A three-day search for two missing turkey hunters in the Black Hills ended happily Tuesday afternoon a few miles from Deerfield Reservoir west of Hill City.
A Black Hills National Forest employee found 74-year-old Gary Wipf of Madison and his 83-year-old brother, Clifford, of Rapid City in their pickup near Flag Mountain about four miles north of the reservoir.
For search-and-rescue workers, there's nothing quite like a happy ending.
Weary crews were inspired this afternoon when word spread that Clifford and Gary Wipf had been found, alive and unharmed, in an isolated area of the forest they love to hunt -- with a battery problem in their pickup that left stranded as a spring snowstorm hit.
"It's really nice when to find them alive and healthy, especially given the weather conditions that we've had up here," Tammy Stadel, team leader for Pennington County Search and Rescue said. "We've put in quite a few man hours and covered a lot of ground. And it's always nice to have a happy ending for with this kind of stuff."
High winds, blowing snow and mushy roads complicated the search on the ground and prevented assistance from the air. Volunteer search-and-rescue teams from Pennington, Lawrence and Custer counties and the Pennington County Sheriff's officials led a search that also included other state and federal agencies.
The search centered on rugged forest around Deerfield Reservoir about 20 miles west of Hill City. The Wipfs were seen in that area Sunday but were reported missing after they didn't check in that night.
"Like the experienced outdoorsmen they are, the Wipf brothers hunkered down in their truck and waited out the storm until help arrived."
The Wipfs had snacks and used a small stove to melt snow for water. Relatives said the men were confident they would survive if they stayed with the pickup.
So wisdom of age beat a bad battery, and bad weather.
An ambulance crew from Hill City checked the Wipf brothers, but the men declined medical treatment. After a short reunion with overjoyed family members, they drove home in the pickup together.