ROUTT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A hunter who became lost in Routt County was found safely after a medical helicopter searched an area in the opposite direction of where the hunter was believed to be. The crew used night vision when they found the hunter in the Elkhead Creek drainage north of Hayden on Saturday night.

The hunter was part of an outfitter group that allowed hunting on private land. He was expected to return before sunset.

He climbed the ridge to get cell service and called the group to say he was lost Saturday afternoon. The group told him to hike back south, but he, instead, went farther north.

The Routt County Search and Rescue team says the wind in the area reached 50 mph at times. As a ground team prepared to look for him south of his last known location, the helicopter ventured a mile north and located him at 11:30 p.m.

“A mile doesn’t sound like far, but in that terrain, it’s extremely isolated and rugged,” said Jay Bowman, the President of the Routt County Search and Rescue.

The man was reunited with friends at around midnight and reportedly did not need medical attention.

Because the hunter expected to return before nightfall, he was not equipped to overnight in the wilderness, Bowman said. He said his rescuers have been on several recent calls involving people who planned on short outings but did not stick to their plans.

“Know that things can change rapidly. You have to be prepared to stay all night,” Bowman said. “If we hadn’t gotten to them, the end result would not have been good.”

The fact a helicopter expanded its search area Saturday night and found the elk hunter was a stroke of good fortune, he added.

“Otherwise, we would not have found him last night. We would be out there today.”

Danielle Chavira