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16-year-old South Dakota boy survives 16 hours in forest

November 16, 2012 at 06:53 AM

The Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A 16-year-old South Dakota boy who became lost while hunting and spent 16 hours alone in the Black Hills National Forest says he was scared but still managed to hatch a survival plan.

Austin DuVall, of Rapid City, became lost on Nov. 3 while hunting with his father. His hunter’s instinct kicked in and he chased after a deer, and soon found himself alone and without his bearings, he told the Rapid City Journal ( ).

“First instinct is to chase the deer, and I chased after it, and I didn’t get it,” he said. “And then, I really was lost.” 

He had only his hunting rifle and the clothes he was wearing — tennis shoes, a ball cap and camouflage coveralls. He had no food or water and nothing that could help him find his way to safety. A misstep landed him in a creek, soaking his socks, but he ripped the sleeves off his T-shirt and used them to keep his feet warm.

“Once I realized that no one could hear me, I decided to just sleep and get up in the morning and find safety,” he said.

Austin curled up on a rock and slept through a night during which the temperature dipped into the low 30s, then awoke and relied on skills he learned in a hunter safety course and from Gary Paulsen’s teen-survival story “Hatchet.” He followed a stream to an occupied cabin. The couple there called his parents and cooked him a breakfast of sausage, eggs, bagels and orange juice.

“It’s probably one meal I’ll never forget for the rest of my life,” he said.

Duvall’s disappearance prompted a large ground and aerial search by emergency officials and more than 100 volunteers, but his father said his resourcefulness is what saved him.

“He wasn’t sitting there waiting for someone to come find him,” said his father, Steve DuVall. “We didn’t find him; he found himself.”

Mike Kintigh, regional supervisor for the state Game, Fish & Parks Department, said one or two hunters go missing each year, but rarely for more than 24 hours.

“We’re a little bit unique in the Black Hills because it’s hard to get lost for a very long time, because we’ve got so many roads compared to a wilderness area out in the Rocky Mountains, where you can follow a stream for 100 miles before hitting anything,” Kintigh said. “You can certainly spend a very uncomfortable night in the woods like Austin did.” 

Austin said he hopes others learn from his experience.

“Try to make a plan and stick to it, and try to keep a level head,” he said.


Information from: Rapid City Journal,

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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