In the News
|Tracking Your Wild Side
Tom Brown's NJ-based Tracking School brings out the Native American in
all of us
By Bruce Northam
GoNomad.com (unknown date)
|New Jersey is probably the last place you’d hunt for a
wilderness survival school. However, Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker School in
western New Jersey is an excellent place to learn survival skills,
nature awareness, the ancient art of tracking and the Native American
philosophy of connecting with the earth.
Brown’s six-day standard course opens the door to dozens of advanced
Tracker School courses. As a child (and adolescent), Tom Brown learned
these ancient skills in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens from his mentor,
Stalking Wolf, a displaced Apache elder, shaman and scout.
attuned to nature, the scouts were part of a secret society who refined
tracking, awareness and wilderness survival to an intense science and
The Apache scouts were the masters of the wilderness and beginning in
his early teens, Brown was called on to take those skills into the woods
to track lost children, fugitives and even an escaped Bengal tiger. A
frequent guest on CNN and Fox News Network, he advises law enforcement
bureaus and trains navy seals on all aspects of survival.
|Learning from Stalking Wolf
Brown’s mentor, Stalking Wolf, was raised free of reservations in the
mountains of northern Mexico. Born in the 1870's during a time of great
warfare and violence, he was part of a band of Lipan Apache that never
surrendered. He was taught the traditional ways of his people and
excelled as a healer and a scout. At twenty, he began a sixty-three year
wander throughout the Americas, seeking teachers, learning the old ways
of many native peoples and never participating in modern society. At
eighty-three, he encountered young Tom Brown, who became the recipient
of Stalking Wolf’s personal wisdom and hundreds of years of Apache
Brown also reveals the surly edge of a fed-up nature
Sheriff… a sensitive, down-to-earth environmentalist periodically
bringing himself to tears while reflecting on his Apache “grandfather.”
Imagine John Muir a marine.
Why New Jersey? Brown calls on his students to “fight on the front
lines of the environmental war.” The differences, he explains, need to
be made where the worst environmental crimes are being committed. He’s
written twenty books in as many years on topics ranging from philosophy
to urban survival.
Brown shares generations of outdoor wisdom in the six-day standard
course - a continuum of profound lectures and workshops lasting up to a
grueling 14 hours per day. He leads an ensemble of instructors, all
graduates from many of his 60 advanced courses.
|First the survival basics
What if your plane
crashes and you are alone, naked in the woods: shelter, water, fire,
food. You learn how to build a debris hut and start a matchless fire
using a self-carved bow drill. Imagine fiddling a bark-ribbon bow across
an upright paper towel holder to create an ember. You also make cordage
by reverse wrapping long grasses into strong string, build dead-fall
hunting traps, track animals or humans by analyzing their print
“pressure release,” and enhance your natural awareness using wide-angle
vision. There are workshops on selecting edible plants, hunting with a
throwing stick and stalking--or meditating--by way of “fox walking”.
Attendees graduate (at least) as versatile Neanderthals with
reactivated primitive sensibility, discovering uses for a knife beyond
The area surrounding Asbury--bordering Pennsylvania, not to be
confused with Asbury Park - is a checkerboard of beautiful farms,
rolling hills and forest.
Lectures are given by Brown or his staff in an old barn housing a
small stage and up to 100 people seated on split log benches balanced on
stumps and arranged amphitheater-style. Several workshops are outdoors,
including wilderness cooking and food preservation.
Students camp in two social “tent cities” near the barn. The course
requires moderate physical challenge, mostly enduring the summer heat.
The mentally demanding curriculum unearths flickers of your wild side
and is not for anyone rendered miserable by camping in the rain,
confronting poison ivy or eating stew ladled out of a 10-gallon steel
pot. The hearty fare is two cuts above cafeteria food, with vegetarian
The instructors promote hunting only as a way to eat in survival
mode, and they demonstrate hunting options without guns: hurling rocks
and sticks, building traps. The only assault on the squeamish was an
opossum-skinning demonstration - “like pulling off a sock!” Practical
survival tips include using oil on your nose to rustproof knives,
engorging a condom into a 5-gallon water reservoir and pragmatic ways to
gut fish. One instructor shaved his beard with a sharp $10 knife,
noting, “you can shave with a sharpened ax.”
|Millionaires and backpackers
Typically, forty percent of the draw is female. A priceless experience
for any outdoor enthusiast the attendees ranged from vegetarians to
hunters to hitchhiking backpackers to soul-searching millionaires. Most
modern folk are aliens in the wilderness and our ability to survive
within it equals the ultimate freedom.
Brown has turned tracking into an intense science and art form. I saw
a paw print, he certified “a disk-fissure crest-crumble lobular pressure
release.” Translation: “a strolling female fox with a full stomach, who
paused and looked left.”
On one field trip, Brown led us along a forested trail. Within a
50-yard segment of the trail, he identified 50 tracks (left, right or
rear print) on hand-written ice-cream sticks pointing at the otherwise
invisible tracks of 10 different animals. He doesn’t miss a beat in the
The most compelling ingredient of the standard course is Brown’s
passion for the Native American way of living in commune with nature. A
loathing for environmental destruction burns in him. Therefore, the
Tracker faculty is more than a fraternity of nomads who like sneaking up
The final night was spent in sweat lodge, where Brown chanted in
Apache tongues, prayed for the earth, suggested we count our blessings,
pardon our enemies and invited us to seek our most productive path.
The next morning he delivered a “save mother Earth” epilogue that
brought tears to everyone’s eyes, including his.
New York City is a million miles away.
Bruce Northam’s multimedia presentations — held at
universities and seminar centers nationwide — celebrate the spirit and
soul of circling the globe five times, freestyle. His books include The
Frugal Globetrotter, In Search of Adventure: A Wild Travel Anthology,
and Globetrotter Dogma (mid April). Visit Bruce’s website
Reproduced from http://www.gonomad.com/alternatives/0302/tracker.html
This website has no official or
informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever