Custom Program Example: Trailing Animals

Wolf College founder Chris Chisholm specializes in a variety of earth skills, but his favorite pursuit has always been tracking animals. Chris has been asked by hunters, wildlife photographers, conservation researchers, private landowners and animal lovers to show them how to follow the trail of wolves, cougars, elk, deer and a variety of smaller critters in order to catch up and observe them in their natural settings.

Chris also encourages people he trains in the art and science of animal trailing to further their skills even more by enrolling in a Cybertracker Trailing Evaluation with top specialist Brian McConnell who also lives right here in Western Washington. Brian charges an extremely generous 2 day rate of $800 to evaluate 4 trackers, and his evaluations are as much an excellent learning opportunity for intermediate to advanced trackers as anything else.

You can create a custom-designed training that fits your needs, or use the following example which Chris has found works very well for beginner and intermediate trackers. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs):

What would a trailing training day look like? We would want to meet for coffee at 7:00 for some introductory info, and try to be at our starting point by 8:00. We would spend an hour or two looking for and interpreting fresh tracks, while Chris would demonstrate a couple tips on following them. Chris likes to work with 2 people at a time, and each person would spend about 3 hours each on the trail. Chris also highly recommends bringing a good camera in case we catch up to any animals, but mostly because it really puts you in the trailing mindset if you are constantly hoping to catch a picture of an animal before it notices you. The last hour together would include review and recommendations.

How much time is required? To start, Chris recommends one day from about 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM, but you can hire him for any amount of time. To reach an intermediate level of expertise, here’s what Chris recommends for the best training schedule: 1) Choose an initial one-day training. 2) Practice with your tracking partners all day, once a month, to increase awareness and build stamina against eye fatigue. 3) Hire Brian McCollum to do a Trailing Evaluation (see links above). 4) Bring Chris back the week before you plan to hunt, photograph, or do your conservation research.

How much do you charge? Because trailing animals is Chris’ favorite hobby, he doesn’t really see it as work, so he charges what is probably the most affordable rate of any program offered at the Wolf College: $200 for a day of trailing with 2 people from about 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM including orientation and review. However, you can add up to 2 more people, shorten or lengthen the time as part of your custom program, and ask Chris to adjust the fee accordingly. On top of the training fee, the only other expense Chris charges is for travel. Generally, the charge is 50¢ per mile and/or airfare and accommodations for him and his wife Kim, whose expertise in wildlife science is an excellent addition.

Where can you do the training? Chris can travel anywhere in the world to teach you to trail animals, but his regions of expertise are in the U.S. including the wet west coast, inland west dry terrain, the Rocky Mountains, the desert southwest, midwest prairie lands, his childhood home in the upper midwest and northeast forests, and the Appalachian Mountains. He also spent a year wandering the Andes Mountains in South America, and four years of high school in Europe. What’s most important, however, is to go where you like to hunt, photograph animals, do conservation research, or enjoy animals in general. It’s most productive to practice trailing where deer, elk, bear and other large animals are abundant, but also where property boundaries and other obstacles won’t get in the way. If you would like to do a training in Washington State and/or save Chris travel expenses, then the Alder Lake area near Eatonville WA is the closest excellent location. Next closest include the Skagit River area about 1-2 hours north of Seattle, the Cle Elum pine forests and Ellensburg WA sagebrush steppe areas about 1-2 hours east of Seattle, and the Olympic coast region north of Aberdeen WA.

When can you do a training? It doesn’t really matter about the time of year as far as learning to follow a fresh trail, excepting heavy snow coverage, because you need to know how to track in all weather and substrate in order to be successful in whatever weather happens during hunting weeks, for example. What’s important is recognizing fresh sign, the probabilities as to where the animal will go at each juncture, and getting close enough before the animal senses you. Of course, there are very particular sets of conditions that only occur in October which are different in every micro-environment, such as new leaf-fall from various kinds of trees, etc. and you can only do that around the week-of. So after an initial trailing day, you could also schedule a follow-up session the week before your hunting week, for example, as a great training addition.

Organizing a program is easy:

  • Call us at 425-248-0253 or email us with your request, idea, or questions.
  • Chris will write up a proposal to email back to you.
  • You make any suggested changes and send payment.
  • We’ll see you on the confirmed date!

Other custom-designed programs have also included:

  • A Day of Survival: Wild Foods, Shelter & Fire
  • Fire by Friction
  • A Tour of Wolf Camp: Permaculture on an Urban Farm
  • The Herbal Salon: teas, scents, steams, masks, and powders for health and vitality
  • Edible & Medicinal Plants
  • Lostproofing & Orienteering:  learn to navigate in nature with and without a compass
  • Bird Language and Identification
  • Wildlife Tracking Field Trip
  • Pioneering Skills

For for a price quote on your ideas, just email us or call us anytime at 425-248-0253.