Scouting, Volume 8, Number 9, April 22, 1920 Page: 4
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SCOUTING, APRIL 22, 1920
Casting Animal Tracks
" Our first impressions, whether of per-
sons or things have great influence on all
our future estimates and opinions.—Ed-
OLD-FASHIONED hunters who go
out into the fields and forests armed
with guns and bent on killing still
exist in great numbers. There is, how-
ever, another class of sportsmen rapidly
surging to the front that bids fair to en-
tirely revolutionize hunting as a pastime.
These more modern hunters have come
to realize that they get greater benefit and
pleasure in " hunting" the wild life of our
great out-of-doors with cameras, field
glasses, plaster-of-Paris and the like
rather than by indulging in that " old as
man himself" instinct to kill. To kill,
can at best, give but little temporary
amusement, and perhaps a desirable
change of diet, while on the other hand
to make the acquaintance of the wild
animals, to study their habits and customs,
to photograph them and cast the tracks
they leave in the sand, gives one pleasant
remembrances and delightful souvenirs
that will always be a source of joy.
WILD animals photography is really a
wonderful art and to get excep-
tional results requires expensive equip-
ment, unlimited supplies and long hours of
tedious work extending over many years.
Even to photograph the tracks left in the
sand and soft soil is not overly satisfac-
tory as these are either shallow, and being
all in the same material, show little con-
trast, or are deep and the definition is lost
in the shadows.
1^0 cast the tracks, however, of the
animals that are seen in the woods
and fields and of the other visitors that
come and go in the night but are seldom
seen, is inexpensive and requires little skill
and only the simplest equipment. It is a
pastime that may be indulged in as suc-
cessfully by the young folks as the grown-
ups, and as there is little chance of error,
good results are to be obtained from the
Two or three pounds of plaster of Paris
at a cost of about five cents a pound, some
water, an old tumbler <or cup, a tablespoon,
and a small stick pointed at one end and
spatulate at the other, are all the ma-
terials needed. The plaster and water may
be carried in mason jars; the one with
the water sealed with a rubber. A small
canvas bag or a knapsack will easily carry
all the equipment as well as a box and
some paper or other packing material to
preserve the completed casts.
Tl^HEN the tracks of some animal have
* been located, one that is clearly im-
pressed and appears to be characteristic
should be selected for casting. It should
first, if necessary, be cleared with the aid
of the little stick mentioned above, of any
particles of dirt that may have caved in.
Care must be taken in doing this not to
modify the track itself in any way or the
By Dr. L. D. Peaslee
Curator of Education,
Public Museum of Milwaukee
Courtesy of Milwaukee
Scout Year Book
Casts of Animal Tracks.
Vi natural size.
1. frog; 2. porcupine (front foot) ; 3.
porcupine (hind foot) ; 4. wolf; 5.
chipmunk; 6. meadow mouse; 7. ves-
per sparrow ; 8. bob-cat; 9. skunk.
result will not be true to nature. A little
dirt or small pieces of twigs may be
banked up about the track to guarantee
an even surface and prevent the plaster
from running out, but if the track is upon
a decided slope it is not necessary to build
up a high wall to get a level as we shall
see under the discussion of " pouring"
Next the plaster of Paris must be mixed
and poured. It is in these two steps that
much of the success of the work depends.
A definite proportion of plaster and water
is necessary and the mixing cannot be
done by guess work. Too much water to
begin with gives a thin plaster that will not
set; adding more plaster and more watef
in an attempt to find the proper con-
sistency almost always results in a coarse,
spongy mass that also will not set.
The following_ has proven the best
method for obtaining a proper mixture.
Fill the mixing glass or cup nearly full of
water and then pour slowly into the same
as many spoonfuls of plaster of Paris as
are needed, as a little experience will dic-
tate, for the track in question. Do not
stir. As soon as all of the plaster has.
settled below the surface pour off the
milky water in the upper part of the glass,
stopping only when the thick plaster be-
gins to run. You now have the proper
proportions. Next , stir well to obtain a
smooth creamy mixture. The plaster at
once begins to thicken and should be
poured carefully into the track while still
thin enough to run into all the cracks and
IF the track is upon a sloping surface a
little plaster should be poured into the
deeper parts and then as the remainder
gradually thickens, one layer after another
may be added pouring slowly so that it
congeals upon the slope and does not run
to the bottom.
_ The cast usually will set in a short
time and, if necessary, can be removed
as soon as the top appears fairly solid to
the finger nail. To do this dig away the
dirt from beneath, being careful to leave
considerable adhering to the cast. If pos-
sible it is best to leave the cast in position
for several hours before being taken from
the ground. It may be covered with a
few leaves and the spot marked by a
broken. branch or a twig stuck in the
earth near by.
No attempt should be made to clean the
cast as soon as removed, as the inner
parts next to the moist earth are: apt to
be soft. When thoroughly dry, preferably
a day or two later, the dirt may be re-
moved. A soft bristle or straw brush will
accomplish this if the track was cast in
sand. If in mud the whole thing may be
immersed in a dish of water, and the mud
carefully washed off with a soft cloth.
This completes the work and you have
before you, cast in white plaster, the bot-
ton of some animal's foot just as it was
when it left its imprint in the soft earth
in passing. Surely a most interesting and
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Boy Scouts of America. Scouting, Volume 8, Number 9, April 22, 1920, periodical, April 22, 1920; New York, New York. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth283168/m1/4/: accessed October 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Boy Scouts of America National Scouting Museum.