Search and Rescue members busy during hunting season | SteamboatToday.com

Search and Rescue members busy during hunting season

Johnross Joseph Doyel flies the Steamboat-based air ambulance around Hahns Peak.

— A helicopter was used to find and rescue a hunter who got lost and hiked a couple miles into Wyoming on Monday.

Hunting season is well underway, which means it is a busy time of year for Routt County Search and Rescue.

On Monday alone, Search and Rescue was called three times to help hunters who got lost in the woods.

“If this keeps up, it will be particularly busy,” Search and Rescue member Chad Bowdre said.

The searched involved one man from Colorado and two men from out of state.

The first call Monday came at 2:40 p.m. when a man in the area of the south fork of the Elk River called 911 because he got lost and could not find his way back to camp. The man had been relying on the GPS in his phone to navigate.

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Bowdre said cell phone GPS technology cannot be relied upon because there often is not cell service in the woods.

“An actual GPS unit is much more accurate and reliable,” Bowdre said.

Rescuers were able to pinpoint the man’s location by tracking his cell phone through 911. He was guided back toward camp and made it back about 15 minutes later.

At 5:15 p.m., rescuers were called to help another hunter lost in the Coulton Creek area. The man’s hunting party had not seen him all day, and they were concerned because he had called at 11 a.m. asking for the camp coordinates.

Rescuers were on their way to search for the man when he made it back to camp on his own at about 7 p.m.

The most dramatic search and rescue mission began about an hour later when a man had not been seen since leaving camp at 6 a.m. in the Whiskey Park area. Rescuers were concerned because he was in his late 70s and had a significant medical history.

Rescuers also learned the man did not have a GPS unit, cell phone, map or compass. The man had the ability to make a campfire, but he did not have food, shelter or rain gear.

Search and Rescue asked Classic Air to help with the search with their helicopter based out of Steamboat Springs. The company provides the service for free to Search and Rescue for up to two hours.

Using night vision goggles, the helicopter crew spotted a person with a campfire about two miles north of the Wyoming border.

“The night vision goggles were a lifesaver,” said Bowdre, who also works for Classic Air doing marketing.

The closest landing area was about a mile away from where they spotted the person. The helicopter dropped off the medical crew, who then hiked through the woods toward the man. The helicopter followed overhead to provide light, and they confirmed it was the man they were looking for.

The man was exhausted by that point, and they still had to hike back to the landing zone. The man was then flown out and returned to his hunting party.

Bowdre said it was fortunate the helicopter crew found the man, because he was well beyond the area Search and Rescue members would have covered during an initial search.

“If we didn’t use the helicopter, we wouldn’t have found him last night,” Bowdre said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland