Hunters and game wardens tend to have a…tense relationship. While most hunters understand the role of the game warden and even support it in most cases, they still don’t like it when a guy strolls up to their deer stand wanting to see a license. Hunters are prickly that way.
Two hunters in Pennsylvania might not mind it so much after a couple of state game commission officers rescued them while lost in the woods.
The Game Commission was notified on the evening of Oct. 21 that the two hunters, 58-year-old Jeff Cherry, of Altoona, and his 17-year-old granddaughter Megan Settlemyer, did not meet up with the rest of their hunting party when expected.
As darkness fell and the hours passed, concern for the hunters’ safety grew because Cherry is diabetic and did not have insulin or food with him.
At about 11 p.m., wildlife conservation officers and their deputies, state police, members of the Mountain Top Fire Company, and family and friends of the lost hunters gathered to begin a search.
Wildlife Conservation Officers Mike Steingraber and Derek Daly, both of whom are trained in human tracking, put their skills to work. Daly interviewed members of the hunting party and learned the direction the individuals had planned to go. Steingraber and Daly then looked at a map of the terrain to determine where the hunters might have become lost.
Steingraber, Daly, a K-9 Unit dog and Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer Jim Snook began searching at the location the hunters last were seen. The dog quickly picked up human scent and the officers saw signs that someone had recently passed through the area.
The officers continued to follow the signs through the woods for about 2 miles to an area with dense vegetation where they thought the hunters might have become disoriented. At about 2 a.m., they called out to the hunters, who responded from about 100 yards away.
This could easily have been a tragedy, a warning for hunters everywhere, but instead, it’s a happy occasion where two people were returned to their loved ones.
The truth is, the job of a game warden is tough. How many other law enforcement jobs require you to step up and interact with such a large number of people who are not only armed but have far greater range than you do with your sidearm? Not many.
While we all have heard stories about a warden who’s a grade “A” jerk, they’re the exception, not the rule. Most wardens are good people doing a tough job, and it sometimes takes a story like this to remind us that they do a whole lot more than mess up a day of hunting while looking for poachers.
Those three officers did good work and saved two lives.
Let’s just hope this doesn’t put Cherry and Settlemyer off on hunting. Just next time, they might want to take a few precautions. Like a dedicated GPS device that will work out in the woods with their meetup point marked as a waypoint. Just one of many options to keep them safe in the woods.