A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew medevacs a patient from Wrangell to Sitka, Alaska, July 17, 2018. (Courtesy photo | Stephen Prysunka)

A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew medevacs a patient from Wrangell to Sitka, Alaska, July 17, 2018. (Courtesy photo | Stephen Prysunka)

Coast Guard rescues overdue Hoonah hunters

Responders advise using GPS, taking survival gear when hunting

Two hunters are safe after getting stranded near Hoonah on Sunday, according to authorities.

At about 7:15 p.m. Sunday, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Juneau personnel got a call that two hunters were about six hours overdue from a trip near Hoonah. The men were identified as 35-year-old Levi Mills and 34-year-old Ian Smith, both of Hoonah, according to an email from Alaska State Troopers Public Information Officer Megan Peters.

Lt. Brian Dykens, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard, said the two hunters hadn’t returned to their parked vehicle and they were believed to have left their survival gear in the car. All they had were regular clothing and their weapons, Dykens said. Dykens said it wasn’t clear what happened to the men to make them overdue.

Coast Guard personnel sent an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Sitka, Dykens said, to look for the men. Peters said a Hoonah-based Alaska Wildlife Trooper helped guide the helicopter to the general area where the hunters were believed to be. The teamwork worked, as the helicopter found the men in about 10 minutes, Dykens said.

The City of Hoonah volunteer fire department also assisted in the search, according to a tweet from the U.S. Coast Guard Alaska.

The men were hoisted up into the helicopter and taken to the Hoonah unharmed, Dykens said.

Dykens said there are two standard safety messages the Coast Guard has for people after this. First, it’s a good idea to keep something other than a cellphone with you — a GPS device or locating beacon of some sort. Secondly, it’s important to have a plan and to notify others of your plan. In this case, the two hunters had told somebody when they were supposed to return, Dykens said, and the person or people who were notified called authorities.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to prepare for the worst even if you’re just going on a routine excursion, Dykens said.

“This one turned out well, but you always like to have that survival gear with you,” Dykens said.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

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