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Missing hunter found dead

Gordon McGaw's body was found just after noon Friday. He had been missing since Wednesday night, when he failed to return to his Broadwater County home from a day of hunting. 

After being missing since Wednesday night, Gordon McGaw’s body was found by search and rescue personnel Friday just after noon.

McGaw’s body was discovered near Winston on Spokane Creek in a block management hunting area. His truck was located parked at the block management unit Friday morning. His body was found about 1,000 yards northwest of his vehicle, said Broadwater County Sheriff Brenda Ludwig.

The cause of death is still under investigation and pending an autopsy. However, Ludwig said it is not suspicious in nature.

“Our hearts go out to the family,” she said. “This is unfortunate and tragic.”

McGaw, 54, was reported missing on Thursday by his wife after he went hunting in the Elkhorns Wednesday and failed to return home. Ludwig described him as an avid hunter and outdoorsman.

Another search-and-rescue effort resolved itself Friday after crews discovered it was a false alarm.

The saga started with a hunting party in Mortimer Gulch near Gibson Dam. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said a hunting party took horses into a Forest Service cabin for a base camp in the area, then set off for a smaller “spike” camp. About 8:30 p.m. Thursday, someone at the spike camp activated a “SPOT” emergency tracking device, which typically means someone has a medical emergency. It turns out either the tracking device was accidentally activated or it sent off an errant signal. Either way, rescuers discovered everyone is the party was fine, according to an account of the search emailed out by Dutton on Friday afternoon.

Because of the assumed medical nature of the call, Dutton said they tried to send two helicopters — one from the Great Falls hospital and one from Kalispell — but neither was able to fly.

“The reason we went to medical helicopters is they have the ability to use night vision goggles; they can fly at night, find a landing zone, set down, walk over and find the person, then leave,” Dutton said. “But last night, one couldn’t fly because of fog — visibility was an issue — and the other got in the air but had to return; I think it was because of the wind.”

About 7 a.m. Friday, a crew of 18 people hiked into the backcountry in search of the hunting party. They traveled about 8 miles to the spike camp to confirm everyone was fine. A helicopter was able to give them a ride out.

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