Here’s something to think about…
What do you think causes people to reach their highest level with tracking or survival or any outdoor skill?
I’ve been studying ancient wilderness skills since I was 19 years old and there’s one thing I’ve noticed about naturalists who really master their art.
- The best at survival don’t just study survival…
- The best trackers don’t just study tracks…
- The best naturalists don’t just study plants…
Why is this true?
It’s because wilderness skills are multi-disciplinary! (Everything in nature is interconnected)
This means that you can only go so far with studies of plants or tracks before you have to study birds or insect patterns.
There are different benefits and blindspots to every aspect of a complete naturalist training.
So in this article I’m going to give you a fast-track naturalist training roadmap.
If you follow the steps laid out you’ll be able to zoom past the skill level of many experienced veterans… simply because you have the right map to follow.
Let’s start at the beginning…
The Beginner’s Essentials
This is important for everyone….
I always tell people that nature study works best when you follow your passions.
If you’re motivated by birds then you should start with birds, and likewise for every other aspect of naturalist training.
However… There are a few common threads that you MUST always be doing to prevent failure and slow progress.
Here they are…
#1 You Need To Have Experiences Outside
This is common sense…
The first step to any naturalist training regime is simply to go outside
and have a real life experience.
But this is also the point where most people make their first BIG mistake.
So what’s the big mistake?
Many people have unrealistic expectations about what’s required in order to have meaningful outdoor experiences!
There’s a very common pattern where people stop themselves from going outside… because they don’t have enough time… or they don’t live in a good enough location.
But here’s the thing…
You don’t need to have EPIC adventures every single time you go outside.
Sure, it’s nice to do that when you have the time and the means, but nature study really shouldn’t be that complicated.
It doesn’t need to be that complicated because…
Daily interaction with nature gets MUCH better results than occasional random interaction… even 5 or 10 minutes will bring amazing results when done consistently.
It can be as simple as:
- Going for a walk
- Practice your friction fire
- Sit in the backyard and listen to birds
- Find some ripe berries to pick
- Go to the beach and look for tracks
The important thing is to find activities that are convenient and easy for you to do, ideally every day.
If you start with things you can do close to home then you’ll make much faster progress in the long-run…
And you’ll be taking the first necessary steps towards upgrading your wilderness skills.
Okay… now we have that out of the way.
Let’s talk about how to get 10X more benefit from every experience that you have outside…
#2 Presence and Sensory Awareness
How attuned is your awareness?
Being in nature is different from being on the subway. Modern existence has caused most human beings to lose their sense of situational awareness.
But if your attention is dull when you go outside, then you’ll miss everything that happens!
And that’s not good.
When you go outside… It’s very important to pay conscious attention to what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste.
The equation goes like this…
Experience + awareness = better quality experiences.
- Don’t just go for a walk… go for a walk with a goal to be completely tuned and present with your surroundings.
- Don’t just sit on the lawn… sit on the lawn with a goal to observe what’s happening with the birds, plants, trees, wind, clouds, etc.
- Strive for deeper awareness and presence in every moment outside and you will open your eyes to patterns & events in nature you never realized were there… even in your own backyard.
It’s the single most important key to getting 10X more benefit from every moment you have outside.
And you know what? We’re still not done yet!
Let’s talk about the third beginner’s essential…
#3 Questioning & Reflection
This is one of my favourites…
Over the years, I’ve clearly observed that naturalists make much faster progress when they take a reflective approach.
Here’s what I mean…
- First you go outside and have an experience. You focus on having a high quality of awareness & presence.
- Then when you’re done… you spend some time reflecting on what you observed and what lessons can be found.
Pretty simple right?
This is a basic yet potent formula for nature-based mentoring.
And it works like magic.
The funny thing is that much of the real mentoring doesn’t even happen in nature. It happens in a conversation after you return from nature!
So what if you don’t have a mentor?
You can very easily promote deeper reflection and insight for yourself by writing in a journal.
Here’s a basic outline to work with:
- What happened? Describe your experience.
- What was interesting about this? What caught your attention?
- What did you learn? What are you still learning?
- What did you miss? What else could you observe here?
- What are you curious about now after having this experience?
- What’s the next step? What are you excited to try next?
This simple series of questions will promote deep integration of your past experiences, as well as fill your mind with inspiring ideas for how to go deeper with your skills & abilities.
Even “hard” skills like primitive fire & survival will be greatly accelerated by approaching the learning curve from a reflective state of mind.
It’s very powerful.
Now let’s talk about some core areas of learning required to upgrade your wilderness skills.
It’s time for…
The Naturalist Training Roadmap…
This is your ticket…
Nature is a HUGE interconnected system of plants, trees, birds, mammals, insects, weather, seasons, etc.
Yet most people only study one aspect of nature (at most). It’s either birds OR plants… almost never birds AND plants.
It’s even more rare to find a person who can read all the layers of nature and tell a complete story of environment from ground to sky.
But this is where all the real magic happens!
Explorers and researchers in the last 500 years have been consistently amazed at the abilities of nature-based cultures to read the land and easily survive with minimal infrastructure.
And the reason is simple…
It’s because your historical ancestors were experts in all areas of naturalist training… not just plants or birds or tracking.
In fact, a defining characteristic of the world’s best naturalists is that there’s no separation between plants, birds and tracking because they all fall into the same category… “Normal everyday life”
That’s the secret!
It’s the synergy of a complete naturalist versed in the arts of life and survival from the ground to the sky – That’s what turns average naturalists into legendary naturalists.
And you can do it too! Here’s how…
I created the naturalist training roadmap to talk about five of the most important areas of naturalist study:
- Trees and forest analysis
- Birds/bird language
- Wildlife tracking
- Observation & awareness
This guide will clearly describe some of the lesser known benefits and blindspots of each focus area.
As you’ll see… The cure for each naturalist blindspot can only be found in the benefits of a different area of study.
- The blindspot of a plant enthusiast is cured by learning about birds and awareness.
- The blindspot of a birder is cured by tracking.
It’s so cool how this works… Because only by mastering all five skills can you reach your highest ability in any one area of study.
As you read the descriptions, notice which ones you feel most drawn to.
Let’s start with plants…
The Magical World of Plants
What is it?
The ability to Find, Identify, Harvest, Process and Use plants in a variety of applications.
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- Working with plants gives you lots of time for quiet reflection. Many people report feeling a deep sense of peace while working in their garden.
- Plants can teach you a lot about wildlife activity and seasonal changes from year to year. Very practical for trackers.
Plants can’t run away or hide from you. This is great if you want to mellow out and eat dandelion greens… but bad if you want to develop sharp senses & fast critical thinking skills.
Plant enthusiasts will benefit tremendously from tracking & bird language practice because the strong external focus will sharpen their senses & capacity for outer awareness.
Trees and Forest Secrets
What is it?
Knowledge of local trees and forest patterns. This is what I shared with you in the recent training video.
Trees are the key to reading nature… It’s one of the best ways to quickly become tuned with the overall ecology of a landscape, so you can predict the possible wildlife, plant life, and survival resources.
Spending time with trees can easily evoke emotions of awe and reverence for the natural world. These emotions create a deep desire to care for and nourish the long-term health of our planet’s forests.
Human beings make better choices about conservation when they have deep respect for the lessons of trees and how they fit into the context of a forest ecosystem.
One blindspot of people who study trees is being so focused on the big picture – that they miss the details and confirmation of what might be happening in this forest.
The real power of tree knowledge comes from making a prediction or hypothesis about a forest, and then being able to confirm or disprove your ideas.
Direct and specific experiences with tracking & bird language are the only way to truly be certain… and overtime enable you to refine your intuition.
Birds and Bird Language
What is it?
Knowledge of birds covers everything from knowing different species, to watching their behaviour and interpreting changes in diet, season & alarm calls as early warning signs of predators.
Bird language is the ultimate form of awareness. It enables you to interpret messages being sent across the forest and stay informed about invisible events happening hundreds of yards away.
They’re like an open source network of forest spies telling you about the hidden presence of animals, food sources, location of water, etc.
People who study birds develop highly refined watching & listening skills. It’s a skill that requires being in the present moment with a quiet mind so you don’t miss the brief nature of bird activity.
Long-term practitioners of Bird Language develop an almost zen-like presence with the ability to see patterns that most people miss.
It’s easy to become so enthralled with birds that you begin to exclude everything else.
In fact, it’s very common for people to know a tremendous amount about birds… and absolutely nothing about trees, plants, etc.
Being focused to the exclusion of other natural elements will greatly slow your overall naturalist development.
Frequently the only way to confirm the odd behaviour of a bird is by finding sign of an animal or by looking at plants & trees they interact with.
Complimenting bird studies with training in plants, trees, & tracking will help you draw correlations.
What is it?
Wildlife tracking is the ability to find, identify and interpret sign of wildlife… and then using that information to locate animals, or learn about their lives.
Tracking will help you get closer to wildlife. You also be able to learn about animals before you see them for conservation, hunting or entertainment purposes.
It enables you to discover what’s happening behind the scenes in your backyard with mammals, birds, amphibians, etc.
At it’s core… Wildlife tracking is really all about awareness, critical thinking & persistence. These are skills that don’t just help you outside, but in all areas of your life.
Trackers spend A LOT of time looking for sign of animals on the ground.
As a result, beginners often make the mistake of being so caught up looking at the ground that they miss the ecological signs of animals, or the bird alarms… or heaven forbid a live animal!
It’s important for trackers to balance their downward focus with a more outward and upward awareness. This can be achieved through studies of birds, plants, trees or even general observation skills.
Observation Skills & Awareness
What is it?
The ability to watch & listen carefully to your surroundings for the purpose of information gathering & decision-making.
By learning to slow down and move with greater awareness, you will become a less intrusive disturbance and be able to see more wildlife.
When you spot animals… you’ll have the ability to assess behaviour, and gather important details that enable you to understand the psychology and intent of that animal.
Observation skills apply to every aspect of naturalist training. It’s easier to learn the plants, trees, birds, etc, when you pay attention & notice their patterns.
Being 100% focused on awareness sometimes leads to a rejection of the need for hard facts & knowledge.
Someone might think, “I don’t need to know what books say about birds because I can just watch the birds with my own eyes.”
It’s important to remember that information and specifics about species names and patterns are another form of awareness.
For all you math nerds…
Awareness + Knowledge = (Awareness + Knowledge) ^ 10
Study both awareness and nature specifics and you will dramatically surpass what’s possible with either one alone.
The Big Takeaway…
Don’t just study one thing. The more depth and variety you get… the faster you’ll progress in each area of you naturalist training.
Practice your observation & awareness skills while learning the plants, trees, tracks, birds.
That’s the easy way to upgrade your wilderness skills.
And hey, if you found this article helpful…
…Then I think you’re really going to love the complete home study program I created called Awaken Your Naturalist Intelligence.
This Is How You Can Upgrade Your Wilderness Skills…
I have a very simple offer to make…
If you want to go deeper with plants, trees, and birds while cultivating your observation & awareness skills then I’d love to give you some information about my program.
It’s a recorded collection of my best lessons and strategies for switching on your wilderness instincts through simple observation techniques and fun outdoor activities.
Click here to get more information and awaken your naturalist intelligence.
Thanks for reading!