April 12, 2010

Learning to Observe

Since I started geocaching earlier this past winter, I have found enough of them that I felt confident to start placing my own.

Geocaching builds observational skills. What looks to be out of place? (That rock arrangement did not happen by itself.*) Where would I hide something here? (Hollow tree? Near a fence post?)

Do these observational skills relate, for instance, to wildlife-watching? Or watching other things?

A recent newspaper article described how two groups of soldiers and Marines were best at spotting roadside bombs: hunters and those who grew up in "tough urban areas."

The best troops he's ever seen when it comes to spotting bombs were soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard, nearly all with rural backgrounds that included hunting.
"They just seemed to pick up things much better," [Army Sgt. Maj. Todd] Burnett said. "They know how to look at the entire environment."

Troops from urban backgrounds also seemed to have developed an innate "threat-assessment" ability. Both groups, said Army research psychologist Steve Burnett, "seem very adaptable to the kinds of environments" seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So the key is "What is out of place?" and "Who is acting strangely?"?

I remember as a kid during the Vietnam War reading an article in one of Dad's American Rifleman magazines about how soldiers had to be taught to flick their eyes from spot to spot when walking on patrol.

It's good advice for hunters too—it is the same technique that tracking-teacher Tom Brown recommended under his term, "splatter vision."

Or as Dad used to say when squirrel-hunting: "Don't look for squirrels—look at the whole tree."

* Geocachers like the acronyms URP (unnatural rock pile) or SPOR (suspicious pile of rocks). Likewise with sticks.


Holly Heyser said...

I love this! I love the recognition of what hunting teaches us, and the respect for the skills required to navigate tough urban environments.

Tovar@AMindfulCarnivore said...

Yes, great post. And thanks to NorCal for sending out the link!