The Worlds Greatest Tracker: He Can Tell If You're Hungry, Sick, Or Right Handed From Tracks (2 Videos)
Attendees pay between $800 and $1,000 for a week at the school. A basic survival course includes lessons in shelter and fire building, making arrowheads, finding water, and identifying edible and medicinal plants. These are skills that can – and have – saved lives.
“My son and I did a segment on one of the morning TV shows where we built a debris hut, basically a survival shelter made of sticks and brush,” Brown says. “Well, this little kid watched it, and then when his family went camping he got lost. He built a debris hut, and when they found him he was safe and sound. Shelter is the big one – more people die of exposure than from anything else.”
The Tracker School boasts politicians, famous actors and elite military personnel among its graduates. In the 1980s, Dick Marcinko, leader of the Navy’s original SEAL Team Six, sent members of his special-ops force to Brown’s school.
In another book, Brown wrote about being called in to recapture one of those operatives who’d later gone rogue. In 2003, that particular story was adapted into a major Hollywood movie called “The Hunted,” starring Benicio Del Toro and Tommy Lee Jones. Brown served as technical advisor on the film, teaching the actors the basics of tracking, building fires, carving knives and setting snares.
“They made that into a movie and it’s Hollywood, so in some cases things get made to look a little more exciting than they are,” Brown says. “Only about a quarter of my tracking cases are fugitive recovery. The others are things like drug smuggling or missing persons – normal stuff.”
Brown is perhaps the world’s best-known authority on tracking and survival, but his classes also include a notable spiritual element. The lectures are a curious mix of skill demonstration, traditional Apache ceremony and Earth stewardship.
All of this has served to create a kind of legend surrounding Brown. What he says he can do seems impossible, and there are many who maintain that it is.
A few websites and online message boards are dedicated to debunking Brown’s stories about his Apache mentor and his larger-than-life experiences. In fact, much of the history is difficult to authenticate. Grandfather is long dead, and Brown has said “Stalking Wolf” is a pseudonym, making his existence nearly impossible to verify. Details surrounding the man vary – in some accounts he’s the grandfather of Brown’s best friend. In others, he’s a great-grandfather or an uncle. Some critics say many of the episodes Brown recounts in his books seem tinged with fiction or, at the very least, mildly exaggerated. Berkley Books, Brown’s publisher, declined to comment on the authenticity of the books, but Brown maintains they’re entirely factual.
What has been proven, however, is Brown’s well-documented ability to succeed where others have failed. Local police often call him in to find hikers who’ve gotten lost in the 100-acre park that borders the tracking school. The police keep calling because, as officers have said publicly, “he always finds them.”
Whatever the balance of fact and myth in the legend of Tom Brown Jr., his love of nature – and belief in people’s responsibility to preserve it – are not up for debate.
“Being in the bush, being alone and reflecting on the nature around you, changes the way you look at the Earth,” he says.
“There’s a sense of knowing that no matter what befalls you, you’ll survive because you have everything you need. The folks who come here are people who cherish the wilderness. They hear this drummer that is difficult to describe, but they find inspiration and enlightenment in the relationship between themselves and the Earth. The more time you spend alone, the more it comes out – you just seem to know, but not know how you know. That’s an instinct. That’s the drummer. That’s the bond that pulls us all together.”
Tom's Tracker School https://www.trackerschool.com/