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.

  • majrod

    Cool article. Would have been nice to share a pointer or two.

    • Nick


  • Greenside Training and Freddy Osuna are at your service any time. If you would like a pointer or two email him at

  • Glad your working with John Morgando,He has more patience than I do.The military is 30 years behind a good guide or hunter and needs to listen to John.

    Keep up good work Jaret Owens

  • Glad your working with John Morgando,He has more patience than I do.The military is 30 years behind a good guide or hunter and needs to listen to John.

    Keep up good work Jaret Owens

  • Thank you! This is an exciting article and something I’ve waited to see for a long time. When I first read histories of Recon/LRRP etc I recognized that an important directive to Force Recon (Norton’s books) was to avoid contact to maximize the quality of intel gathered. It happened that I was a bowhunter at the same time and was getting interested in spot-and-stalk hunting and reading books by an accomplished hunter in Oregon who I think pioneered a lot of its techniques. It struck me how similar the goals and advantages would be to the military. He would talk about the difference between bowhunters who had scouted and found a good canyon for deer (West Coast Mule Deer who don’t walk on established trails and have keen sight and trumpet-like ear amplifiers and who would rest during the heat of day like a small-unit back-to-back). A lot of terrain in the canyons of the west coast are terrible for the stalking hunt – crunchy, crispy dead oak leaves, breezes or draft blowing in the wrong directions. One set of hunters knowing a particular canyon was rich in game might do the traditional ways of trailing and stalking. The author called this “Bumping the deer around” and in a very short time, the deer would move to another location for the rest of the season and leave all the hours scouting for naught. He refined some bowhunting TTP by locating himself high on an opposite wall but low enough not to be silhouetted (all familiar to MOS 11Bs) and set the best quality large objective, large exit pupil diameter binoculars with just the right FOV on a sitting height tripod before sunrise and observe the diurnal activities of the deer on the opposite canyon wall. He’d look for one he wanted and scanned for an avenue of approach which was clear of other deer who could detect him, flag their tails and scare everyone off. (while I was studying this method I’d simultaneously be thinking of its applicability and analogy to military recce/surv). He called his process “putting the deer to bed.” By early mid-morning, the deer would go high up on their slope (also below the skyline), usually in the shade, bed down and watch and sniff as the canyon would heat up and the draft went uphill (perfect for detecting predators). Often he would see a group of the older and wiser deer in a circle back-to-back exactly like Recon in a Harbor Position/LUP. Once bedded, they’d stay until dusk or later in the night for the large antlered ones. He’d start his long hike and stalk during the day and from behind them. I’m probably going on too long here, but the parallels are terrific and, as I said, I wondered why the military didn’t include this in their STA FMs I’d read. One thing he emphasized was the importance of spending on great optics over a great bow. Because part of my professional career as a scientist/engineer in the defense industry was in recce/surv and for a while at a laser/thermal imaging lab. Great optics have always been important to me. Looking through binoculars at a store and comparing them can tell you a little about it – the ones where your eyes relax and go “Ahhh.” Eyestrain over extended hours of observation is exacerbated by the least optical imperfections and Spotting Scopes, though great for zooming in and looking for details, cause eyestrain the fastest (besides their narrow FOV). Both courses sound wonderful and I’d love to get good at both. If I had the budget (unemployed right now) I would absolutely do it. Tracking was also something I enjoyed doing while backpacking or hunting.

    Again, thank you for a terrific article – and I will definitely check out your site and probably fire off an email! (btw – the optics on my precision rifles are often more expensive than my rifles)

  • WoW! It just hit me! Is that the Lt Col Boyd of OODA?!!! If so, please pass on to him that he is a huge hero to this ex-Aerospace-geek!


    This is very useful information. I am definately going to consider a couple of their civilian classes.
    Thank you.

  • You hit it right on the mark my whole goal is to get the modern American Warrior to identify with their own inherent abilities to hunt, whether that be man or beast. Could you tell me who your references are for the info above? Also please contact me anytime if you wish to discuss civilian courses! Thank you for your support and sharing your excellent comment!

  • The last comment above is my response to Kathy.


    Tremendous issues here. I am very satisfied to see your article.

    Thank you a lot and I’m looking ahead to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

  • Northpines please contact me anytime.

  • That is a really good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!

  • An impressive share! I have just forwarded this

    onto a friend who was conducting a little research on this.

    And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I stumbled

    upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for

    the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss

    this matter here on your site.

  • Mooseface

    Freddy “boot” Osuna…Our SSP Plt Sgt gets back from school next week. Gonna show him the emails you sent me. We’re doing an indoc for new PIGs next month. I’ll see what trainging the HOGs have already done as far as tracking. Hopefully we can get you locked on for later this year.