A: Yes! The Track and Sign Evaluation is an excellent training tool, and serves as both a springboard for beginners and a stepping-stone for advanced trackers. The evaluation process is always best treated as a learning experience; there is of course an assessment component that may stir up “test anxiety,” but the process fundamentally emphasizes learning and becoming a better tracker. Be easy on yourself and enjoy the experience. We suggest you familiarize yourself with the various animals that occur in your region, and the tracks and sign they create, though it is not an absolute necessity—you’ll leave the weekend with far more knowledge and experience regardless.
A: No—the best way to prepare for the depth and variety of questions asked during an evaluation is to take an evaluation. We encourage people with no experience to undergo the process,so if you’ve done some tracking you are definitely ready. Evaluations are designed to venture into unexplored areas in a tracking practice, reinforce strengths, and increase knowledge across a wider range of species, sign, and animal behavior. Learning to track is an endlessly developing skill set–with this in mind we can leave our egos behind and thoroughly enjoy the process of learning in the field.
A: You might not receive a certificate on your first evaluation, but your tracking knowledge and know-how will be greatly enhanced—as will your chances of being certified on your next evaluation. This is an international standard for measuring wildlife tracking skill, and therefore a demanding and rigorous process. Because of that, though, the educational component is phenomenal! The evaluation is best viewed as an intensive training and the opportunity to become a better tracker, and a process that clearly facilitates and marks progress over time. Regardless of certifying or not on the first try, the two-days are highly engaging, entertaining, and participants leave with new confidence and a measurable increase in skill.
A: Maybe. Unlike the Track and Sign Evaluation, there is no instruction during the Trailing Evaluation other than the feedback you receive at the end, and that which you glean from watching fellow participants (spending two days on-trail observing the process has indeed proven very insightful for beginners and transforms their future practice). Trailing evaluations are demanding in that they lean completely on the participant to demonstrate their skill while following a trail. To get the most out of this process, we encourage you to put in some time in the field beforehand. Read the contents of the trailing section of this website to gain a sense of what the trailing evaluation is assessing, and we’d encourage you to read “Practical Tracking” (Liebenberg et al. 2010, Stackpole Books.) to gain a better understanding of what we mean by trailing and the skills of competent trackers.
A: Taking an evaluation in your region will give you the most accurate reflection of your skill level. However, you may live in a location where an evaluation has never been scheduled. Participating in an evaluation in other parts of the country is always a good option—you will no doubt encounter species familiar to your region, learn about new species, and of course be exposed to the universal fundamentals of tracking, applicable anywhere. Try to generate interest among your local trackers, tracking clubs/schools, environmental organizations, state agencies etc—we’ll happily come to you. Check out hosting an evaluation for details.
A: The track and sign evaluation is typically not a physically demanding experience, just mentally. The landscapes and weather conditions of North America are diverse, however, and we’ve offered evaluations in areas ranging from flat coastal dunes to mountainous terrain, and in sunshine, rain, and snow. If you have particular questions or concerns, contact us to explore the nature of a particular evaluation. We’re happy to help.
The trailing evaluation, however, can be physically demanding. It requires two days of walking where animals travel, which may include steep, wooded slopes, windfall, swamps, thickets and numerous other areas we might typically avoid. That said, the pace is generally moderate. Contact us with any questions or concerns and we’d happily better describe the physical demands of a particular venue.
A: In short, the Specialist evaluation is comprised only of “very complex” questions, (highly challenging), with no component of “easy” questions. These evaluations are rarer, and reserved for participants with a lot of experience and field time. While there is less field instruction than on Standard evaluations, discussions still cover in great detail many of the nuances required to make accurate assessments of a featured question. The same way a Standard Evaluation changes the way one see’s a landscape, its animals, and how to track, so to does the Specialist Evaluation—it’s an entire new level of tracking fluency, and both intense and rewarding.