BOWDOIN COLLEGE GRANT, Maine — A Vermont hunter spent a cold night Wednesday in the Moosehead Lake region before he stumbled across a wood-cutting operation Thursday morning where he placed a call to his hunting party.
Brad Howarth, 47, of Athens, Vt., was in good condition when he arrived back with his friends at the Greenwood Motel on Rockwood Road around 10 a.m.
Wardens, who weren’t notified about the lost hunter until 5:30 a.m. Thursday, initiated a ground search of the Elephant Mountain and Katahdin Iron Works region and Warden Service pilot Charles Later searched from the air, according to Sgt. Kevin Adam of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The search was the department’s 23rd search and rescue for hunters this year, Adam said.
“A lot of my concerns was that the moon was so bright that you could walk last night without a light, and sure enough, that’s what he did; luckily he did stay on the road,” Adam said. Had Howarth turned in a different direction he would have been miles and miles away, he said. The hunters also should have notified the Warden Service of the lost hunter on Wednesday.
During the search, wardens drove by Howarth, who had left the Katahdin Iron Works Road and had fallen asleep beneath a large tree, Adam said. “We all drove by him because apparently he didn’t hear the vehicles coming down the road,” he said.
Howarth and two friends from Vermont and another from New Hampshire had walked to the B-52 crash site on Elephant Mountain at about 7 a.m. Wednesday, Adam said. The location holds the remnants of a B-52 Stratofortress that crashed and killed seven servicemen in January 1963.
From there, the hunters, who carried walkie-talkies, left to hunt deer in the region. Adam said the men remained in contact with one another throughout the day with the walkie-talkies. In the afternoon, Howarth radioed that he saw a deer and told his partners he was tracking the deer that was headed in their direction. Adam said the partners set up waiting for the deer but never saw the animal or Howarth. Because of that, they figured Howarth was on the opposite side of the mountain while Howarth thought he was on the south side of the mountain, he said.
Eventually, Howarth reached Campsite 1 by Horseshoe Pond at about 5:30 p.m. and he radioed his location to his friends, Adam said. His partners told Howarth to remain at the campground until they could determine where the campground was located, he said. The three men returned to their motel room to try to find out where the campsite was and then drove around the region until midnight without finding Howarth, he said. They waited until 5:30 a.m. to notify wardens because they thought they could find him, they reportedly told Adam.
“A quick call and the game wardens would have known where that was and we would have had him last night,” Adam said.
Howarth had started a fire and had remained at the campsite until about 2 a.m. when he decided to walk a logging road ultimately reaching the intersection of KI Road and Little Lyford Pond Road. Adam said Howarth turned correctly on the KI road to head toward Greenville.
Adam said Howarth walked for a couple of hours and then got tired, went off the road Thursday morning and hunkered down under a tree where he fell asleep.
In the meantime, five game wardens searched the ground, including the campsite where it was determined Howarth had been. Later they flew over the region and landed on some of the ponds to check camps in the area, thinking Howarth might have found one of them.
After waking from his nap at about 8:30 a.m. Howarth proceeded to walk until he reached a wood-cutting operation on Plum Creek land, according to the warden.
Howarth was dressed warmly enough for the weather, he had a fire, and he had food and soda, Adam said.
When hunters realize they are lost and they find a road or a campsite, they should remain there until help arrives, according to Adam. “If you’re on a road that we can drive, somebody is going to find you. Don’t just start walking and taking side roads because that’s how you get in trouble.”