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75-year-old hunter goes missing near Sleeping Bear Dunes; agencies find him stuck in mud

The Detroit News

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources led an effort Sunday to rescue a North Carolina hunter who went missing near Sleeping Bear Dunes during the first day of the firearm deer season, officials said.

The 75-year-old man had been at deer camp with friends and family, hunting the same spot in Benzie County for the last 20 years, but after the group decided not to hunt due to the cold and windy conditions, they couldn't find him, the department said in a statement.

DNR Conservation Officer Amanda McCurdy met two Benzie County Sheriff’s deputies at the scene near Boekeloo Road in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The missing man’s friends and family said he might be at one of two hunting spots

“The terrain was very difficult, thick and damp — not even navigable,” McCurdy said.

The officer requested helicopter assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard, then worked with seven conservation officers, two Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park Service rangers, the Frankfort Fire Department and a Michigan State Police K-9 unit as well as Benzie County EMS, sheriff's members and emergency management officials. Sgt. Dan Bigger, conservation officer supervisor in Benzie County, led the search from the air.

At 8:48 p.m., the helicopter crew spotted a light in the woods. Directed by the helicopter crew, the MSP K-9 unit found the missing man, "who was stuck in the mud, shining a flashlight at the helicopter," the DNR said.

Officers helped the man out until a DNR off-road vehicle could take him the rest of the way. 

“This search was successful due to the overwhelming number of conservation officers and other agencies who were willing to help,” McCurdy said. “It was a team effort; everyone had an important role to play to ensure this hunter didn’t spend a cold, wet and lonely night in the woods.”

The hunter was not hospitalized and was expected to make a full recovery, the DNR said.

“First-responders faced inclement weather conditions in already challenging terrain," said Chief Gary Hagler, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. "McCurdy’s response, with the assistance of seven other conservation officers and assisting agencies successfully resolved this search and rescue within six hours.”