My name is Oscar Johnson. I am a Certified Hunter-Ed instructor and remember, as a kid, reading each month the “This happened to me” articles in my dad’s Outdoor Life magazines. Me being me, I thought I’d never have a story to qualify for that column. That certainly changed on the eve of Oct. 31, 2014.
Hunting companion Delos Reno and I set up camp for the impending elk opener the next day. Our other hunting friend, Steve from Tacoma, showed up to set up his camp. It was 4:30 p.m. and I decided I had a couple hours of legal hunting time left for deer season. Thought I’d walk down the road, drop into the woods and be back by dark. I had a t-shirt, jeans, the outer shell of my jacket, 30-0-6 rifle and six bullets.
Shortly into my hunt, I spot a deer, a buck—is he legal? Can’t tell. I admit I stayed in the woods a long time stalking that deer, but in my defense could still see light in the ridge tops. As I hurriedly try to make a rapid exit from the forest, I start running because everyone who knows me knows I do not want to be in the woods at night!
It’s getting so dark, and I become entangled in something. I fall to the ground and feel excruciating pain from my knee. I lay there for a moment to gather myself. I try to stand, and the pain is like something from another world. Not only that, it’s so dark in that forest. I mean really dark. I feel eyeballs upon me. So I make the decision to fire my three shots for help. I lay excitedly for my impending rescue. Delos? Steve? Where are you? But to my dismay, nothing. I try standing again—only to fall, so I shoot off my other three bullets. I’m sure someone will hear. I yell—nothing. I whistle—nothing. Dang, it’s starting to get chilly. I must get out of here. I stand and fall on that knee again. Every time I fall, I hit that knee. I must have lost consciousness—it’s so cold—I’m so cold.
At approximately 4:30 a.m. I remember seeing lights above me. I yell “Help!” To my delight I hear, “We are coming to get you.” As the first light reaches me, I hear, “Hi, I’m Tim. I’m a deputy with Klickitat County Sheriff’s office.” The next light to reach me says, “Hi, I’m Rick from Klickitat County Search and Rescue.” I was sure glad to see them.
Rick said, “Are you hurt?” I said only my knee. As he gave me water and blankets to warm me, I realized Rick was Dr. Sexton from KVH. I have never wanted to kiss a man before, but I wanted to kiss both of them!
My sincere heartfelt gratitude to everyone involved in my rescue—Klickitat County Sheriff’s office, Dispatch Center, and Search and Rescue. And thank you to my hunting partners Delos and Steve for not giving up and knowing when to call for help.
We teach this to our students in Hunter’s Ed: plan your hunt, know your plan, and always let someone know where you will be and when you’ll return. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are because anything can happen so always go into the woods prepared.