Hunters lose their way in snowstorm, but no injuries reported |

Hunters lose their way in snowstorm, but no injuries reported

Tom Ross/Steamboat Today

— The winter storm that howled its way into Northwest Colorado Saturday afternoon caught many deer and elk hunters by surprise, and made it a busy weekend for Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers.

Search and Rescue crews went into the backcountry searching for three separate parties of lost hunters and screened many more reports of hunters who were late returning to their camps.

When the sun set Sunday night, all of the missing hunters had been located and all were in good condition.

The first of the three searches bagan Saturday night after Routt County Comined Communications was contacted via cell phone by a woman who reported two Denver men and an 11 year-old boy were missing in the vicinity of Fish Creek Reservoir, about 13 miles northeast of Steamboat Springs.

Unable to get back in touch with the responding party, a search crew traveled to the summit of Buffalo Pass in hopes of running across her. Although they didn't locate the reporting party, the searchers acted on a hunch and set out on foot to see if they could cross the trail of the missing trio. Six inches of snow had already fallen.

They picked up a set of tracks and when theur calling and whistling brought a response, they quickly located the missing people huddled by a fire. The two men and the boy, whose names were not available, were from the Denver and Lakewood area.

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On Sunday morning Search and Rescue was organizing to search for Jason Hirosay, 30, of Wisconsin. Hirosay had camped with his brother at Stillwater Reservoir in the Flat Tops, about 50 miles southwest of Steamboat. He set out for the well known Devil's Causeway at about 1 p.m. on Saturday, said Joe Stevens of Search and Rescue.

Hirosay climbed the Causeway, a narrow isthmus of rock above 11,000 feet. He crossed the causeway and hunted for another four miles into Dead Mexican Gulch.

When Hirosay did not return, his brother reported him missing via cell phone. The search began at 9 a.m. Sunday and the missing man was reported from the air in the company of two other hunters at about 2:30 p.m. The Cessna 182 from which Hirosay was spotted was flown by Rita Dunham and Jamie Burgess. A member of the field team finally reached Hirosay on foot and walked him out of the mountains, with the wind gusting to 20 mph on Devil's Causeway and snowdrifts hip deep.

Finally, searchers from the Causeway team were reorganizing for another search late Sunday when a missing West Virginia hunter called in from a ranch on Colo. 13 north of Craig. George 'Bill' Spiter, 33, had last been seen at his camp in Lost Park, in the extreme northwestern corner of Routt County, at 7 a.m. Saturday. Lost Park is northwest of the well-known landmark Bears Ears Peak.

Spiter's brother, David, had reported him missing at the Moffat County Sheriff's Office. The missing man was described as an experienced hiker, but unfamiliar with the area. The search was called off when Spiter walked out of the mountains.

Stevens said that although all of the missing hunters were found in relatively good condition, it was fortunate that none had been involved in a medical emergency.

"Luckily we didn't have anybody in a lot of trouble," Stevens said. He lamented the fact that many big game hunters wear jeans and other cotton clothing that is virtually useless in a survival situation.

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