FWC finds lost hunters in hard-to-reach places
Friday, December 17, 2010
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
During the past three months alone, Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers
have been called out more than a dozen times to search for overdue
hunters in the agency's 12-county Northeast Region. In all cases,
the hunters were found uninjured and thankful for the rescue
When someone is reported overdue from hunting,
hiking or boating, emergency response agencies go on full alert.
The FWC is no exception. FWC officers are woods-and-water-savvy and
are usually the most skilled and best equipped to search remote,
undeveloped areas traversing some of the state's thickest and most
remote woods and wetlands.
For these efforts, the FWC uses helicopters and
fixed-wing planes, four-wheel-drive trucks, all-terrain vehicles,
boats and K-9 units specially trained in search and rescue. But
most important in their arsenal of search-and-rescue tools is their
experience and understanding of the outdoors that can be gained
only by spending so much time there.
The most recent rescue came the night of Dec. 12 at
the Charles Bronson Wildlife Management Area in Seminole County.
The hunter had gained access to the area by airboat, got out and
walked, and then got turned around. When officers found him, he had
been in the woods for eight hours, was dehydrated and disoriented,
on the verge of hypothermia and beginning to panic.
"It's a scary feeling to be lost in the woods with
the sun going down, the temperature dropping and no way to
communicate with anyone," said Lt. Jeff Hudson, whose primary
patrol areas include Seminole and Orange counties. "It is so easy
to get turned around and lose your way, even for experienced
hunters and outdoorsmen and women."
Hudson recommends that everyone who hunts, camps,
boats, hikes - does anything in the outdoors - put together a
survival kit and carry it with them just in case they are lost or
injured and find themselves in the woods or on the water longer
than they anticipated. Most of the items can be carried in a large
The survival kit should include:
- a compass,
- space blanket,
- necessary medications,
- matches or a lighter, and
- some type of fire-starter - like dryer lint.
Dryer lint is great because it's lightweight, ignites
quickly, and you don't need a lot of it to get a fire going. A fire
not only will keep you warm, it's a great aid to search and rescue
As helpful as a compass is, it is worthless unless
the person knows how to use it, so be sure to learn how it works
before going into the woods. A cell phone should be part of the
kit, and some people even have GPS units, but keep in mind they
don't always work in some of the more remote areas, Hudson
"It's critical to tell someone where you're going,
where you're parking or launching your boat and when you plan to be
back so they can call for help and know where to direct searchers
if necessary. Also, pack some snacks and water, and, depending upon
the time of year, bug spray," said Lt. Guy Carpenter, whose crew
has rescued hunters three times this season in Osceola County.
If you find yourself lost in the woods, rescuers
say there are two things you must do to help searchers locate
"Stay in one place and either shine a powerful
light or safely build a fire so we can see you," said Lt. Ben
Allen, whose areas include Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties.
"Often we'll use a search dog, and it's much easier for the dog to
track someone who is not walking all over the woods."
"Getting out in the woods can be an unforgettable
experience. To make sure you come back with great memories, take a
little time to plan and prepare before you go. You won't regret
it," said Hudson.