Elkhorn Search and Rescue says people need to prepare this time of year


This time of year, conditions can change in a moment’s notice, and there are times when the bravest of souls can get lost in Montana’s great outdoors, that’s when the Elkhorn Search and Rescue Team springs into action.

Even before you leave, team member Jill Oie borrows the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.”

“So water, food, light, first aid, fire and shelter are the big six (items you need). If you’ve got some water, some light, a way to stay warm, you can be comfortable until help arrives,” Oie said.

Another search and rescue team member, Ryan Dahlke, reminds people to dress warmly.

“We’ve rescued, unfortunately, a number of people, they’re wearing tennis shoes, they’re in hunting season, have pair of jeans and a flannel shirt on,” Dahlke said. “They went out that afternoon or at noon to go chase some elk and it was 40 to 45 degrees and sunny. Boy, at night it gets really cold and they get hypothermic really fast.”

The hardest part is fighting the mindset it can’t happen to you.

“’Look I’ve hunted a lot of years, I know where I’m going. I know this area. I have my rifle and I’m set with my pocket knife,’” Dahlke said. “All that goes out the window if you get hurt or if the fog settles in and you get turned around. You need to prepared for staying out wherever you’re going for 24 hours.”

Another tip that could save you is do not be shy about your plans.

“Letting people know where you’re going, leaving a trip itinerary. That doesn’t just mean, hey I’m headed up to Park Lake for the afternoon. It means what trails are you planning on going on, how long are you going to be. If you have a map, leave that on the kitchen table,” Dahlke said.

If you are confused about where you are these suggestions can help.

“Just check where you’re at, looking at your maps, looking at your GPS, looking at the terrain,” Dahlke said. “Keeping an idea about where you’re at, so when you do get lost or you get turned around or something happens, you have a little more confidence about the general area you’re in.
If you find yourself confused and lost, you need to pick a direction and stick with it.

“Often times, one of the best things to do in this area is find a creek and follow it down. Those creeks will inevitability lead to a road. You get to a road, and you’re pretty safe,” Dahlke said.

Even when hope is at its dimmest, Dahlke reassures that in 90 percent of search and rescue operations the person is back home in 24 to 48 hours.