Lost hunter found

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2002

A deer hunter who failed to return from a day of hunting is safe following an ordeal that left him lost in the Great dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge for over 24 hours. Paramedics say Mike Cain, 39, of the 4300 block of Hudgins Road in Virginia Beach survived with only minor cuts and scratches from briars and mild hypothermia. He was evaluated and declined treatment and transportation to a local hospital.

It all began around 6 a.m. Tuesday on a deer stand in the 46 hundred block of Desert Road, near the North Carolina boarder. At some point, Cain left the stand and began walking through the woods, near the wildlife refuge. He went on to say that at approximately 2 p.m. he realized that he was lost. Clouds hid the sun, the one reference point that could have guided him to safety. Instead Cain wandered further and further into the dense forest.

After dark, friends discovered he had not returned to his pickup at a nearby home and started the search and shortly before 7:30 p.m. called Suffolk’s 9-11 Center for help. Suffolk Police determined the need and alerted Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s Search and Rescue Team. Some 50 trained searchers, some with search dogs combed the thick underbrush for the lost hunter.

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Trained SAR (search and rescue) teams, some from as far away as Fairfax, answered the call for help, groups such as Great Atlantic Search Dogs, the 43rd SAR attached to The Chesapeake Sheriff’s office, Tidewater Search and Rescue, Dogs East, and Trackers SARDI. Additional help came from WAVY TV’s Chopper 10, the Department of the Interior, and the United States Coast Guard. Nansemond-Suffolk Rescue Squad provided warm beverages and snacks for the searchers.

As the temperatures dipped to 39 degrees, teams methodically looked for the overdue sportsman. The first real break came around 4:15 a.m. when a Coast Guard helicopter spotted what appeared to be a lone person waving a small flashlight near West Ditch in the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge. At 6:30 a.m., ground crews confirmed the person seen was a cold and wet Mike Cain, over 2 miles from where he started. Finally, the nightmare ended at 7:30 a.m. Following the all clear signal by paramedics, he was reunited with family and friends waiting at a near-by home.

What was most likely the longest night of Mike Cain’s 39 years was over, but not until he returned to the search team’s base camp to thank each person present that contributed to his safe return.