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When you want to observe wild animals, you have to stalk them, that is, creep up to them without them seeing or smelling you.

A hunter keeps himself entirely hidden when he is stalking wild animals. So does the war scout when watching or looking for the enemy. A policeman does not catch pickpockets by standing about in uniform watching for them. He dresses like one of the crowd, and as often as not gazes into a shop window and sees all that goes on behind him reflected as if in a looking-glass.

If a guilty person finds himself watched, it puts him on his guard, while an innocent person becomes annoyed. So, when you are observing a person, don't do so by openly staring at him, but notice the details you want to at one glance or two. If you want to study him more, walk behind him. You can learn just as much from a back view-in fact more than you can from a front view-and, unless the person is a Scout and looks round frequently, he does not know that you are observing him.

War scouts and hunters stalking game always carry out two important things when they don't want to be seen.

One is-they take care that the ground, or trees, or buildings, behind them are of the same colour as their clothes.

And the other is-if an enemy or a deer is looking for them they remain perfectly still without moving while he is there.

In that way a Scout, even though he is out in the open, will often escape being noticed.

Choosing the Background

In choosing your background, consider the colour of your clothes. If you are dressed in khaki, don't go and stand in front of a whitewashed wall, or in front of a dark-shaded bush, but go where there is khaki-coloured sand or grass or rocks behind you-and remain perfectly still. It will be very difficult for an enemy to distinguish you, even at a short distance.

If you are in dark clothes, get among dark bushes, or in the shadow of trees or rocks, but be careful that the ground beyond you is also dark-if there is light-coloured ground beyond the trees under which you are standing, for instance, you will stand out clearly defined against it.

In making use of hills as look-out places, be very careful not to show yourself on the top or sky-line. That is the fault which a tenderfoot generally makes.

Slow Motion

It is quite a lesson to watch a Zulu scout making use of a hilltop or rising ground as a look-out place. He will crawl up on all fours, lying flat in the grass. On reaching the top he will very slowly raise his head, inch by inch, till he can see the view. If he sees the enemy on beyond, he will have a good look, and, if he thinks they are watching him, will keep his head perfectly steady for a long time, hoping that he will be mistaken for a stump or a stone. If he is not detected, he will very gradually lower his head, inch by inch, into the grass again, and crawl quietly away. Any quick or sudden movement of the head on the sky-line would be very Liable to attract attention, even at a considerable distance.

At night, keep as much as possible in low ground, ditches, etc., so that you are down in the dark, while an enemy who comes near will be visible to you outlined on higher ground against the stars. By squatting low in the shadow of the bush at night, and keeping quite still, I have let an enemy's scout come and stand within three feet of me, so that when he turned his back towards me I was able to stand up where I was, and fling my arms round him.

Silent Walking

A point also to remember in keeping hidden while moving, especially at night, is to walk quietly. The thump of an ordinary man's heel on the ground can be heard a good distance off. A Scout or hunter always walks lightly, on the balls of his feet, not on his heels. This you should practise whenever you are walking, by day or by night, indoors as well as out, so that it becomes a habit with you to walk as lightly and silently as possible. You will find that as you grow into it your power of walking long distances will grow-you will not tire so soon as you would if clumping along in the heavy-footed manner of most people.

Keep Down-Wind

Remember always that to stalk a wild animal, or a good scout, you must keep downwind of him, even if the wind is so slight as to be merely a faint air.

Before starting to stalk your enemy, then, you should be sure which way the wind is blowing, and work up against it. To find this out, wet your thumb all round with your tongue, and then hold it up and see which side feels coldest. Or you can throw some light dust, or dry grass or leaves in the air, and see which way they drift.

Using Disguise

The Red Indian scouts, when they wanted to reconnoitre an enemy's camp, used to tie a wolf's skin on their backs and walk on all fours, and prowl round the camps at night, imitating the howl of a wolf. Also, when peeping over a ridge or any place where their head might be seen against the sky-line, they put on a cap made of wolf's-head skin with ears on it so that they might be mistaken for a wolf, if seen.

In Australia, the aborigines stalk emus-great birds something like an ostrich-by putting an emu's skin over themselves, and walking with body bent and one hand held up to represent the bird's head and neck.

Scouts, when looking out among grass, often tie a string or band round their head, and stick grass in it, some upright, some drooping over their face, so that their head is invisible. When hiding behind a big stone or mound, they don't look over the top, but round the side of it.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Patrol Practices In Stalking

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to the previous page: Games In Deduction

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