The search for brothers Gary Wipf, 74, and Clifford Wipf, 83, ended on Tuesday afternoon when they were discovered by a Forest Service employee involved with rescue efforts. The two elderly men were on an annual turkey hunt in South Dakota’s Black Hills when a spring snow storm moved into the area and deposited at least nine inches of snow in less than a day. The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office reported that despite being stranded in blizzard conditions for more than two days, both brothers seem to be doing fine.
“They’re probably sick of each other,” Clifford Wipf’s son, Kim, told the Rapid City Journal. “And, they probably need a shower.”
Family members said that the brothers are avid hunters and have been going on turkey hunts for the past 20 years. Those decades of experience proved to be life-saving when the blizzard hit. The hunters quickly sought shelter within the cab of their pickup truck when the storm rolled in, and stayed inside while waiting for the blizzard to subside. Relatives notified the sheriff’s office when they were unable to reach the brothers by phone.
The search involved Search and Rescue volunteers from two counties, sheriff’s deputies, and Forest Service employees. Despite their enthusiasm, responders found themselves hampered by difficult weather conditions.
“Conditions have deteriorated since rescue attempts began yesterday,” the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office posted on their public Facebook page early Tuesday. “Significant amounts of new snow on top of old snow with drifts several feet deep have limited search efforts to tracked vehicles. Dangerous winds and very low visibility have not allowed for air support to aid in the search.”
The deputies deployed five snowcats and four snowmobiles to assist in the search. The Wipfs’ pickup truck had apparently become trapped in high snow roughly four miles from Deerfield Lake. Rescuers managed to free the vehicle and the hunters were reportedly well enough to drive themselves home after the two days inside the vehicle. With an abundance of food and water, relatives say that the brothers were well equipped during their extended stay.
“They’re at the age where you don’t tell them what to do,” Kim Wipf told the Journal, adding that the hunting tradition will likely continue next year.