Hunter on Verge of Collapse Activates PLB
Posted on March 6, 2023 by Tom
I am a new hunter, and was invited to a goat hunt on a property by an experienced hunter and we were accompanied by a friend of his. Personally, I didn’t know where the hunt was going to be until I met up with the other hunter. I soon found out it was on a 1000 meter mountain of tough terrain! That certainly wasn’t what I was expecting! To make matters worse, I didn’t realize that we would be hunting all day without going back to camp (I had thought we would be going back to camp at lunch like on my previous hunt), so I only took a few snacks and a few litres of water. I didn’t realize at the time, but this was a massive mistake!
We set off around 8.30 in the morning. At the start, it was steep with loose, red earth and rocks. I immediately struggled and started slipping and falling as I climbed, but kept at it. I soon fell behind the others.
After about half hour – hour of climbing, the experienced hunter could see I was struggling and asked me if I wanted to go back and that this was only about 10% of what was to come. Looking back, I thought he meant in terms of height but he obviously meant in terms of difficulty. I declined and said I was just acclimatizing. I didn’t want them to think I was weak and unfit, and wanted to experience the hunt. Looking back, that was a big mistake, and I should have swallowed my pride and turned back when I saw it was tougher terrain than I thought. I thought if it gets worse, we will probably head back to camp for lunch and then I can stay behind.
The terrain slowly got worse. It changed into thick brush. After about another hour or two, I said to the experienced hunter that I was struggling and just slowing them down and that I should just go back and they should continue. He said I couldn’t go back as he couldn’t shoot an animal if he didn’t know where I was on the mountain. I should have just gone back. At this stage, I thought there’s no turning back so I just have to keep pushing forward as going back wasn’t an option.
I had gone through about half my water at this stage.
We stopped around 1.30 to glass, and again around 2:30-3:30. At this stage, I was pretty stuffed but there was no going back. We were up pretty much the top of the mountain. We were pretty close to the border with the nature reserve. There was a group of goats that the others had located close to or in the nature reserve. They were waiting for them to move closer to the property where they could be shot. We went back and forth a couple spots waiting. The others could see I struggled majorly and kept getting lost and they had to go looking for me a few times.
At 6PM, the experienced hunter decided to shoot two goats he said were in the border of the property. He took the shot. The others tried to recover them. He told me to stay there because it was “pretty dicey” and he knew it would be hard for me. I stayed there. They came back and they told me they were unable to recover it. It must have been about 6.30 now. There was discussions about how to continue. It was decided that we would take an easy way for me because I had been struggling and we had only two hours of light to get off the mountain.
The terrain here was really tough and steep going down. In many places, the only thing that stopped me from a steep fall was a branch or scrub. If I had lost grip I could have easily fell quite far and smashed my head open. I had to stop about three times to recoup and get a drink of water; and I was going through the snacks from my emergency pack, and had to borrow water from the others. I said to them I was pretty stuffed and to go on without me, I would stay behind. The experienced hunter said we all go or we all stay and I didn’t want them to be stuck on the mountain all night because of me so I kept going. It was getting chilly and all I had was a t-shirt and an army-style field shirt.
I kept going as best I could but was weak and getting delirious. I don’t know if they knew how bad I was at this stage or not. Though if I had to keep stopping and kept getting lost, I thought they would. By 7, I couldn’t continue.
We found a rock with a tiny running stream. By this stage exhaustion had kicked in and I was really bad. My legs were shaking violently, I was delirious and had a cold shiver even though it wasn’t cold. They told me to rest a while and see if I could continue before all the light was gone to make it across the valley after which it was apparently easy terrain to the bottom.
I said I couldn’t use my legs and there was no way. They said to rest until morning and see if I could go in the morning. I heard the experienced hunter say he wasn’t going to be embarrassed by using a PLB.
I laid down on the rock, while the others lit a fire and collected wood. They filtered me water from the creek into my bottle and gave it to me and we shared the rest of our snacks maybe a muesli bar between us all. I started to get worse and the hypothermia kicked in. I started shivering really badly and the others maintained the fire and wrapped me in reflective thermal blankets.
Around 1-2AM I got really bad, and I was really worried I would spiral and not be able to make it off the mountain. I was worried I wouldn’t see my family again.
I had to convince the others to pull the PLB for me. Feeling like I was going downhill, that I couldn’t walk let alone get off the mountain. He finally consented to punch the PLB at about 2.30AM. I remembered I had the emergency app on my phone, and the experienced hunter was able to get through to them to give more details.
We kept a look out for the responders. We saw a helicopter at about 3.30, they saw us then left. I found out later the terrain was too high risk for them to land at night unless there was immediate danger of loss of life. They returned after dawn about 7am. I was really embarrassed to see Scotty the paramedic though he was a really nice bloke. The helicopter had to refuel in Wollongong and came back around 8am, and then I was winched off the mountain, and landed in Bowral to go to the hospital.
I later found out the paramedics team had been in contact with my wife the whole time. Thank you to the team who got me off the mountain, they are all heroes in my eyes.
Words of wisdom
Be prepared, always pack for worst -case scenario and do your research before heading out!
Thank you note
Thank you to the ACR team, the beacon did its job when I needed it.
Goodmans Ford NSW 2575, Australia
Local Search and Rescue
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