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An Apache scout was a member of the Apache tribe who engaged in scouting, either for game or during time of war. Only Lipan, Chiricahua and Mescaleros had scout societies. The scouts' original purpose was to protect the clanspeople from enemies, and to locate game and new campsites. It is important to distinguish between these scouts, and the Apache Scouts hired by the United States Army during the Indian Wars.
The scouts trained their own clansmen in an intense process that lasted over ten years. Young children within the clan would be closely observed by current scouts and elders. Those who showed promise in skills—such as awareness, tracking and hunting, physical fitness, and selflessness—would be selected to undergo the training process.
Training included advanced techniques of camouflage and invisibility as well as of observation and stalking. These skills led to their nicknames as "shadow people" and "ghosts". The scouts became masters of wilderness survival, excelling beyond the skills of the lay clansmen. This was necessary, for they often had to leave the clan for extended periods of time with nothing but a buckskin loincloth and perhaps a stone knife.
The scouts were taught a highly complex system of tracking, utilizing miniature topographic features within each footprint. These features could tell the trackers anything from the speed at which the quarry was moving, to the direction the quarry was looking. Some tracking experts, such as Tom Brown, Jr., assert that scouts could know whether the quarry was hungry, pregnant, or had to urinate, and to what degree.