Tom Hanratty

Tom Hanratty

Tom has been tracking critters of one sort or another since he was 8. His expertise in the areas of tracking and wilderness skills have earned him positions as teacher-naturalist at nature centers in Wisconsin and as an instructor at the prestigious Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker School in New Jersey. Tom with his wife Ellen founded Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills, Inc. in 1988.

In September of 1990 the new founders of Medicine Hawk moved to Nome, Alaska for a year so that Tom could study survival and tracking skills with the native peoples in that challenging environment.

Tom’s professional background includes 18 years as a Forensic Investigator for the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, where he developed forensic tracking as a separate discipline from footwear impression evidence at crime scenes.   He has taught Forensic Tracking in both local and national venues to agents of federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.

As an author Tom has written several articles on Forensic Tracking as well as The Art and Science of Tracking Man and Beast, a delightful little book that uses the ancient art of storytelling to impart all manner of tracking wisdom. He’s also a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast and has recently published a novel, The Singular Adventure of Charles Goodfoote, featuring a teen-age Holmes.  You can learn more about Tom’s books at

Ellen Hanratty

Ellen Hanratty

Ellen has studied with Tom Brown, Jr. in New Jersey and Ojibwa Elder, Keewaydinoquay, in northern Michigan.  She has been an instructor since 1974 for the Creative Problem Solving Institute, SUNY, Buffalo, New York, and has taught awareness, group-building, and problem-solving at Northeastern Illinois University (Chicago).  She is a co-founder of Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills, Inc. and has taught classes in observation and perception techniques to law enforcement officers.

Ellen has a remarkable ability to ease students out of their “city” heads and into a more open, intuitive, sensory mindset, an important first step in a successful wilderness skills or tracking workshop.  Her demeanor is always calm, and her awareness and intuition provide valuable insight to our instructors throughout the workshop.  Ellen is also a published poet.

Cork Holmes

Cork Holmes

Cork began his encounters with the natural world as a Boy Scout and Scout Leader.  Later as a platoon sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, Cork taught survival skills.  He has also successfully completed Tom Brown, Jr.’s advanced tracking and multiple philosophy courses, and has often honed his outdoors skills on solo wilderness trips.

In order to improve his focus and concentration Cork began the study of martial arts and presently holds a fourth-degree black belt (4th Dan) in Tae Kwon Do. With that discipline and an extensive knowledge of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Native American philosophies, Cork possesses a real knack for helping students become conscious of the oneness of all things—a mindset critical to successful wilderness survival.

In August of 2014 Cork succumbed to cancer.  As he would describe it, he has moved to the realm of the grandfathers.  We leave his bio here to honor him and in recognition of the impact he has had on his fellow instructors and all of his former students.

Ron Nosek

Ron Nosek

Ron has been intrigued since childhood with the ability of native peoples to live in harmony in the so-called “wild” places.  In 1979 he read Tom Brown, Jr.’s  “The Tracker”.  For the next 13 years he studied and practiced as best he could the skills about which he had read.  In 1992 Ron learned of Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills in Milwaukee and began to take classes under the tutelage of Tom & Ellen Hanratty.  He soon became an apprentice, then a full-time instructor.

Intrigued by animals and the signs that they leave upon the earth—from clear prints to scat to skulls—Ron has a penchant for teaching others about those critters.

Ron is a former attorney (retired after 29 years of criminal trial work) who for many years did two wilderness trips a year just to keep his head in the right place.  He has recently recounted a number of his outdoor experiences in a collection of essays published as Natural Selections.

Nancy Frank

Nancy first met Tom Hanratty at the Wildlife ARC (Animal Rehabilitation Center), one of two wildlife rehabilitation centers she founded in Southern Wisconsin. Tom introduced Nancy to the Tom Brown School, and she responded with a passion—taking classes in Nature Awareness, Tracking, and several Philosophy courses. Her experiences at Brown’s school and her relationship with Tom & Ellen Hanratty and Cork Holmes led Nancy to become one of the founding instructors of Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills.

Nancy has had a lifelong interest and passion for the out-of-doors and all of its inhabitants. Sharing her connection with the Natural World has taken on many forms. Nancy has led educational and recreational tours and trips around the state, country and world; backpacking the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona, canoeing the mangrove swamps in the Everglades, leading a llama packing trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, two wildlife viewing trips to the Galapagos Islands, and a photo safari in Kenya.

For twenty years, she appeared on a public television program called “Outdoor Wisconsin” that had 250,000 viewers in eleven states. As both a Girl Scout and 4-H leader, Nancy has served as a role model for many girls new to outdoor education. She has also been an instructor at the “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” program at Tomahawk, in northern Wisconsin.

David Kuckuk

David holds a B.S. degree in Resource Management and an M.S. degree in Environmental Education. He is also certified in secondary education, but prefers to teach in the outdoors rather than the classroom.

David has served as Executive Director of the Maywood Environmental Park in Sheboygan, Wisconsin from 1987 to present.  In the early years he would also show up at Medicine Hawk weekend “skills” workshops and lend his many talents to those of Tom, Ellen, Nancy, & Cork.

Over the course of 6 weeks in 1998, in order to better understand the flora, fauna and glacial geology of Wisconsin, David with his Siberian husky, Yukon, backpacked Wisconsin’s 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail. Four years later, he kayaked 625 miles of Wisconsin’s most significant waterways involving hundreds of students in agrarian education.

Whether he is starting a fire with a bowdrill, tracking a raccoon, or “calling in” a barred owl to join the evening campfire, David uses his years of teaching experience to expand each student’s appreciation of the Natural World.

Julia Cronin

Julia began her experience with Nature Education Programs by hanging around classes taught by Ron and her dad, who were the co-founders of the school. She has instructed  in many of our half-day workshops where she has proven herself particularly adept at working with younger folk.  Within the past couple of years, Julia has joined our weekend workshops handling a number of administrative and instructional tasks. At the workshops and on her own time Julia continues to hone her outdoor skills.  She has proven herself capable, personable, and energetic—attributes of her intelligence, dedication, and youth.

Julia uses her degree in linguistics from the University of Illinois to focus on how language shapes our views of the world around us.

But don’t be fooled by her academic endeavors. This young lady has interests in other things as well. Not too long ago she was a member of a university “Improv Team” and her spontaneous wit lends itself well to the relaxed atmosphere of our workshops.

Noah Konters

Noah first experienced our programs as a 10-year-old homeschool student.  He (and his parents) apparently enjoyed what we taught, because he/they kept signing up for more classes.  Over the years Noah gained a new level of respect for and enjoyment of the outdoors.  He also proved himself to be a dedicated and knowledgeable student who showed great potential as an instructor.  It was an easy decision to ask him to join our staff as an instructor.

Noah has found that the skills he has acquired with Medicine Hawk have made him more self-reliant, a trait which benefits him greatly in the pursuit of his outside interest.  In his free time he is a member of a FIRST Robotics team, where he is partnered with professional engineers and is actively engaged in the design, manufacturing and assembly of a 120-pound robot that competes with teams from around the globe.  As have all our instructors and many of our former students, Noah has found a comfortable balance between his everyday life and the serenity of the Natural World.

All of our instructors are firm believers in the ability of humans to reconnect with the natural world and all of its non-human inhabitants.  We also believe that the skills you learn will facilitate that reconnection and also provide valuable skills and lessons for use in your everyday life.