The ground doesn’t lie. Short of teleporting or being a ghost, a human being will leave some evidence of its presence or movement. It is science; tracking is empirical and fact-driven. It is not an abstract, ancient art form.

Those two basic tenants would be drilled into our brains during the week-long combat tracking course with the Scott-Donelan Tracking School.

The tracking skillset first captured my attention (more appropriately my imagination) when I received a reproduction of the 1911 Boy Scouts handbook. In addition to assorted fieldcraft and exciting activities that would likely result in a lawsuit in 2015, the handbook also contained a significant chapter on tracking. After all, Robert Baden Powell (founder of the British Boy Scouts) was a veteran of the Boer War and was familiar with the value of tracking in warfare.

Earlier this year, while doing research on the Rhodesian Bush War, I took a closer look at the applications of tactical tracking and its potential use in modern warfare, particularly small wars. There is a certain romance revolving around the simplicity and universality of tracking as a skillset that spans the centuries and generations of warfare, despite technological advances in warfighting and tactics. Like many others, I placed the skillset and its practitioners high on a pedestal reserved for sage warriors who possessed an enlightened relationship with nature and their surroundings. After reading the exploits of the Rhodesian soldiers in the bush war and Rhodesian tracking manuals, I decided that a tactical tracking course was on my bucket list.