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How to Start a Tracker Club

One of the best ways to keep your enthusiasm and skills alive is to participate in a local Tracker, Survival, and Nature Study Club. If there is no club in your area, then why not start one? It's actually fairly easy to do so.

There are four main things that you will need to consider:

  1. Defining the Club: deciding the format of the club and meetings: who do you want to participate, when/where/how often are the meetings, what format are the meetings, and so on
  2. Initially attracting members to the club: Getting the word out for the initial kick-off of the club
  3. Growing and maintaining the club
  4. Pitfalls: things that may cause problems once the club is going

Please note ... Don't get discouraged by the seemingly long list of issues and problems that your group might face. There's a good chance that very few of these issues will come up at all! I just want to provide a "heads-up" of all the possible and potential issues that can arise, that's all.
Starting a Club doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a few people saying, "Let's get together and do stuff!".
Attending club meetings can be very inspiring, and can go a very long way to helping you keep your skills alive.

This discussion focuses on Survival, Tracking & Nature clubs, but really applies to any type of club.


Executive Summary:
  • Enjoy, have fun, do stuff
  • Respect each other, listen to each other
  • At least have a handful of ground rules to create at least a minimum of structure
  • If "everyone is welcome", then ensure that this is indeed the case in practice

Defining the Club:

Membership: Who do you want to participate in the club?

  • Students of the Tracker School only?
  • All interested parties? (if you choose this, then you will need to decide on a way to help keep the club focused).
  • Requirements to join? ... Attendance at a particular school class, other requirements, or simply an interest in the Club's focus?
  • Will there be a membership fee?
  • Are families and children allowed? This is a big issue - address it with due consideration. Inclusion of families and children can dramatically change the nature of your club and meetings.
  • Are spouses of participants allowed if they do not meet the membership criteria.


  • Keep it informal, vs. having a structure (president, a constitution, etc). If you get formal, then you risk spending too much time on bureaucracy.
  • Leadership issue #1: Who decides where and when to meet? One person, the group, or different people at different times?
  • Leadership issue #2: Who decides topics of meetings? One person, the group, different people at different times, or the host of each meeting?


  • Where to meet? You could of course rent a space somewhere - this would entail costs for club members.  Or maybe there is someone willing to donate a space. Meeting in a local natural area is a possibility. Or at a club members' home. Or maybe someone has a piece of land they are willing to let the club use.
  • How often to meet? Weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc? This largely depends on how much interest and passion club members have. Beware of meeting too often, as people seem to have very busy lives these days. In surveys conducted for the Ontario Tracker club, lack of time was cited as the overwhelming #1 reason that people didn't attend meetings.
  • How long will the meetings be? One evening, a whole day, or a weekend. Each of these has its own issues. The weekend-long meetings require the most planning and organizing.
  • Food: If meetings are longer than a few hours, what about food? Do people bring their own, or is it provided? What about food preparation and clean up?

The focus of the club:

  • What is the purpose of the club?
  • What topics will the club pursue? For example, the club may focus on wilderness survival, awareness, nature identification, tracking, etc. Or members may wish to focus on philosophy aspects. Or both. Etc.
  • How much material that is off-topic will be allowed at meetings? How strict do you want to be? And how focused?
  • Do you want to reach out to people who have no experience to the club's focus to teach them skills, or do you want to focus on sharing and practicing skills within the context of your own group alone?


  • Come up with a name for your local club that is realistic and reflects who you are, what you do, who you are trying to attract, and where you are located.  Look at the names of other groups for examples.  If you call your group "Columbus Trackers", will people know where is Columbus?  Or which "Columbus"?  There are at least 17 States in the USA with a "Columbus"!  Maybe "Central Ohio Trackers" would be more descriptive? Think “big picture” about how someone will find your group based upon keyword searches. Don't pick a name that encompasses too large an area, unless that's really how you want to be defined. For example, "Ontario Trackers" is probably unrealistic given the size of Ontario!

Initially attracting members to the club:

  • First search for an existing group in your area – no point in duplicating someone else’s effort.  There is a "Tracker Club Directories" on the web. If an "existing" group appears to be defunct, see if you can locate the original organizers to adopt or resurrect it.
  • Post notices in the community on poles
  • Advertise in local paper and radio - most have special rates for non-profit entities and clubs
  • Place notices in local nature stores, book stores, health food stores, travel stores, even grocery stores. But be careful of your focus - see next point.
  • Keep in mind that your club may very well be defined by who you initially attract to the club. So, if you post notices in the local "new age" newspapers, the club will likely end up with that orientation.
  • Word of mouth: friends, relatives, etc.
  • Request a listing in the Tracker Club List on the Internet. Note that your club must meet certain requirements to be listed there.
  • Contact survival and tracking schools, especially ones run by Tracker students and former instructors) to see if they will refer people to your club.
  • If you're focussed on Tracker School students, check on-line Tracker student directories (Tracker Gallery & Tracker Directory) for individuals in your area who have self-registered in an effort to hook up with others.  [See http://www.tracker-gallery.com/ and http://www.dhaynes.com/directory.htm for examples.]
  • Pull out your old mailing list from past classes at whatever survival or tracking school you have attended.  Contact anyone who is close to you.  Ask them to check their mailing lists.  Ask students in other areas to do the same, but respect the privacy of these class lists.  Rather than forwarding the contact info to you, the actual classmate should initiate the contact:  "Hey old classmate, a friend in your neck of the woods is trying to get some folks together… Here is how you can contact her."
  • **See also "Growing and Maintaining the club", below

Growing and maintaining the club

  • Set up a free Yahoo eGroup similar to the Tracker School class forums. This provides a way for people to find and contact you.  It provides a local forum in which to plan and announce get-togethers.  It saves you the hassle of having to keep track of email addresses.  [http://groups.yahoo.com]
  • Provide a reliable, long-term contact.  Be responsive to inquiries. A website with a domain name is one of the best ways to do this (see below)
  • Announce the presence of your fledgling group in the various forums on the Internet. Please don’t over-do it; a couple times a year is reasonable.
  • Web site: Register a domain name ( eg, ottawatrackers.org) and put together a very simple web page.  Stick to the bare basics: who you are, what you do, whom you are trying to attract and why, where you are located, and how to contact you.  It costs about $15 a year to register a domain name.  For that price, some companies will host a one-page site that could serve your most basic needs.  If you care to dabble in something more elaborate, you might expect to pay another $50/yr for someone to host your web site (unless you can get a friend to host it for you for cheap). Register your web site with the major search engines like Yahoo, Google, Lycos, etc.  
  • Register your web site in the "Tracker Club Directory".
  • Communicate with other clubs in other areas to see if they know anyone in your area or would be willing to check their old class lists for people in your area.  Network and you will reach a critical mass where the club might become self-sustaining even if you move on.
  • Seek out opportunities to reach out to your local community at-large. Possibly get involved with local youth groups, schools. But beware, this may lead to a lack of focus, or a change in focus (eg, focus changing to being a Boy Scout group and all the myriad associated issues that come with that!). 
  • Get business cards printed so you can readily provide a basic description of, and contact information for, your club to any interested folks you bump into.
  • Get bookmarks printed (7" x 2" or so) with a basic advertisement for your club.  Tuck a couple into any books you lend or donate.  You might even discretely tuck them into relevant books at local bookstores.

Common pitfalls to watch out for  and avoid
The first three are the "biggies" - these ones happen more often than you think, and are hard to avoid.

  • Control issues. Individual club members with large egos will try to control the club.
  • Cliques. A few members, or the whole club, will form into a clique and make it hard for those who are not part of it to participate. In the worst scenario, specific individuals will be excluded, ignored, and told to "go away". Yes, this happens more than you think! And it has indeed happened with a Tracker Club, even while the club was pretending that everyone is welcome!
  • Loss of focus. This can easily happen if there is no criteria for membership. Or if the meetings do not have enough structure or focus.
  • If the club always meets at one person's home, then it is possible that person may come to think that it is "their" club. On the other hand, they may feel that they "never get a break".
  • Lack of interest. People may attend for one or two meetings, but then not come back. Keep in mind that of the many people who attend classes at a school, very few make it an important part of their lives.
  • Meetings held too frequently. This may tend to dilute the club, as people lead busy lives these days, and can't possibly make all the meetings. Attendance will decline, and the club may shrink as a result.
  • Getting bogged down in bureaucracy. Structure the club so that there is a minimum of time necessary to spend on organizing and planning things. Time spent dealing with these things can dramatically take away from the time spent practicing and sharing skills.
  • Too many unrelated topics seep in to the club meetings. This could be an asset, or it could eventually dilute the club so that it is no longer primarily focusing on material oriented around the club's focus.
  • Alcohol, drugs, pets, smoking, personal fragrances. Are these allowed? To what extent?
  • Obnoxious children who disrupt the meetings, and parents who do not control them.
  • Lack of discipline regarding meeting start times. If people show up any old time, will that be a problem?
  • Food: Food preparation (cooking and cleanup) takes time and attention, sometimes a LOT of it.
  • If the club activities include the philosophy aspect, then spiritual issues may arise (dark side attacks, ego issues, control issues, method and procedure disagreements, etc). Be aware of this possibility. Also potential criticism from local Native people.
  • Interpersonal relationships in the club: Try to keep it fairly informal and flexible.  Let everyone get whatever he or she needs to get out of it.  Communicate with each other, encourage each other, and support each other.
  • Club may get too big (unlikely). This makes meetings harder to organize (space), and may decrease individual interactions.
  • Liability issues & insurance. Yuck! Watch out for these potential big time "gotchas".

This document was compiled from
  1. My own experiences with Tracker Clubs in Ontario;
  2. My own experiences with, and observations of, other types of groups and clubs
  3. Experiences that I have heard about from other Tracker clubs;
  4. Ideas compiled by Jerry Bargo of the Cincinnati Trackers club (www.CincinnatiTrackers.org).
    ...from Jerry: "If there is anything I can do to help you start a local Tracker/Kamana/WAS club, call me at (513) 871-4853"

See also an article on the MAPS website: http://www.mapsgroup.org/starting_a_prim.htm


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