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Wild Goose Chase

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Occasionally, an individual (usually the hero) when being tracked, will discover the Tracking Device. One's first instinct may be to destroy the device, but why deprive oneself of the opportunity to mess with your enemies? So the hero promptly attaches the device to something else that (preferably) moves a lot and away from himself, causing the trackers to follow it all over the place before they finally discover that they've been duped.


Compare Decoy Getaway (using a false target to distract pursuers, not necessarily involving a tracking device or a moving target). Also see Snipe Hunt.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • A variation of this happens in Ai no Kusabi novel and anime. The tracer is removed from the person being tracked so the pursuer is Lured into a Trap at another location.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Lan Fan pulls off a much more primitive version of this by cutting off her own injured arm and tying it to a stray dog so that the Fuhrer, who is following the blood trail, is thrown off.
  • In Megazone 23, the main characters find a bug on the Garland super-bike and toss it onto a passing train to distract the people pursuing them. Shame they missed the other bug that eventually revealed the location of their base.
  • A variant occurs in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. The titular mech's La+ Program basically acts as a tracer that details the next location the Unicorn should travel to, to in order to get the true coordinates of Laplace's Box, whenever the NT-D system is activated. As it turns out the final coordinates given by the program was that of Industrial 7, which is exactly where the entire story began.
  • Rebuild World: Akira runs into a repeated problem of being Famed In-Story for his ability to find Lost Technology relics and unexplored ruins, leading to others following in his footsteps and getting the loot before he can make a return trip. So Alpha devises a plan: Have Akira pack his rucksack with relics he stored up from earlier, head out to a low-danger location to practice relic searching, and then circle around and sell his relics. This leads to the decoy ruin being picked clean by hundreds of hunters who think he’s hiding a ruin he discovered there. It also serves to make Akira a Spanner in the Works to one of Viola's schemes.


  • In the original Total Recall (1990), the hero removes a tracking device from (apparently) his sinus cavity, shoves it in a bit of food, and tosses it to some nearby rats. Richter and his team, who later burst in, end up shooting at random spots in the area as the rats keep moving it.
  • In another Philip K. Dick movie, Impostor, Spencer Olham plays silly buggers with his pursuers by removing his tracking device and slipping it into the pocket of the guy leading the hunt, leading to a lot of reports to the effect of "he just passed your position" before he figures it out.
  • Happens in Short Circuit when Number 5 notices his tracking device and throws it into the pick up truck of an elderly couple. The soldiers in pursuit of him find the couple instead.
  • Happens in Con Air when the convicts remove the plane's tracking device and place it on a scenic tours flight.
  • In Heat, it is implied that Michael Cheritto ditched his police surveillance by putting the transponders on a bus to San Clemente.
  • In The Siege Denzel Washington's character Agent Hubbard uses this without a tracking device as the US Army is tracking him. He has a decoy agent dressed to resemble him run in the wrong direction to divert attention away from his vehicle while he goes off to complete his original objective.
  • In the John Wayne movie Brannigan (1975) the crooked lawyer doing a ransom drop finds the Tracking Device the police have placed on his car and attaches it to another vehicle while stuck in traffic. Unfortunately for him John Wayne has slipped a second bug into the money.
  • In Now You See Me this amusingly happens to Rhodes in which he ends up tracking himself through New Orleans when Jack drops the tracker into his pocket.


  • In Small Favor, a book of The Dresden Files, Harry does a magical version of this by suspending the device over a large map of the city and enchanting it to make it believe that the map is the city. Then he attaches a bag of catnip to it and sets Mister on it. It proves very effective.
  • As leader of the search for Sirius Black in Order of the Phoenix, Kingsley Shacklebolt deliberately sends the Ministry on one, telling them that Sirius has been spotted in Tibet.
  • In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon attaches a bug to a bar of soap and throws it into the back of a garbage truck to distract the French police and buy more time in finding clues in the Louvre. Notable in that the Louvre, like most public buildings, doesn't have bar soap.
  • Non-technological example: In the Belisarius Series, Belisarius expects to be followed by a Scarily Competent Tracker as he is leaving India. So he marks his horse's hoof to leave a distinctive (but not obvious) print, and later trades the horse away and gives the trader an incentive to go in a direction Belisarius would be expected to go (as he heads out in a completely unexpected direction).
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle: Kvothe foils a Tracking Spell by sneaking locks of his hair into multiple vehicles leaving the city by different directions. Sympathetic Magic can track all of them, but can't tell his pursuers which hair has the rest of him attached to it.
  • Komarr: As a part of an ambush, Miles' badge of office gets stolen by Komarr secessionists. As the device doubles as a Skeleton Key capable of accessing any Imperial government or security computer system, it is important enough that it includes a locator beacon, which gives ImpSec both means and a strong motivation to find it as well as the secessionists holding it. ImpSec chases the beacon into the utility tunnels and ends up finding it in a sewer line due to said secessionists flushing it down the toilet, much to the amusement of their escorting municipal engineer who they had panicked by waking her up with a fully-kitted goon squad in the dead of night.

     Live Action TV  

  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander does this inadvertently when Spike is tagged by the Initiative. After they remove the tracker, Xander flushes it, baffling the trackers.
  • In Burn Notice Michael frequently has to thwart people who are tracking him.
    • In fact, he says the last thing a spy does when they find a tracking device is turn it off. It's too valuable a tool to either get info on the people tracking you or deceive them into thinking you're somewhere you're not.
  • In the Tek War TV show, federal agents find a tracking program that they believe is following the man they're looking for. It's actually tracking the exact location of a randomly selected pizza delivery guy, for the purpose of sending the Feds on one of these.
  • A variant is used in the Monk episode "Mr Monk and the Marathon Man.": Marathon runner and furniture showroom magnate Trevor McDowell killed his girlfriend, even though he had a chip in his shoe tracking his time at the checkpoints - that's because his chip wasn't in his shoe, but on a TV camera bike that was covering the race.
    • In the Tie-In Novel Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, Monk and Natalie learn that their Intertect SUV is bugged. When staking out a person related to their suspect, the simple method is that they have Natalie's daughter Julie take the bugged car all across the city, while Monk and Natalie conduct the stakeout in Natalie's own Buick Lucerne, which is not bugged.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer", when Kirk, Spock and Scotty attempt to do a manual override to disconnect the M5 computer from the Enterprise, it emits a decoy beacon for them to follow, giving it enough time to draw energy from the Warp Engines. Upon discovering the failure to disconnect the M5, Spock refers to the trope as "Pursuing a Wild Goose".
    • Spock's Spiritual Successor, Data, naturally says the line with his usual embellishment in the episode "Data's Day", while investigating the apparent transporter death of a Vulcan ambassador. Having determined that nothing is wrong with the Enterprise-D's transporters, he has Dr. Crusher analyze the DNA trace left on the pad, and compare it to the ambassador's previous transporter trace records.
      Data: I could be chasing an untamed ornithoid without cause.
      Beverly: A "wild goose chase"?
  • In Day Break (2006), Hopper sends Buchalter and Fencik offtrack by disposing their Tracking Device in a garbage truck.

     Western Animation  

  • Once on The Simpsons, Marge uses the GPS chip on Bart's cell phone to track him down and keep him from mischief. Bart finds out and ties the chip to a bird, who ends up taking the family all the way to Machu Picchu.
  • Danger Mouse: "The Wild, Wild Goose Chase" is just that. DM discovers a device in a holed-out book that responds to Baron Greenback's voice and will tell where his next hideout is after telling where his present coordinates are. DM impersonates Greenback's voice with spooky perfection to learn the whereabouts of his next hideout, but each destination turns up a dead end. Concludes with an uncharacteristic Team Rocket Wins moment.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Not What He Seems", Stan escapes federal custody and runs to a cab. He tells the cab to drive as far away from the Mystery Shack as possible. So while the agents follow the cab, assuming Stan is inside, Stan runs back to the shack.
  • The Loud House: In "The Spies who Loved Me", Ronnie Anne accidently invokes this trope when a tracking device that Carl put in her backpack, and she didn't know was there, falls out of said backpack into a piece of discarded gum, which in turn gets stuck to a rat. This leads the Casagrandes to believe Ronnie Anne has wandered off into a dangerous, abandoned house, and they all go there to rescue her.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Undercover Carl", Carl suspects Phineas and Ferb may be up to no good when they use the same plans that Doofenshmirtz used (it was actually Doof who took their plans), so Monogram sends Carl undercover to snoop. Meanwhile, because he's too close to the case, Monogram sends Perry off to search for the missing Agent G.
    Carl: Who's Agent G, sir?
    Monogram: Gary the Gander? Oh, that's just a wild goose chase. Get it? Goose? Gander?

     Real Life  

  • In early 2012 a British CCTV operator alerted an undercover officer to a suspicious person in his area. After a 20 minute chase a supervisor wandered by the operator's station and pointed out that the "suspicious person" was the officer in question. Story here
  • One of the teachers killed in the Sandy Hook Massacre saved her students' lives by barricading them into their classroom and telling the shooter that they were in the gym.