PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Personal locator beacon a must

EMMA BROWN and HAYLEY GASTMEIER

A 64-year-old hunter who lost his way in the Tararua Range was rescued after 19 hours in the bush, with the deer he’d shot still by his side.

Neville Clarke was found by Wairarapa Search and Rescue volunteers in the foothills west of Carterton just before 5am yesterday.

The Manawatu man had shot the deer near Mt Sayer, known as Mt Dick, and had carried the yearling as he tried to navigate his way to safety.

Due to poor visibility Clarke made a calculated decision to find his way out of the range by using the Kaipaitangata Stream.

He called his brother-in-law, Masterton’s Robin Britt, to tell him he had changed his route.

But while making his way down to the stream, his knee gave out, making it difficult to continue.

As darkness descended, Clarke decided to wait to be found.

“It wasn’t worth it,” he said of continuing his journey. “I had plenty of wet weather gear and was warm enough.”

With 40 years of experience in the bush, he knew what to do.

But Senior Constable Pete Cunningham, who oversaw the rescue effort, said Clarke had failed to take a personal locator beacon.

At about 9pm, Wairarapa Land Search and Rescue deployed two teams of three to head into the range, and seven volunteers waited at base.

Wairarapa LandSAR chairman Murray Johnston said it got dark and Clarke still hadn’t emerged, so his friend confirmed his vehicle was still in the car park and called police, who alerted LandSAR.

Cunningham said hunters and trampers needed to be prepared with a personal locator beacon.

“Anyone going out by themselves needs to carry one.

“You don’t need to buy one, they can be hired.”

He said having a personal locator beacon could make all the difference, ensuring a quick and successful search mission.

Clarke said he wanted to thank the volunteers, the police, and his brother-in-law for their efforts.

“The work those guys do is amazing – especially the volunteers.

“They’ve done an awesome job. I can’t thank them enough.”

Clarke is savouring next week when he will enjoy the venison he worked so hard to keep.