The hunter who was reported missing on Cheat Mountain last month said he is grateful for everyone who helped search the woods for him.
Dave Bickel, 57, of Shaffer's Run was hunting with friends on Cheat Mountain above Huttonsville on Sept. 24 when he became separated from the group and was reported missing.
Bickel recently told The Inter-Mountain the Sept. 24 excursion was his first bear hunting trip. After losing contact with the other hunters in the afternoon, he walked through the woods all that night, resting periodically.
"I thank God for watching out for me," Bickel said. "He took care of me."
Bickel said he found a creek the next morning and was able to follow it out of the woods until he came to a residence. He then was given a ride back to his home.
"I was dehydrated and my legs hurt but I never felt as though I was lost," Bickel said.
The rescue operation, involving a coordinated search in the last known area where Bickel was seen, included state Division of Natural Resources representatives, area fire department personnel, the West Virginia State Police, Pocahontas County Search & Rescue, the American Red Cross, and the Randolph County EMS, and was overseen by the Randolph County Sheriff's Office. The search extended into the morning hours of Sept. 25, officials said.
Bickel told The Inter-Mountain he would also like to thank the many hunters and their families who helped in the search. He said these men and women combed the mountain side searching for him all day and on throughout the evening. Bickel also wants to acknowledge a woman who brought food and supplies to the first responders on site.
The U.S. Forest Service has suggestions for safe hunting and to avoid becoming lost while hunting:
Tell someone close to you where you are going to hunt and your anticipated return time and be familiar with the area in which you plan to hunt.
Dress properly and be prepared for the worst possible conditions. This can include bringing heavier clothes (dressing in layers) or a spare set of dry clothes along with wearing bright colors to increase your visibility.
Carry with you a first aid kit, battery powered flashlight, cellular phone, water and food stipends. These can be beneficial in case you do become lost in the forest.
For more information and hunting tips go to www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE-DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5330495.pdf