Dispatch center busy as rifle season opens
October 15, 1996
Steamboat Springs — A barrage of shots in the backcountry and scores of assistance calls to the Routt County dispatch center announced the opening of rifle season in Northwest Colorado early Saturday.
By Sunday afternoon, one hunter had died in Rio Blanco County, two others had to be rescued and a third was still missing.
Here in Routt County, a man, who later arrived back in his hunting camp unhurt, was reported missing in California Park, eight miles west of Steamboat Lake. And yesterday morning, after hours of searching, rescue crews found another man who used gunshots to signal for help west of Steamboat Lake.
In Rio Blanco County on Sunday, a 58 year-old man died of natural causes near Stinsby Reservoir, about one mile south of the Routt County line and approximately 20 miles south of Hayden. Rio Blanco County Sheriff Phil Stubblefield said the man, who was hunting with Beaver Creek Outfitters, had a history of medical problems and had been scheduled to have surgery on an aneurysm in his chest. The man's name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Earlier Sunday, another man in the Beaver Creek Outfitter's party had to be airlifted to Denver by a medical helicopter after suffering from a seizure.
Stubblefield said a third hunter, who was with the dead Mississippi man, was also injured and had to be rescued. The man's horse apparently fell and rolled on him, breaking his hand and possibly breaking ribs. The Rio Blanco County Sheriff tried to get another helicopter in to take the man to the hospital. However, airlift was unavailable and he was transported by vehicle.
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Searchers in Rio Blanco County are still looking for a 31 year-old man, Stubblefield said. All combined, the rescue efforts kept Stubblefield and others in the backcountry until about 8 a.m. yesterday, he said.
Routt County law enforcement and Search and Rescue members were also kept busy over the weekend. On Saturday, three hunters were reported missing here.
One walked out of an undisclosed location at about 10 a.m. A second man, who was out all night near California Park, walked back into camp unhurt Saturday morning.
However, a third rescue call at 10:20 p.m. required searchers to find a 32 year-old man west of Meaden Peak near California Park.
William Witt reportedly used repeated three shot barrages and yells for help to call attention to himself. Other hunters in the Steamboat Lake area, east of California Park, used their cellular phones to inform the dispatch center of Witt's signaling. A hastily assembled Routt County Search and Rescue crew found Witt at about 4 a.m. yesterday, sheriff's investigator Paul Pirnat said. The man was reportedly curled up in a ball, sleeping, Pirnat said. Witt told rescuers ha had heard his name called but was not sure if he was dreaming.
A number of trespassing incidents were also reported to the Division of Wildlife over the weekend and a cow was shot in Little Red Park, according to Pirnat. The owner of the cow, which was not killed, was notified of the shooting.
The Routt County Sheriff's Office is reminding hunters that survival gear – including a map of the Area, compass, water, food and matches – should always be carried in the backcountry. Further, Pirnat said, because of the large numbers of hunters in the area, it is important that that hunters be sure of their target before taking a shot.