Thursday, November 28, 2013

How to track on a deer skin drum

I have just finished reading a book about how to track by Tamerack Song titled Entering the Mind of the Tracker.  Song underlines the importance of "being a question", rather than looking for and then stopping when finding an answer.

Yesterday I was beginning a new drum, creating the significant transition between deer skin and drum head, when I thought I would try and read "the song of the track" on the hide surface.  The neck of this Cortes Island deer is toward the right, appearing as thicker, darker skin.  The slightly thicker backbone skin is a faint light ridge of shine. The skin is quite thin and unblemished by rut scars or tick bites so this was probably a young buck. 

On examination of the surface I find three puncture wounds in the left hind quadrant, just off the backbone and angling toward the deer's hindquarters.  The closest two are about 2 inches apart, while the largest cut in not quite three inches separated from the other two.  The cut shape is like a tear drop, with one end rounded and the other terminating in a point.  Trying to understand what happened during this moment in the deer's life, instead of just naming the creature likely responsible, requires much more intensive looking and pondering. 

I am pleased the cuts do not fully puncture the skin because this means I can position my drum head pattern to include them in the playing surface of the new drum, which is shown inside the plastic circle as a faint black line.  With the skin laid out more smoothly on the cutting board I see now that the cuts are positioned more directly in the center of the back over the backbone. 

As I am cutting out thongs from the rim of the remaining hide, I ponder what happened in this moment of the deer's life to create this story.  The pointed end of each cut seems too sharp for wolf claws, and if the deer had pushed under a wire fence I would expect the wounds to look more like a tear than a pucture. I  have seen this tear drop-shaped wound on my own arm when one of my cats hooked me during play.  Could this be cougar claw marks?
We have recently had sightings of cougars back on the island, who disappeared when the wolf population grew several years ago.  I even wrote a story for the Journey Oracle cards about a time I saw a cougar on the ridge beyond our fence.  Now that the wolves are less in evidence, perhaps the cougar have moved back into their territories.  I know that courgar like to attack from above, dropping onto their prey from overhead branches rather than chasing down deer as wolves will do.  If a cougar  landed on the back of this deer but only made contact with one paw before the prey bolted, the stretch and angle of the marks would make sense.
Tracking the song of these marks as been much more exciting, and informative, than just making a guess at the creature's name and dismissing the details.  The energy of this track is part of this drum.