Mantracker reality star Terry Grant sees one big difference between tracking humans and animals.
“People are lazy,” he said, with a chuckle.
Given the choice between a steep climb or a down-hill amble a person will invariably take the easier route. “You have to understand the psychology,” he said.
Grant, who will lead two three-hour workshops on tracking for kids and adults at Red Deer’s Kerry Wood Nature Centre on Saturday, has followed all kinds of individuals and teams on the TV show Mantracker for six seasons. Only about 30 per cent of them managed to outwit him, even with a half-hour head start.
Grant knows that some things are just a given. For instance, when someone leads him to a river, in an attempt to make it look like they crossed to the opposite bank, they almost certainly floated downstream for 50 metres, then came out again on the same side.
“There would be evidence if they crossed the river — wet stones and boot marks. It would be easy to see,” said Grant, who believes we all do certain things naturally, without conscious thought.
The job of a tracker — whether it’s a search and rescue worker, an animal hunter, or a lost person trying to retrace his own steps to find his way out of the forest — is to seek evidence of passage.
Like a detective, Grant will look for broken branches, trampled moss or scraped soil. He will use a tracking stick to part long grass, and measure the distance between clues. “The three points of contact are shoulders, hips and feet,” he said. Anything higher would be caused by a bird, or the antlers of a moose or deer.
The cowboy and big-game hunter from High River learned his tracking skills through experience. He’s searched for cattle grazing in the vast foothills, to drive them to protected ranch land before winter set in.
For some years he also worked as a guide in the Northwest Territories for hunters of bears, moose and elk.
Since ending his stint with Mantracker in 2011, Grant has been doing workshops across the country for search and rescue volunteers, hunting groups and other interested citizens. He teaches the basics of tracking and leaves it up to participants to hone their skills by heading outdoors to practise them. “Interpretation (of the clues) is 90 per cent of it,” he said.
Although Grant doesn’t mind being regularly recognized by fans, he’s mostly gratified to have contributed to getting some people off the couch and into the woods.
For more information or to register for the 9 a.m.-noon, or 1:30-4:30 p.m. workshops, which cost $100 for adults or $75 for youths, please call the centre at 403-346-2010.