Oamaru hunter Les Butcher in Dunedin Hospital yesterday.
Photo by Peter McIntosh.
If Les Butcher had been carrying a pen while hunting, he
would have written his will last Wednesday night.
Mr Butcher (52) was stranded in a creek in dense bush with a
broken leg for two nights near Mt Misery before being found
by Waitaki District Search and Rescue.
Yesterday, after a leg operation and nearly a week in Dunedin
Hospital, he said there had been no doubt in his mind that he
would not make it out alive.
''My first thought was, I'm screwed. I knew I was screwed.''
Mr Butcher, a freezing worker, had been hunting at Shepherds
Creek, inland from Waianakarua, many times. Last Tuesday was
''perfect hunting weather'' and it was a just a case of ''the
slippery rock that caught me by surprise''.
He stepped out on a rock platform, slipped and fell.
He could see his left foot pointing in the wrong direction
and knew he was in trouble.
''So, I just lay there for a couple of minutes and gathered
everything up. I had a wee chat with the dog [Maise]. I just
pulled myself along the rock a bit further to where there was
a hollow and dragged myself into that.''
He fired the last of his rifle rounds and used his emergency
blanket to keep him warm during Tuesday night's heavy frost
and Wednesday night's southerly storm. He also had some fruit
and a strobe light.
Maise left that first day after he jokingly asked her to go
find some help.
''She's a good girl. I had a couple of lonely nights without
her, but I'm glad she went where she did.''
Maise was waiting beside his ute when Mr Butcher's brother
Don arrived on Wednesday to search for him after his failure
to make contact as planned.
After spending two hours in the bush looking for his brother,
Don Butcher alerted Search and Rescue, and a helicopter and
35 people in teams from Oamaru, Omarama and Dunedin went
Several searchers passed only 100m from Mr Butcher on
Wednesday, but the bush was too thick and the waterfall too
Mr Butcher said he was a reasonably optimistic man, but by
Wednesday night he had given up hope of being found.
''If I had a pen, I would have written a will.''
At 6am on Thursday, however, rescuers in the helicopter
spotted him as he waved his torch on the silver emergency
If his leg healed well, he would most definitely hunt again,
he said, but he would always carry an emergency locator
''Take one of those bloody beacons and if you can't afford
one of those, you have got to tell someone where you are
going and your intentions.
''That is what did save my life in the end.''