Activated his Fast Find PLB and a rescue helicopter found him just two hours later
A hunter was rescued after becoming stuck in a remote part of New Zealand’s South Island. The hunter spent 10 hours trying to find a route down to a river valley but it became too dangerous to continue at night in the difficult terrain.
He activated his Fast Find PLB and was found by two helicopters within hours. The dark and difficult terrain forced the rescue helicopters to stand down until first light the next morning, when they could safely complete the rescue.
“After four days hunting on the tops above the bushline in South Westland I attempted to drop down a ridgeline through thick bush towards the river valley,” the hunter said. “Despite my best effort with a map and compass I could not find a safe route down. I’d spent 10 hours climbing in and out of some very serious bluffs and had not seen the sky for six hours due to the thickness of the bush and the steepness of the mountain.
“Two hours before dark I found a semi-flat piece of ground about the size of a pool table. I considered my options: I was down to my last meal, had no water (but could collect it when it rained), was un-injured and had shelter in the form of an MSR Hubba hubba tent (which had saved my life two nights previously).
“Deciding to hit the button on my PLB is no small thing. I knew I was out of options and any further attempt to climb down would result in the situation getting a lot worse very fast. I fired three shots at 30 second intervals from my rifle to alert my hunting partner on the valley floor and he replied with a single shot confirming that he had heard my shots. This is a pre-PLB safety proceedure from the old days.
I activated the PLB, attached it to a tree branch and waited. As darkness approached, I errected my tent as best I could on such a small piece of ground. I heard the first of two helicopters arrive and begin to search for me two-and-a-half hours later. Things got dark fast and the helicopers left after confirming with my hunting partner that I had fired three shots and had enough equipment with me to spend another night in the bush. It was just too dark to attempt a pick up and I knew they would be back at first light in the morning.
“The following morning, and while still dark, I packed up my equipment and waited to hear the helicopter come back up the valley. It hovered around me, getting within one meter of the scrub and ground but could not land because of the steepness of the terrain so I climbed onto the skid and clambered into the cockpit as the helicopter hovered above the ground. What a relief! This was an amazing piece of flying to witness and took real skill from the pilot.
“Speaking to the Search and Rescue guys later they confirmed that I had done the right thing. ‘Better a live person at the top of a cliff than a dead one at the bottom’ they said.”