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A day of deer hunting turned into a long frigid night in the mountains for two area hunters and the three-man search and rescue crew that ultimately found them.
The hunters called 911 just before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29. It was getting dark and they lost their way out of the mountains just off Eureka Ridge, about 10 miles west of Sloat.
“They had worked their way downhill to the bottom of a canyon and just got disoriented and ran out of daylight,” said John Kolb, who led the Plumas County sheriff’s search and rescue team.
Fortunately, the hunters’ cellphone call left a good GPS signal for the sheriff’s search team to follow.
By 8:30 p.m., Kolb, along with search and rescue members Harlon Sevier Jr. and Ralph Schroeder, were on the trail.
Lori Powers and Rusty Stohlman, from the sheriff’s office, staffed the command center on the road near the hunters’ vehicles.
The rescuers’ hike was anything but easy. It was dark and freezing. The steep terrain was thick with underbrush and covered with fresh snow.
“We walked a long time,” Kolb said. “We were cold and wet, and there was lots of brush to deal with. We just kept going downhill.”
The search team was in contact with the hunters via cellphone.
“We asked them to fire a shot to help us locate them,” Kolb said. “We could hear the shot; but because of the canyon there were echoes. So it wasn’t that easy.”
About 1:15 a.m., the search and rescue team located the two hunters.
“They were very glad to see us,” Kolb said. “They realized they were in a bad way.”
After a freezing five-hour hike in the dark, the rescuers were feeling pretty bad, too. “We were miserable,” Kolb said. “We realized we weren’t walking out of there.”
Kolb said the terrain was too steep to hike out the same way they hiked in. They knew they would be spending the night.
The men did the best they could to build a small fire on the wet ground. They weren’t able to sleep. They were busy trying to stay warm.
“We didn’t talk about shooting any deer,” Kolb laughed when asked how the men passed the time until sunrise.
The rescue team remained in contact with a deputy by phone throughout the night.
At sunrise the sheriff’s office called in a California Highway Patrol helicopter from Redding to assist the rescue team.
Kolb said he was expecting the CHP helicopter crew to help point them to the nearest road. But the CHP was able to do even better.
“The CHP found a landing zone and was able to take us out, one at a time,” Kolb said. “We were all glad to get out of there.”
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