Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Search and Rescue officials advice hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to always be prepared to spend the night outside, even if planning only a short trip.
- Cell phone
- GPS device, compass or both
- Fire-starting material
- Emergency blanket/bivy sack
- Enough food and water to last a night
Source: Peter Van De Carr, owner of Backdoor Sports in Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs The first weekend of the elk rifle-hunting season led to search missions for two lost hunters. Both men were found in good condition, and Routt County Search and Rescue spokesman Darrel Levingston said each was well prepared for the hazards of backcountry hiking and found their bearings without extensive help.
On Monday morning, 53-year-old Wisconsin resident Matt Mackenzie greeted searchers about a half-mile up the trail near Tepee Creek near Lynx Pass. Mackenzie spent the night in the woods and was reported missing Sunday evening by a hunting partner when he did not reach the designated meeting area.
Levingston said the hunter became disoriented in the dark and although he probably could have found his way out using his compass, he opted to spend the night and avoid potential injuries as he made his way back to camp. Because the man was in good shape, rescuers chose to wait until Monday morning to begin the search.
"He really did the smart thing," Levingston said.
Levingston said Mackenzie had matches to light a fire and other equipment that left him prepared to spend the night. However, Mackenzie did not make a fire because overnight temperatures remained relatively mild.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature in Steamboat Springs reached a low of 38 degrees Sunday night into Monday morning.
Seven Search and Rescue volunteers began to search for Mackenzie in the morning, and after greeting him on the trail gave him a ride on an ATV to the trailhead. Mackenzie did not require medical attention.
Search and Rescue volunteers also were called, but not needed, on a search for a 33-year-old South Carolina hunter Saturday night in the Harrison Creek area east of Rabbit Ears Pass in Routt County.
"It was very similar in that he was well equipped to spend the night, healthy and in good condition," Levingston said.
The man was reported missing Saturday night by his brother, Mike Morris, who lives in the area.
Levingston said the man, whose name was not available, had a GPS unit that malfunctioned. Even with backup batteries, he could not make the unit work.
The man encountered some snow but walked out unassisted Saturday night, Levingston said.
Backdoor Sports owner Peter Van De Carr said the list of equipment hunters and hikers should have with them when they go into the backcountry is short but important.
He said outdoor packs always should include a cell phone, GPS or compass, firestarting material, a headlamp, an emergency blanket or bivy sack (a small, waterproof sleeping bag cover), and enough food or water to survive a night.
Van De Carr said a simple compass is helpful, but there are also more high-tech tools including GPS devices and personal locator beacons that can be helpful to rescuers.
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