Two conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently helped rescue a lost hunter in Mille Lacs County.
Regional Training Officer (RTO) Alex Gutierrez was heading home on Nov. 7 when Minnesota State Patrol dispatch in Brainerd mentioned there was a lost hunter.
While on his way to assist with the search, Gutierrez came across what he thought was a car/deer accident near Hillman, Minn. It turned out to be Kenneth Dziewczynski of Garrison, the distraught, elderly father of the missing hunter, Brian Dziewczynski, 54, of Inver Grove Heights.
“The father said his son had called him at approximately 5:30 p.m. saying he had shot a deer and was going to recover it with his ATV,” said Gutierrez. “When the father had not heard from his son by 10 p.m., he drove to his son’s deer camp only to find it empty. So the father called 911.”
RTO Bruce Lawrence was also on his way home when he heard the call about a lost hunter. He joined the search and had two ATVs with him.
A state trooper and Mille Lacs County deputy arrived at the scene and were advised they were actually in Morrison County. Several Morrison County deputies joined the group.
State Patrol dispatch was able to approximate the missing hunter’s location by “pinging” his cell phone. When cell phones are turned on, they emit a signal. Cell phone companies can "ping" a cell phone and discover the nearest tower the signal is coming from. Police and law enforcement use this method regularly to track down missing persons. A ping was picked up seven miles northwest of the responders’ location.
Gutierrez and Lawrence unloaded the ATVs and began searching the 200-acre property where the deer camp was located.
After two hours, they came across the mud covered hunter who was heading back to camp on his ATV.
“Mr. Dziewczynski had recovered his deer and said he had rolled his ATV while heading back to camp, pinning a leg and an arm under the weight of the ATV,” Gutierrez said. “He was glad to see us.”
Dziewczynski said it took him nearly three hours to dig himself out from underneath the ATV, only suffering some minor injuries. The average ATV weighs 500 to 800 pounds.
“Bottom line, if Mr. Dziewczynski had rolled the ATV on a hard, packed trail he would have been up against extreme odds of survival,” said Lawrence. “The swampy, muddy area where he ended up allowed him to dig his way out from under a large ATV. He’s a very lucky man.”
Gutierrez and Lawrence said there are a number of lessons to be learned from the incident:
Always wear ATV safety gear – helmet, goggles, gloves, boots, etc.
Leave a hunting trip plan or note, or notify someone of location when hunting/recovering an animal.
Carry a reliable mode of communication, i.e., cell phone, walkie talkie, etc.
Be prepared for the unexpected by carrying a survival kit including food, water, matches, compass, flashlight, first aid kit, shelter, etc. If lost, don’t panic; stay calm, collect thoughts.
Safety is always the priority when operating an ATV – hunting, trail riding, working/chores.
Take an ATV safety course that covers this life saving information and much more at www.mndnr.gov.