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Bill and his comrade

Rescue Profile: Bill and his comrade
Case #: 11936


bill in hunting gear


Bill, current President of Ruby Valley Search and Rescue and a "retired" Army pilot, is an avid hunter and fisherman. Needless to say, Bill spends a lot of time outdoors; he jokingly states he knows most trees on a first name basis.

Several years ago, Bill developed a preparedness plan, which included having a SPOT device. He even developed a messaging system for friends and family on his contact list: (1) Check In message in the morning and evening to family and friends, (2) Check In messages back to back to let them know he got an elk, and (3) Check In messages back to back to let everyone know that he was headed out of the backcountry.


bill's remote cabin

As usual, Bill had his SPOT device with him on a recent elk hunting trip in Beaverhead National Forest, Montana. Having a SPOT device was especially important because the location was 20 miles from the nearest paved road and 40+ miles from cell coverage, with no other hunters or personnel within 800 to 1000 square miles.

Around mid-afternoon, Bill and his friend headed out on horseback after completing a communications check. However, Bill's friend failed to mention he experienced battery issues with his radio-GPS and the two went their separate ways. Right before dark, Bill reached out to his friend. Nothing.

Four hours later, Bill's friend still had failed to return to the cabin. As the night grew darker, Bill became more concerned about his friend's safety, as the area was home to bears, mountain lions, and wolves. Bill honked his pickup truck's horn numerous times and fired three shots in the air, trying to direct his friend back to the cabin with no results.

At 10 p.m., Bill decided that he needed assistance and activated the S.O.S. on his SPOT device. Within minutes, GEOS contacted Bill's two emergency contacts, as well as the Beaverhead County Sheriff's office. One of his emergency contacts called the uniformed MT FWP Warden responsible for the area, who in turn forwarded the latitude and longitude to the local warden. Simultaneously, GEOS was constantly on the phone with his daughter and friend searching for any information they could provide.

Even though the location was remote and the roads were covered in snow, the warden and SAR personnel arrived at the cabin within hours. Luckily, the situation was quickly resolved with no injuries to report.

Bill thinks GEOS' response was great, "They kept my emergency contacts informed and also closed out with each when the issue was resolved."

Lessons Bill would like to share:

  • Be careful and thoughtful about who is on the help list. Someone hundreds of miles away is helpless to gather resources.
  • The relatively inexpensive insurance through SPOT is a no-brainer, I have carried it for several years.
  • As usual, I always let someone know where I am going to be. While at the cabin I leave a note on the table when hunting alone that describes the general area I will be hunting, fishing or riding.
  • Remember, most Search and Rescue units are volunteers; they are not paid and generally work on donations. Help where you can.