HUNTER RESCUEWednesday, 9 a.m.: Jack Chapman leaves his campsite near Holland PondWednesday, 10 p.m.: Chapman’s companions notify police when Chapman fails to returnThursday: New England K9 team joins the search for ChapmanSaturday: The hunters Chapman ta
It’s rare that a search that goes on for four days has a happy ending. This weekend saw one of those happy resolutions when hunter Jack Chapman, 72, was found on the Vermont-Canada border.
His rescue was in part due to the sharp noses of the rescue dogs of New England K9, said Doreen Michalak of Peterborough, a handler for New England K9 who assisted with the search.
“The longer searches are harder, and most of the time, they don’t have a good outcome,” said Michalak. “It was a very euphoric moment, when we got the news that he’d been found. Someone was looking after this guy.”
Michalak and Donna Larson of New Ipswich, along with their dogs, Djenga and Haven, were among the more than a dozen members of New England K9 dispatched Thursday. Chapman, of Brattleboro, Vermont, didn’t return to his campsite after leaving early on Wednesday to hunt in the area near Holland Pond in Vermont, and hadn’t returned by that night.
For three days, search teams from all over the state, including Vermont State Police Search and Rescue, New England K9, Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team, Vermont KSAR, Rescue Inc., Vermont Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Border Patrol searched for Chapman, but to no avail.
Then, the search crews got a tip that clued them in to the fact that their search area was about two and a half miles off – a huge amount when dealing with the wild and remote area they were searching in.
A fellow hunter notified police that he had seen Chapman on the day he’d gone missing, seemingly a little confused but refusing a ride out of the woods.
The search shifted and began anew. And with the new area, the dogs of New England K9 began to find some clues.
It started, said Michalak, with a bootprint.
It was fairly fresh, but searchers weren’t sure whether it belonged to Chapman or to another hunter in the area. But the dogs showed interest in the scent trail, so searchers followed the trail to a beaver pond.
“That’s where it gets amazing,” said Michalak.
As one of New England K9’s handlers, Jennifer Vaughan and her golden retriever Olive were walking across a beaver dam on the pond, Olive suddenly jumped in the swampy water, went out a ways, and then came back, signaling to Vaughan that she had found something. And indeed, she had – Chapman’s rifle. The first clear sign in days that searchers were headed in the right direction.
“It’s hard, when a search goes on so long, to stay motivated and excited,” said Michalak. “But once that rifle was found, it was electric. There wasn’t a person that turned down that assignment to keep going.”
And they were able to keep going – for the first time in the search into the nighttime hours, as the rifle had been recovered late in the day on Saturday.
And before the search was called off for the night, handlers and their dogs made one last crucial discovery – an access road that traveled in the opposite direction from the search area.
The following morning, on Sunday, the Vermont State Police checked the access road and found Chapman in the middle of a field around 1 p.m. He was taken to the North Country Hospital in Newport, Vermont.
But the New England K9 team has little time to rest on their laurels, said Michalak. By Monday afternoon, they were headed out again, this time for another lost hunter in Rutland, Vermont.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or email@example.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.