An unidentified Parker, Colo., hunter who found himself turned around while hunting in the area of Beaver Meadows last weekend was reunited with his son Tuesday after spending two nights away from camp during a hunting trip.
The 57-year-old hunter suffered only minor injuries from a few slips and falls, was found in good condition and was able to hike back to his camp with rescuers.
“The hunter did everything right,” said Christina Marquart, deputy director of emergency management for Archuleta County.
Marquart said the call reporting the lost hunter came in late afternoon or early evening Monday from a guide with San Juan Outfitters, with that guide reporting that the hunter hadn’t returned to camp since leaving on Sunday.
The father and son had each gone in different directions to hunt, Marquart said, with the father not returning to camp when expected.
A helicopter was then used Monday evening to do a grid search of the area where the man was last seen, Marquart explained, with positive results. The man was found atop a ridge with a smoking fire, waving his orange vest and signaling to the helicopter crew that he was OK.
Unfortunately, by the time the man was located that evening, it was too dark to safely fly in search and rescue personnel to the area, Marquart indicated, leaving the hunter to camp out under the stars for a second night.
The next morning, a helicopter flew search and rescue personnel in to the men’s hunting camp, and, using coordinates determined by the helicopter the night before, the rescuers hiked the additional 2 miles to where the hunter was located.
Upon finding the hunter, Marquart said he was given food and water and was then ready and able to hike back to camp with the search and rescue personnel.
“He was very grateful,” Marquart noted.
Marquart also praised the hunter for being prepared and making the search much easier, saying, “It’s a good lesson to be learned.”
Marquart said the man left camp prepared, with appropriate clothing and had food and water. Upon realizing he was turned around and when his headlamp burned out, the man went to a higher spot atop a ridge, made shelter and made a fire before it was dark.
When his water supply ran out, Marquart said the hunter put snow in his water bottle and heated it with the fire.
Too, when he saw a helicopter in the vicinity, the hunter put pine on his fire to increase smoke output, stayed next to it, and made his hunter’s orange visible from the air, Marquart explained.
“It worked out really well. The hunter did everything right and San Juan Outfitters did everything right,” she said.
To help in the search for the hunter, Marquart said the outfitters and guide were able to provide exact coordinates of the hunters’ base camp and a satellite phone number to the camp.
“It could have been way harder just because communication is difficult” where there is no cell phone reception, Marquart noted.
In addition to the county’s emergency operations division, Upper San Juan Search and Rescue, CareFlight and Flight for Life participated in the search and rescue operation, Marquart said.
Rifle deer and elk seasons continue through Nov. 16.