WASAR 2011 – “Tracking” Track Offered

New “Tracking Track” Featured At The 2011
Washington State Search and Rescue Conference

This year Cowlitz County is sponsoring the 2011 Washington State Search and Rescue Conference (WASAR).  Save the dates:  May 17-22, 2011.  This year the conference is being held at the Cowlitz County Regional Event and Exposition Center, a facility that spreads throughout a 47 acres with indoor and outdoor horse arenas, a dog agility course and building, helicopter landing area, and comfortable indoor classroom space.

JHPTS is conducting its usual pre-conference class on Tuesday-Thursday, May 17-19.  In addition to that class is a whole array of tracking class offerings, which are listed below, along with info on instructors for those classes.

Anyone desiring a week-long immersion into visual tracking should consider attending this conference.  For more information go to:



Introduction to Visual Tracking – J. Dick Wilker and Jo Peterson
Learn to see sign.  This is a two-part class.  The first 1.5 hours is classroom and introduces students to the terminology, tools and techniques of tracking. The second 1.5 hours is fieldwork in which students have hands-on learning regarding seeing and following human footprints.

Using Canines and Trackers Together in the Field – Sharon Ward
Canines are Trackers are two specialty resources often in the field together.  This class will focus on techniques and strategies for best finding the Subject using these two resources together and at the same time.

Crime Scene Tracking – Kathy Decker
Trackers often are called upon to sort out what happened at a crime scene.  This class will focus on strategies and techniques trackers use to determine the time frame, number of suspects, number of victims and what happened at a given scene.

Urban Tracking – Joel Hardin
Subjects often go missing in urban areas.  This class will focus on strategies and techniques for finding sign of the missing subject in an urban setting

Finding the Surreptitious Grave – Dr. Kathy Taylor
Trackers, and other searchers, often are asked by law enforcement for help in trying to locate clandestine graves.  Dr. Taylor will focus on what to look for, and how to identify and evaluate potential sites of buried remains.

Tracking Animals Versus Tracking Humans – Linda Hunter
Hunters and outdoors people often think that they can track humans because they have learned to track animals.  Linda Hunter will discuss the similarities and differences in these two tracking venues.

Note Taking and Report Writing – Sharon Ward
Documenting your work is the sign of a professional.  Learn how to take notes and document your work on a mission, and how to generate a report that speaks to your professionalism, protects you from liability and acts as a basis for any legal action that may arise
as a result of a mission.

Getting Utilized on a Search – Joel Hardin and Sharon Ward
Having skill is only one part of being a tracker.  Another important part is actually getting to use your skill on a mission.  This class will focus on how to present yourself and how to educate management with regard to your knowledge, skill and value on a mission.


Joel C. Hardin

In 1972 Joel Hardin began developing a tracking program based on his experience and training in visual tracking with the US Border Patrol.  Joel retired after 25 years with the Border Patrol in 1990 to enable full-time devotion to tracking training and consultation.

Joel leads the “JOEL HARDIN PROFESSIONAL TRACKING SERVICES,” a professional tracking training program for search and rescue, law enforcement, industrial security, and military Special Forces.  In addition to training trackers,

Joel has participated in numerous significant criminal investigations and missing person searches that have attracted wide media attention, and has produced primary evidence in numerous criminal case prosecutions, fleeing fugitive and escapee incidents, and international missing person searches in Mexico, Australia, Peru, Canada, Alaska, and many western states of the United States.

Sharon Ward

Sharon Ward is a Sign Cutter Tracker and Instructor with Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services, a canine handler and an attorney.  She is a member of two Washington State SAR teams, serving as a senior coordinator for Cowlitz County Search and Rescue and as Training Officer for Pacific Crest Search Dogs.

Sharon is a founder and a director of the Washington State Trackers Association, an association of certified trackers who respond to missing person searches and crime scene investigations, upon request by state or federal agencies.  In addition, Sharon is an operational member of the international search and rescue team, Joel Hardin Professional Trackers International and she has deployed abroad on search and rescue missions.

In her position as an instructor for JHPTS, Sharon teaches SAR and LE tracking, and has trained US Special Forces units tracking techniques, especially with regard to using canines and trackers together in the field.  Sharon is an attorney by trade, who, for the last 25 years, has specialized in legal issues facing non-profit organizations.  She regularly lectures at Search and Rescue conferences and to search and rescue groups about managing legal risks and avoiding legal liability.

Kathleen Decker

Kathy joined the King County (Washington) Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy in 1985. She rose to the rank of Detective and has over 13 years experience working in the King County Sheriff’s Major Crime Unit, where she specialized in Homicide investigation. Kathy holds a BA degree in Criminal Justice from Washington State University.  She has investigated and worked many crime scenes, providing tracking expertise and examination. As a result of her work on crime scenes she has testified as an expert witness, presenting tracking evidence.

Currently, Kathy is King County’s SAR Coordinator, managing over 600 SAR volunteers for the King County Sheriff’s Department. She has been associated with the Joel Hardin tracking program since 1998, regularly providing introductory tracker training to law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. Kathy has traveled internationally as a member of Joel Hardin Professional Trackers International the division of JHPTS that responds internationally to official SAR and investigative tracking requests. 

In addition, she has provided forensic photo analysis and testimony, based solely on crime scene photographs. She provides instruction to law enforcement on the identification and processing of outdoor crime scenes.

Kathy’s background in criminal investigations and her experience in managing and coordinating have also been used on missing person cases.

Jo Peterson

Jo Peterson lives in the Quartz Valley area of Siskiyou County, California. She is an Instructor with Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services, certified as a Journeyman Tracker and has been a student of tracking since 1994.  She is also a member of the Search Management Team for Siskiyou County Sheriff Search and Rescue, a Field Team Leader and their Man-tracker since 1996.  Outside of the search and rescue community, she makes a living as a custom home Building Designer for home owners and a Building Codes consultant to local cities.  She began her design business in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1974.

James “Dick” Wilker

Dick Wilker is a Sign Cutter Tracker and Instructor with Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services.  Dick Wilker first met Joel Hardin along with Ab Taylor at a tracking class in Buckley, WA in 1983.  The course was conducted for the then newly formed Pacific Northwest Trackers Association.  Dick was instrumental in the transition of Pacific Northwest Trackers from a hobby tracking club to a fully functioning search and rescue unit specializing in tracking for King County, WA.  During the following years Dick has continued to pursue his passion for tracking, participating in lost person searches and remaining an active member of Northwest Trackers for over 25 years.  He is currently the Training Director, Membership Chairman and Treasurer for the group.

As his experience and confidence has increased, his role as a tracker has expanded from lost person searches to include crime scene investigations.

He has attended several crime scenes for King County including murder and arson cases.  His experience includes examination of both indoor and outdoor scenes for footprint evidence regarding subject movement/activities.  He has also developed an unexpected liking for writing reports for inclusion to the case files. He has been a part of the JHPTS instructor staff for many years, traveling throughout the region to assist with classes and especially enjoys working with new students to help them understand what they are seeing.

Dr. Kathy Taylor

Dr. Taylor is a full-time anthropologist with King County Medical Examiners Office, and also provides contract Forensic Anthropology services to other counties in the State of Washington. Her expertise includes scene response for surface scatter and buried bodies, skeletal analysis (human versus nonhuman, biological profile, trauma analysis, identification) and work-up for unidentified bodies. She has also served on the Washington State Attorney General’s Missing and Unidentified Task Force representing the Washington Association of Coroner’s and Medical Examiners (W.A.C.M.E.) and is currently involved in mass fatality preparation for King County.

Linda Jo Hunter

Linda Jo Hunter author of “Lonesome for Bears, A Woman’s Journey in the Tracks of the Wilderness”, Lyons Press 2008 is also a co-founder of the International Society of Professional Trackers.  Hunter has been a member of Wind River Search and Rescue since 1996 and has studied tracking from Universal Tracking Services, Joel Hardin, Dr. James Halfpenny and has been tracking since 1994. She has spent four summer seasons as head guide at Redoubt Bay Lodge in Alaska taking guests out to see brown/grizzly bears feeding on salmon. Hunter has been doing programs on natural history, bears and tracking for the Vancouver Library, Oxbow Metro Park campfire series, community education for Skamania County and is currently working on her second book.