A major two-day air and ground search for a deer hunter lost in the cold, snowy woods of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation ended in cheers, hugs and tears of happiness Wednesday when he was found – cold and hungry but otherwise alright, having melted snow for drinking water to survive, officials said.
About 135 searchers, some on horseback, had been combing the Lion’s Head area about 25 miles northwest of Warm Springs for Max Mitchell, 49, a tribal member who had left his friends at their car on the P-450 road about 8 a.m. Monday after they spotted a deer. He went off to track it, but never returned to the hunting party, said Fire Chief Dan Martinez.
The group searched the rest of Monday to find Mitchell, calling police early Tuesday, Martinez said. A National Guard helicopter based in Salem flew out of Madras Airport to assist, along with Civil Air Patrol aircraft.
Mitchell, familiar with the area, was wearing a Pendleton jacket, jeans and boots, but otherwise was ill-equipped for spending two nights in the woods covered by a half-foot of fresh snow, in temperatures that dropped below freezing, Mitchell said.
No cell phone, no food – but smart enough to not wander far, found near the Seeksequa fire lookout, about 2 ½ miles from where he last was seen, the fire chief said.
“He was just exhausted from walking,” Martinez said. “He could hear the shouts. We blew off sirens. He was disoriented where those sounds were coming from.”
After he was checked out in an ambulance, Mitchell got out and, to the cheers of those on hand, and thanked everybody for all their time spent looking for him, as well as those who prayed for him.
“He’s a lucky man,” Martinez said before heading to bed after a long two days for all involved. “We’re really delighted he was found safe and sound.”