to Minnesota to support us in our development. As an added bonus, we were joined over the weekend by Senior Trackers and certified evaluators Brian McConnell and Lee Guttridge.
Brian was on hand to evaluate Kersey's evaluating. At the end of the weekend he signed off on her work, officially certifying her as the first female trailing evaluator in the world!

Following the evaluation, Kersey and Lee stayed on to lead deer trailing workshop hosted at North Winds Wilderness School campus in Siren, Wisconsin. We spend the next four days walking through the woods on the trails of deer. Kersey and Lee guided us in the process, helping us all stay close to our edge for the entire workshop--constantly challenged, but not overwhelmed.

When the workshop began, many of us never expected to be able to follow a deer's trail until we saw the animal--and during the workshop we didn't catch up to any of the deer we trailed.
We saw a few bound away in the distance, and heard the scolding "sneak" alarm of some blue jays as another likely stalked away from us. But Kersey and Lee kept reminding us that seeing the animal is the point of trailing. "You should expect to see your animal," Kersey told us. "And you should expect to see animals, because you are walking quietly in the woods." Meanwhile, Lee invited us to “Move through the woods like you belong there not like it belongs to you.”

Slowly, the messages started to sink in. With each passing day, everyone in our group grew more comfortable and confident following the subtle clues left by whitetails. Following Kersey and Lee's instructions and model, our minds slowed down, our senses opened up, and our inspiration and passion grew. It started to sink in that there were deer moving at the end of these trails--and that if we continued to practice it would not be long before we could see a set of tracks with feet still in them.