News Releases

Baker Co. hunters located in John Bethea State Forest

News Release

Friday, February 10, 2012

Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525

A father and stepson hunting hogs in Baker County were located by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers Thursday after the two Callahan residents were missing for approximately 36 hours.

The search for Mike Smith, 37, and his stepson, Christopher, 13, began when FWC dispatch received a call from Tanya Smith, reporting that her husband and son hadn't returned from their hunting trip.

The two went hog hunting approximately a day and a half earlier and had not returned.

FWC  Lt. Tim Kiss, K-9 Officer Billy Giles, Officer Ricky Justus and pilot Joe Johnston (using the FWC helicopter) went to the John Bethea State Forest to begin the search. Baker County Sheriff's Office deputies assisted with the search.

According to FWC officials, using text messages sent to Mrs. Smith, officers narrowed the search area to Forest Road 4 and Sandhill Grade.

Just after sunset, Johnston located the two hunters and their six hunting dogs off F.R. 4, approximately 7-10 miles away from their truck.

“The air search started right at dusk and where it was too dark to see anything without the night vision goggles, but yet still too bright to use them,” Johnston said. “About an hour after dark, I flipped them down and, within a few minutes, saw the glow of a cell phone. I circled down closer and could then see two hunters and one of the dogs.”

Apparently the two hunters had attempted to turn their vehicle around on a narrow dirt road and became stuck in the ditch. The truck’s four-wheel drive was not working. After the truck got stuck, the two had started walking in an attempt to make contact with another vehicle for assistance.

“After being located, the two were bit dehydrated from walking such a long distance, but were in good condition,” said Kiss, area lieutenant. “We gave several water bottles to them.”

The hunters and their dogs were loaded up in the officers’ trucks and driven back to the stuck vehicle. Using Justus’ winch, the officers were able to pull the truck out of the ditch.

FWC Facts:
Brown hoplo, a nonnative, armored catfish, is found throughout central and south Florida. They can survive in low-oxygen backwaters and ditches, where they gulp air at the surface.

Learn More at AskFWC