Tom Brown, Jr

Tom Brown, Jr. (born January 29, 1950 in Toms River, New Jersey) is an American naturalist, outdoorsman, wilderness tracker, spiritual leader, and author of numerous books, including a series of spiritual guides and another series of field guides. Brown attributes his tracking skills and his spiritual philosophy to the teachings of a Lipan Apache elder named Stalking Wolf, who instructed him during his childhood. Brown refers to Stalking Wolf as "Grandfather" in his writings.[1]


Brown was born on January 29, 1950 in Toms River, New Jersey, and graduated from Toms River High School in 1968.

In his books, Brown claims that from the age of seven he and his childhood friend Rick were trained in tracking and wilderness survival by Rick's grandfather Stalking Wolf, who had relocated to the Pine Barrens wilderness near Toms River to be closer to Rick's family.[2] Stalking Wolf later died when Brown was 17 and Rick was killed in a horse riding accident in Europe shortly thereafter.[2]

Brown claims in his books that he spent the next ten years living almost exclusively in different wilderness areas of the United States, working on his skills and using few manufactured tools to survive. After this period, Brown returned to New Jersey and set out to find people who were interested in the abilities he had developed through first-hand experience with nature. He initially met with little success, but was eventually called on to locate a missing person.[3] Building upon this, Brown developed a profession as a full-time tracker by locating lost persons, dangerous animals and fugitives from the law.[4]

Tracker School

Tom Brown's Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School is located in New Jersey.[5] Most classes offered by Tracker School are held in 'Primitive Camp' which is located in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. However, classes are also offered in California.[5] The school teaches wilderness skills and emphasizes a natural way of living.

All students in the Tracker School begin with the 'Standard' or 'Philosophy 1' class, which serves as a foundation for future, more advanced skills to be built upon. Standard class involves very basic instruction in carving, building a primitive shelter, safe procurement and treatment of water, various fire-making techniques such as bowdrill, mouth-drill, and hand-drill, making cordage (rope) from natural materials, trap-building, flint-knapping, camouflage, stalking, brain tanning, cooking, plant studies, throwing stick handling, awareness, and tracking. Tracking is broken up into two main sections, pressure release studies and sign tracking.

Books and film

Brown has written 18 books to date. His first book The Tracker (1978) chronicled his coming of age under Stalking Wolf's tutelage. Reader's Digest ran a condensed version of the story and printed information about Brown's new Tracker School. His books run in two parallel series: spiritual guides (philosophy of the Earth, including autobiographical books) and field guides.

His first audio book Grandfather was released in September 2007.

Philosophy of the Earth Field Guides
The Tracker, 1986 Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, 1986
The Vision, 1988 Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth, 1986
The Journey, 1992 Tom Brown's Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival, 1986
Awakening Spirits, 1994 Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants, 1986
The Quest, 1991 Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, 1987
The Way of the Scout, 1997 Tom Brown's Field Guide to the Forgotten Wilderness, 1987
Grandfather, 2001 Tom Brown's Guide to Nature and Survival for Children, 1989
The Search, 2001 The Science and Art of Tracking, 1999
Conversations with Grandfather, 2008-9 Case Files of the Tracker, 2003


Brown was the technical advisor for the film The Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro.[6]


The nature of some of Brown's claims makes them difficult to verify.

Most of the controversy toward Tom Brown stems from some of the experiences documented in his books. There is no evidence to verify his claims though a formal investigation into the Author's history has never been conducted. It has however been suggested by some of Tom Brown's students that the 'way of the scout' as described in his book 'Way of the Scout' dictates that a 'scout' does not often reveal facts about his life or history. Tom Brown has been widely reported as a non social individual by both his students and staff and his solitary nature is also touched upon frequently in his books.

Some of the skills that are described both in his books and on the Tracker School website have been considered questionable. Whether or not these skills are truly legitimate or perhaps embellished to a certain degree has also never been formally investigated, though the Tracker School remains one of the most popular in North America. Tom Brown has made claims that he can, for example, detect a person suffering from a cold based on their tracks, or tell from tracks when an animal has a full stomach or a full bladder. His book The Science and Art of Tracking explains these techniques, but often points to minute details, a number of which are difficult to see. Tom Brown often explains during his lectures that it can take years of experience before the techniques he teaches can be realized to their full potential.[7]

Tom Brown's brother, Dr. James W. Brown, the former Dean of Science, Engineering, Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ocean County College, and former President and Chairman of the Board of the New Jersey Public Health Association, confirmed Tom Brown's biography. Dr. Jim Brown writes in the Biography of Dr. Jim Brown:

Tom, his friend Rick, and Rick’s grandfather, Stalking Wolf (a native American and an expert in the Wilderness), were a huge influence on me and helped develop my love for nature. I use many of these experiences to enrich my teaching of biology and microbiology. Tom’s incredible abilities for teaching nature observation, pointing out minute details and relating them to plant or animal anatomy, physiology and ecological relationships strongly influenced my teaching style, especially using the laboratory and real life experiences to reinforce learning in the classroom.[8]

Though Dr. Brown is a widely recognized and respected authority on science and engineering, he does not provide any evidence outside of his testimony leaving much of the history documented in Tom Brown's books unverified.


External links

  • The Tracker School site
  • Tracker Trail website: Comprehensive and largest source of information about Tom Brown Jr on the internet (interviews, controversies etc.)
  • Old Site of the Tracker School (circa 1999)

In the Media:

  • CBS News 6 December 2006
  • CBS News 24 June 2005

Articles Written by Tom Brown for Mother Earth News:

  • Shelter (Issue 71, 1981)
  • Water (Issue 72, 1981)
  • Fire (Issue 73, 1982)
  • Hunting & Traps (Issue 74, 1982)
  • Edible Plants (Issue 75, 1982)
  • Survival Cooking (Issue 76, 1982)
  • Animal Tracking (Issue 77, 1982)
  • Making Natural Cordage (Issue 79, 1983)
  • Be a Back-to-Basics Bowyer (Issue 87, 1984)
  • Basic Skills & Lost Proofing (Issue 93, 1985)
  • Advanced Survival Shelters (Issue 95, 1985)

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