|Late Fall in northern Oswego County. An inexperienced hunter, separated from his companions, becomes disoriented in the woods. Sunny weather turns to clouds. The clouds turn to rain accompanied by strong winds. Temperatures start to fall. Daytime quickly turns into night.
Hours later, realizing that the hunter is missing, companions contact the authorities and a search of the surrounding roads is performed. At 9pm the Pioneer Search and Rescue Team is notified and its members start to travel from different parts of the county.
The storm intensifies. Downed trees and power lines make the trip hazardous and time consuming. At 10:30pm the first team members arrive in the area. Heavy rain now turns to snow. Dirt roads become impassable. By 11pm members of the NYS DEC, NYS Police and Pioneer SAR are assembled. A night time search in the quickly deepening snow will be hazardous. The SAR team, along with a K-9 unit, have come prepared for the worst and elect to go into the woods. They know the hunter is unprepared for the weather which is only forecast to get worse. Unless searchers find the hunter soon he will have little hope for surviving until morning.
With limited visibility the team sets off utilizing compass bearings. Simply trying to maintain visual contact with its members is a challenge. Periodically the team calls the hunter's name hoping for a response. After one such call a faint response is heard. Is it the wind or the hunter? The team moves 50 yards and another call is made. Again a faint response. A compass bearing is quickly taken and the team proceeds on the new course. The visibility is so poor that the team is almost upon the hunter before they see him. His clothing is torn and wet. He is unable to walk by himself, and well into life threatening hypothermia. Quickly, gloves are placed onto his hands and a warm hat onto his head. A medical appraisal is performed to ensure that he has no injuries that will be aggravated by walking. The team plots the bearing back to the road, their trail already covered by the deepening snow. A radio call is made to the command post, " We have the subject and are headed out". With team members supporting the hunter they set out. Upon reaching the road the hunter is quickly placed into a warm vehicle and transported away from the scene.
It's after 1AM. Wet, cold, tired and exhilarated SAR team members start heading back to their now snow buried cars. With the snow storm still raging it will be 6am before they are safely home.