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Awareness in a tactical, hunting and survival environment all shares the same basic concepts. If you can improve your awareness, you will become a more successful person on all fronts. Hone your skills by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and even sensing things around you. Let’s get to the chase.
Awareness by definition is: The state or condition of being AWARE; having the knowledge to bring things around you into your consciousness.
All the senses play a part together and separate.
Sight: Humans primary sense. This is a key sense we use for survival in everyday life. What an advantage to have two eyes that work in our favor. As long as we use them and yes, train them. When people say “take the blinders off”, that means to see everything, not just what you are looking at. As the light changes so does what we see. As the distance changes so does what we see. Point to take away is, be aware of everything in the whole scope of what you are looking at.
Hearing: Humans secondary sense. We hear all kinds of things all day long. Some things we pay attention to and others we don’t. In a THS (Tactical / Hunting / Survival) situation, every sound should be registered. When a loud or out of place sound is heard, we immediately look with our eyes. No sound or quiet is hearing as well. When we are in the outdoors and nothing is stirring, there is still noise. We just have to hear it with our brains. Our hearing helps our awareness by letting us know what is out there without us looking.
Smell: This sense has been used in battle and in the outdoors for as long as we have been around. It is the forgotten sense at the time. In Vietnam, a point man could tell if they were going to encounter the enemy just by smell. In hunting, the nose will lead you to your game while tracking. Most animals we hunt use their sense of smell to survive. Why do you think we say beat the nose and you will be successful.
Touch: To touch something is to feel something. We feel if things are wet and if things are hot or cold. This information is just as important as the others. When tracking an animal or person, you feel around the track to tell how old it is. We touch our weapon system to tell us what condition it is in. For example, as a Navy SEAL, we are taught to always check your safety.
Sense: Some people call this a 6 sense or a feeling while others call it Taboo. Well, it is a real thing. We still have our instincts and rely on it heavily. When you have someone say “I just had a feeling”, or “a cold chill down my spine”, well that says it all. In one form or another, we have all said that. The Sense can make us look, listen, smell and feel.
How does this work in the THS (Tactical / Hunting / Survival) world?
Basic Sight Sense:
As modern people, we tend to stay focused on things directly in front of us. For example, we couldn’t tell you what we just passed. We only know what is directly in front of us. We drive on roads, walk on sidewalks, paths, and hallways. In the outdoors, there are no paths but our mind tricks us into only seeing a path and only paying attention to the path. We need to open that up by paying attention to things around us.
Sight: This is our primary sense. Don’t get tunnel vision, pay attention to things around you. Use your whole vision. As outdoorsman we look at specific spots but pay attention to things that are out of place, at least that’s what we tell ourselves. As you read on, your eyes will forever be open.
What are things that catch the eye? Movement, shadows, colors, and light all have a way of catching out eyes. Use this to your advantage. When you first get into the woods, study your area with your eyes, look at everything around you. Pay attention to what is visually there. Things will change as you move and as the light moves. Always stop, take a moment to look around.
Training your eyes: Focus on one point straight in front of you. Spread both arms out to the side just far enough to see your hands. Now, while focusing on the point in front of you, name some other items in your side vision. This is a great starting point to train your mind in paying attention to things around you without looking directly at them.
When hunting, I am always scanning with my eyes and using minimal head movement. I am always looking for a wide angle to pick up movement or irregularities over a large area. Once something is picked up, I focus my eyes on that object to determine what it is.
How many times have you been in the woods watching a doe then another doe or a buck appears out of nowhere? That is because you were so focused on that doe that your conscience didn’t register the others moving in.
Your eyes will play tricks on you: light, darkness, shadows, and weather can all be a factor. If you look at something too long, the focus becomes very narrow and you lose the reference to distance, size, and location. That is why we always say to scan slowly. Look to the side, above and below what you are focusing on. This will allow your brain to take in the whole picture of what you are looking at.
How to Look: Look at your environment like a pie. Break it down in slices and scan each slice, then scan the whole pie. Don’t focus on known things. Focus on openings. Scan left to right, close to far, then take in the whole picture in again. Practice these techniques in your day to day life while, walking, driving, riding, sitting. You will see your world open up and you will be very surprised what you see next time you are in the field. For example, When you are in your blind or stand, you want to look around the trees. Look at lanes and pay attention to shadows.
Whether you are in a Tactical, hunting, or survival situation all your senses come into play for the success of the task at hand. I use several techniques every day to hone my skills in my environmental awareness.