Failure to call prompts search for hunter

Posted Nov. 27, 2009, at 7:11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:09 p.m.

TBR 11 WELS, Maine — To Russ Birch, it was probably a lesson learned: When you plan a nightly check-in call with your girlfriend, you stick with the plan.

The Durham resident was hunting about 10 miles from his camp off B Pond Road in Katahdin Iron Works Township near Route 11 early Friday afternoon when he found three Maine game wardens who were searching for him, said Sgt. Bill Chandler of the Maine Warden Service.

As part of his solo hunting trip, Birch had arranged with his girlfriend that he would telephone her every night from his camp to assure her that he was all right. But he apparently didn’t call on Thursday night, Chandler said.

“She was concerned something could have happened to him,” Chandler said Friday. “She felt that he was overdue and unaccounted for.”

The girlfriend telephoned authorities at about 7:45 a.m. Friday. The wardens checked on Birch’s condition, fearing him lost or possibly hurt, and found that he was fine, Chandler said.

The wardens found no harm in the girlfriend making the call, Chandler said. Quite the reverse: They would much rather get a call when nothing’s wrong than not get a call when something is wrong.

“You never know what can happen. He could have been lost, could have been hurt,” Chandler said. “If somebody is unaccounted for, we want to know about it.”

Hunters and other outdoorsmen who are out in small groups or alone should always take precautions against accident or injury, Chandler said, including:

— Making a regular “check-in call” or other plan with someone at home to help prevent their going missing for several hours or days after a mishap.

— Leaving with friends or family a detailed account of exactly where they will be during their trip and for exactly how long.

“We didn’t have a starting point; he [Birch] didn’t leave a good location of where he was hunting,” Chandler said. “If something bad had happened to him, we had no means of locating him immediately.”

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