As many as 28 search and rescue volunteers from Union and Wallowa Counties joined forces Sunday night and Monday morning to successfully locate lost hunter Lyle Church, 73, of Half Moon Bay, Calif. The search took place 20 miles due north of Elgin on the border between the two counties.
A well prepared emergency kit allowed the elderly elk hunter to build a fire when it got dark and stay relatively warm through a cold night. When they found him at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning the hunter was in good health and hungry.
Wallowa County Emergency Manager Matthew Marmor said that the searchers withstood wind, fog, hail, sleet and a Monday morning snowstorm before Church was located.
Last seen at 11 a.m. Sunday morning, the 73-year-old hunter traveled down steep terrain an estimated three miles before building his fire in Wallowa County and waiting for help. The call for assistance was placed by Church's brother and came in at about 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon. There were seven hunters in the Church party, said Marmor, and none of them knew in which direction the hunter had strayed.
He was found at the head of Little Looking Glass Creek.
Two law enforcement personnel for the Forest Service and a search dog from Boise helped in the search. The Oregon National Guard was on alert to give assistance, but was called off when the hunter was found. Marmor said the searchers gained a big clue to the man's whereabouts when his stocking cap was recovered.