Three hunters emerge in good health after getting lost in Sawtooth
Arizona trio survives freezing night
By RON SOBLE
Express Staff Writer
Back in their room Thursday
afternoon at Christiania Lodge in Ketchum were three exhausted hunters from Arizona who
walked out of the Sawtooth National Forest without incident after losing their way
overnight. A crew from Blaine County Search and Rescue couldnt find the trio.
Ultimately, the hunters discovered a path back to their vehicle not far from Warm Springs
Road. Left to right: Tom Herrera, Jim Wickham and Ed Rubash. (Express photo by Ron Soble)
Three lost deer hunters spent a subfreezing night in the local back
country last Wednesday, finally emerging Thursday afternoon not far from Warm Springs
The trioTom Herrera, 46, Ed Rubash, 30, and Jim Wickham,
29said they were experienced hunters from Wickenburg, Ariz., about 55 miles
northwest of Phoenix. They said they had hunted before in Blaine County.
Apparently the only injury sustained was to their pride. Their
experience once again illustrates the effort Blaine County Search and Rescue puts into a
ground and air operation for individuals lost in the sometimes confusing back country.
After shooting and dressing a buck Wednesday afternoon, the three
became disoriented in the rugged hills of the Sawtooth National Forests Smoky
Mountains. By then, they were several miles from their Ford Bronco, which was parked along
the West Fork of Warm Springs Creek, about seven miles west of Ketchum.
"Being experienced hunters, we thought wed get our
bearings," Rubash said.
But as the three construction workers trudged on for miles, they
realized it would be a long night.
Disheveled and obviously exhausted, the hunters spoke to an Idaho
Mountain Express reporter Thursday afternoon in their room at the Christiania Lodge in
Ketchum. Two of them had just taken telephone calls from their wives who had feared the
Rubash recounted a telephone conversation between Wickham and his wife
after the three returned to their room. "She assumed we were all dead and eaten by
mountain lions," he said.
The hunters said they spent Wednesday night plodding through dense
forest and freezing streams, straining under heavy backpacks containing quarters from the
buck they had shot.
None of the hunters was carrying survival gear. Indeed, they were
equipped with just one tiny working flashlight to guide them on a moonless night. They had
no compass, no matches and little food, munching, they said, on "snacks."
At about 10:30 p.m., the hunters said, they decided to bed down and
tried to keep warm under pine needles and branches. But sleep wasnt in the cards.
Besides the bone chilling cold, Rubash and Wickham said it was
difficult dozing because "Tom snores."
The trio belonged to a party of six hunters from Arizona. When the
three didnt return at nightfall on Wednesday, their companions called the Blaine
County Sheriff. A Search and Rescue team was activated Wednesday night.
At dawn, a search party of approximately 15 individuals, mostly
volunteers, was formed, Blaine County Sheriff"s Capt. Ed Fuller said. Two light
aircraft circled overhead.
Also called into the search was Cody, a 5-year-old Airedale Terrier
tracking dog owned by Cam Daggett, the Sun Valley police chief. Accompanied by Daggett,
Cody sniffed a shirt left in the hunters Bronco, but the trail was cold.
The search on Thursday, a warm, sun-splashed day, turned up no sign of
For their part, the Arizona trio said they had climbed one of the
Smokey peaks and waved a white shirt at planes flying overheadbut to no avail.
Finally, at around 2:30 p.m., about 24 hours after starting out, the
three found the Bronco. A member of Search and Rescue was nearby.
"Weve been looking for you," he said, according to the
Sheriffs Capt. Fuller said Search and Rescue, largely privately
funded, probably wouldnt charge the hunters for the search effort.
More importantly, he declared, "Everything went well. Everyone
(Contributing to this story was Idaho Mountain Express
staff writer Greg Stahl.)