Wildwood Tracking website

Tracks & Sign
Sign tracking
Limb/Eye Dominance
Search & Rescue
Way of the Scout
Algonquin Winter
About this site
Use of material
Privacy Policy

Night Awareness

by Tom Brown Jr.

There are a number of things that a student can do to increase his ability to travel, see, and understand things that are going on about him at night. One of the greatest tools is the tool of the blindfold, which I took you through on your Standard class. Not only does the blindfold improve your stalking ability and your balance, but it also enables you to travel through the darkened world with little or no effort. Your body becomes a huge receptor looking for every little tickle and branch and tuft of grass that may come into your path. Another thing a student can do at night is to use splatter vision. The unfocused vision to the peripheral aids so much in night vision that it is beyond description. When we focus on anything at night, the area of our focus is not very receptive to the low light levels. But, if we were to glance across the landscape using splatter vision, we would be using more of our night vision, more of the area of our eyes that is susceptible to low levels of light.

Another thing we can do to improve our night awareness is to use the focused hearing that I taught you during your Standard class. By simply cupping the ears and forming huge ear pockets, much like a deer or coyote's ears, we are better able to pick up sounds in the distance. Our ears, unlike our eyes, are using splatter hearing all the lime, or unfocused hearing. By cupping our ears we begin to focus that hearing much as the animals do and are able to pick up directional sounds at greater distances.

The use of the horizon in night vision is very important. While looking off across the landscape trying to see movement of animals, if you can get lower than the horizon and silhouette everything against that horizon, you will better be able to see those animals and things that are passing. You will pick out shapes a lot more effectively. I call it horizon vision. By using the horizon vision, and the unfocused or splatter vision, you are going to see so many more nocturnal animals.

Another one of our skills, or tools that is forgotten is our sense of touch. To touch is to know, and at night touch is so very important to understanding what is going on in the landscape. A person with a good sense of touch and who has practiced touching many things can easily pick out trails on the landscape, and can easily pick the identity of trees and various shrubs. I once had a student come through my school who was almost totally blind. Not only could he do bow-drill and build himself a leaf hut, but he could name edible plants by their touch, their feel, and their smell. He could name trees by the feel of their bark. With the use of his senses of hearing, touching, and smell, he could track across the landscape almost as well as a person with eyes.

Remember, fifty percent of your tracking is done with the eyes, the other half with your sense of touch. If you can heighten this sense in the woods at night, you are going to experience so much more than you would if you stumbled around without using any of these skills. At night your eyes are minimized, so try to use the other four senses to got you through.

From The Tracker magazine, May 1982, published by the Tracker School.
For more articles from The Tracker magazine, visit the Tracker Trail website.