Department of Natural Resources
Aug. 30, 2019
A 78-year-old man from southeast Michigan became lost in the woods in Otsego County on day two of northern Michigan’s annual elk hunt. Within 90 minutes of receiving the call, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer located the man in good condition.
The man had been helping his son (who had an elk tag) scout for elk Wednesday evening when he became lost as the sun began to set and it started to rain. The man’s son notified the DNR’s Wildlife Division that his father was missing, and the call was relayed to conservation officers working the elk hunt.
Conservation Officer Tim Rosochacki met the man’s son and DNR Wildlife staff, Di Ann Staniulis and Miranda Millikin, who were looking for the elk hunter’s father. The son provided Rosochacki with more details about his father and said the pair were scouting for elk on state land known as Green Timbers, located north of Vanderbilt on the edge of the Pigeon River Country.
Green Timbers is a large, walk-in-only parcel frequented by elk. Rosochacki used cellphone technology to track the missing man’s cellphone GPS coordinates to a wooded section about a mile from where he was last seen.
“Green Timbers has big, rolling hills that could easily become confusing to anybody who is unfamiliar with the area,” Rosochacki said. “Everything looks very similar and there are very few land indicators.”
Rosochacki drove the area in his patrol truck, using sirens and the loud speaker. Around 10:30 p.m., after searching for half an hour, the officer saw light shining from the man’s cellphone in the woods. He then hiked about 200 yards into the woods to the man, who appeared healthy and in good spirits.
“We strategically place conservation officers to support special events, such as the elk hunt, because these hunts bring more people to the area and many might not be familiar with the landscape,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “You also never know when a medical emergency or another type of incident can happen – we want to make sure we are staffed and prepared. Our officers ensure that everyone stays safe and enjoys a fair hunt. I’m happy to hear that this man was able to continue hunting with his son. Hopefully, they take home an elk.”
Thousands of applicants apply every year for an elk tag. This season, 200 Michigan residents received tags. As of Thursday night, 33 elk have been taken. Today marks the end of August’s elk hunt period. Additional elk hunts will occur in September and December.
DNR wildlife staff, Otsego County Central Dispatch, Michigan State Police and the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the search.
Rosochacki has been a conservation officer for more than five years and patrols Cheboygan County.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. These officers undergo extensive search and rescue training to locate missing persons and have specialized equipment to navigate rural and difficult terrain. Learn more at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.