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Tracking With Optics


Last week we brought you a brief overview of a new tracking book by Freddy Osuna, USMC (Ret). This is a guest article by the author of Index Tracking - Essential Guide to Trailing Man and Beast. In this article he talks briefly about the merging of traditional tracking and signcutting skills (visual track interpretation, such as instructed by the Scott Donelan Tracking School and now Greenside Training) and the proper use of optics, such as the groundbreaking techniques taught by Target Science's John Morgando (and now Greenside Training).

Tracking With Optics

Freddy Osuna

As a trained observer in the Marine Corps I studied many aspects of visual perception in the last 10 plus years. I was intensely trained in advanced observation techniques in relation to Marine sniping & surveillance.  In my quest to become the ultimate “snoop-n-pooper,” and teacher of such skills I have been researching & training with two optics wizards, John Morgando, a big game hunter / guide, long range precision shooter, and optics research consultant. Also Lt Col. Jon Boyd, retired USAF F-117 and A-10 pilot, and weapons development, operational test, evaluation, and sustainment expert. The unique backgrounds and education of my associates has led to the “perfect storm” of collaboration.

In my quest to seek knowledge in everything related to visual perception I have also been a longtime student of visual tracking. My understanding in this particular subject is reflected in my book, Index Tracking -- Essential Guide to Trailing Man and Beast. After developing what I believe to be a solid framework for my specific methods of visual tracking (which will continue to evolve), I decided that I would expand my studies to other facets of visual perception. This decision has led me to the subject of optical acuity.

There is tracking terrain, and then there is glassing terrain. If tracking is not an option because the ground and environment present unfavorable tracking conditions, or the ground and environment present a tactical advantage in the quarry’s favor, your next option in order to avoid chance contact is to pull back and conduct systematic optical surveillance of the area. Like tracking, optical surveillance is a fundamentals-based skill that requires repetitive practice to master its processes and maintain the skill.

I relate this skill to tracking because it is an extended view of the tracker’s eye. Although the observer is incorporating the use of equipment, he is still using the eye, the brain, and intuition to form his perception of the information collected. Think of it this way; the tracker interprets disturbances left behind by his prey in order to do three main things:

  1. To identify and acquire the last known point of the prey, or freshest trail.
  2. To maintain the trail in an efficient manner in order to close the gap between himself and the prey.
  3. To interpret ground sign into information relevant to his tracking task.
The observer behind a set of optics is also looking for indicators of sorts. But instead of a fresh toe dig or the regular symmetrical pattern of a boot, he is looking for shape recognition indicative of the quarry and his equipment. The standard for precision marksmanship in the U.S. Military is sub minute of angle accuracy up to 1,000 yards, meaning that at 100 yards a 3 round group will impact in a space smaller than one inch. At 1,000 yards a 3round group will impact in a space smaller than 10 inches. The standard for Systematic Optical Surveillance is 1 Minute of Angle (MOA) shape recognition accuracy. This means that at 2,000 yards a trained observer can positively identify a 20-inch shape, and so on.  On the battlefield, as well as in hunting, high visibility, less evasive targets are the first to be eliminated. What remains are the highly adaptive, low visibility, highly evasive targets. Through the methods taught in Systematic Optical Surveillance the operator can effectively confirm or deny the presence of highly evasive targets in multiple overlapping sectors at 200-300% greater distance and observe terrain 300-500% faster, while maintaining a high level of observation endurance ( 10 hrs plus ).

As a student and teacher of these innovative techniques I can say that Systematic Optical Surveillance should be taught to anyone who picks up a set of optics for work or recreation. If you can add tracking to this skill set you will be guaranteed to dominate your area of operation, night and day. These are the Learning objectives covered during a 5 day Systematic Optical Surveillance Course, taught by the innovative staff of Greenside Training.


  1. Maximizing visual acuity and optical performance
  2. Mitigating visual suppression
  3. Controlled optics scanning and detailed search
  4. Micro points scanning
  5. Long range surveillance
  6. Target distinctness
  7. Positive Identification (PID)
  8. Target acquisition alignment
  9. Maintaining observation endurance
  10. Tactical field craft and movement, optics selection, accessories, and maintenance
For more information, look at Greenside Training.

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