Weather either aids or hinders the sniper. It also affects indicators in certain ways so that the sniper can determine their relative ages. However, wind, snow, rain, or sunlight can erase indicators entirely and hinder the sniper. The sniper should know how weather affects soil, vegetation, and other indicators in his area. He cannot determine the age of indicators until he understands the effects that weather has on trail signs.

a. By studying weather effects on indicators, the sniper can determine the age of the sign (for example, when bloodstains are fresh, they are bright red). Air and sunlight first change blood to a deep ruby-red color, then to a dark brown crust when the moisture evaporates. Scuff marks on trees or bushes darken with time; sap oozes, then hardens when it makes contact with the air.

b. Weather affects footprints (Figure 8-5). By carefully studying the weather process, the sniper can estimate the age of the print. If particles of soil are beginning to fall into the print, the sniper should become a stalker. If the edges of the print are dried and crusty, the prints are probably about one hour old. This varies with terrain and should be considered as a guide only.

Figure 8-5. Weather effects on footprints.

c. A light rain may round the edges of the print. By remembering when the last rain occurred, the sniper can place the print into a time frame. A heavy rain may erase all signs.

d. Trails exiting streams may appear weathered by rain due to water running from clothing or equipment into the tracks. This is especially true if the party exits the stream single file. Then, each person deposits water into the tracks. The existence of a wet, weathered trail slowly fading into a dry trail indicates the trail is fresh.

e. Wind dries tracks and blows litter, sticks, or leaves into prints. By recalling wind activity, the sniper may estimate the age of the tracks. For example, the sniper may reason "the wind is calm at the present but blew hard about an hour ago. These tracks have litter in them, so they must be over an hour old." However, he must be sure that the litter was not crushed into them when the prints were made.

(1) Wind affects sounds and odors. If the wind is blowing toward the sniper, sounds and odors may be carried to him; conversely, if the wind is blowing away from the sniper, he must be extremely cautious since wind also carries sounds toward the enemy. The sniper can determine wind direction by dropping a handful of dust or dried grass from shoulder height. By pointing in the same direction the wind is blowing, the sniper can localize sounds by cupping his hands behind his ears and turning slowly. When sounds are loudest, the sniper is facing the origin.

(2) In calm weather (no wind), air currents that may be too light to detect can carry sounds to the sniper. Air cools in the evening and moves downhill toward the valleys. If the sniper is moving uphill late in the day or at night, air currents will probably be moving toward him if no other wind is blowing. As the morning sun warms the air in the valleys, it moves uphill. The sniper considers these factors when plotting patrol routes or other operations. If he keeps the wind in his face, sounds and odors will be carried to him from his objective or from the party being tracked.

(3) The sun should also be considered by the sniper. It is difficult to fire directly into the sun, but if the sniper has the sun at his back and the wind in his face, he has a slight advantage.

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