Hunter safe and keen to get back out

SAFE, SOUND: Roy Marston is keen to get back out hunting again.
SAFE, SOUND: Roy Marston is keen to get back out hunting again.

Despite spending three nights sleeping out in the bush, with his hearing aids lost and only a small chocolate bar to eat, 84-year-old Feilding hunter Roy Marston is keen to get back out hunting again.

The retired engineer and keen hunter was reported missing on Monday evening after failing to rendezvous with his hunting companions near Lake Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Search and rescue teams had scoured the area for two days and found no trace of Mr Marston.

But at 7pm yesterday he arrived at a remote Tutaki Valley farmhouse, about 20km across rugged country from the search area.

Speaking at Murchison Hospital last night, Mr Marston said he was relieved to be out of the bush, but would be getting out and hunting again soon.

He looked forward to telling his family he was all right.

The trip had been part of a holiday, hunting for deer with a friend and his children.

He had been in the bush since Sunday, after originally intending a four or five hour hike.

After separating from his fellow hunters in order to increase the odds they would find deer, and climbing to the top of a nearby ridge, he miscalculated his location.

He had expected to follow a creek down to Lake Rotoroa, but instead, and to his confusion, the creek just "kept going and going".

Soon he had travelled so far that he knew he had overshot the lake, and so he climbed another ridge to try and get his bearings.

He quickly became lost, and spent the next several days trying to find his way back to the lake.

It was only Tuesday morning that he saw the reflection of water in the distance, and started moving towards that.

He came to the Tirimea river, saw a sign promising a carpark five and half hours away and followed the signs to that.

He was found by possum hunter Wayne Garret, who made contact with police.

Mr Marston said his biggest worry in the three-day experience was running out of food.

He had tried eating a bag of scroggin, but said it must have been expired because it kept causing him violent stomach pains.

"I had a bag of scroggin which poisoned me, and a little bar of chocolate. All I had to eat in three days was that bar of chocolate."

"I was surprised how far my chocolate last me."

He also thought of trying to bag a deer, so he could eat that, he said.

Each night he made a fire and slept out in the air, only wearing his socks and shoes, underwear, shorts, singlet, shirt, jersey and a woollen hat. He lost his hearing aids during the hike.

He made a bed by laying out twigs and branches, and then placing his pack on top.

"It wasn't very comfortable, but I was usually so tired I still slept.

"I'm pretty fit for my age, I guess. I might not be an Olympic athlete."

He had been hunting since he was 15, but had never been in a situation like this before, he said.

"I have never been forced to camp out overnight."

There were lessons from his experience and he hoped they were of use to other people.

Although he had a compass, the map and radio were with other members of his party.

He had underestimated the terrain and the difficulty of the tramp, he said.

"It seemed such a simple operation for a start. This is how you get trapped."

Mr Marston said he was grateful for all of those involved in searching for him.

He used to work in search and rescue, but said that was in the days before helicopters and other high-tech equipment.

"I had no idea of all the organisations and work that went into finding me."

The Marlborough Express