Bighorn Mountains

The Bighorn Mountains, its canyons and surrounding plains offer a visual feast for hunters.

A 61-year-old Kansas man hunting Monday in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming split off from his hunting group.

His plan was to head west from the Elephant Foot toward the Black Mountain Lookout area and then make his way toward his vehicle parked near Steamboat Rock.

Then, thick fog set in.

By the time searchers on horseback found the man two days later, he was in the Wolf Creek drainage east of where he started.

The man, identified as Rudy Miller, had only a jacket, blue jeans and hiking boots, before he went missing. Harsh weather and his medical history “were a serious concern for the search teams,” according to the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office.

The multi-day search by several agencies was hampered by poor weather including rain, snow, and lingering fog.

"The fog was very thick," said Lt. Levi Dominguez of the Sheridan County Sheriff's Office. "It would clear up briefly and then it would roll back in to where it was, you know, 50 feet visibility at times, so it made it very challenging for our search crews."

With visibility so limited, Dominguez said Miller and the various search parties could have crossed paths at some point without knowing it. It appears Miller got disoriented in the fog, Dominguez said.

Miller separated from his hunting group Monday at about 4 p.m. The group called the sheriff’s office at about 9:49 p.m. after reaching the vehicle, which was parked near Steamboat Rock off Highway 14, according to the sheriff's office. 

Temperatures in the area dipped to the upper-20s and low 30s, Dominguez said. 

Searchers looked throughout the night Monday after Miller was initially reported missing, but were challenged early on by rain, snow and fog.

Tuesday a Wyoming National Guard helicopter was requested to join the search but weather prevented it from taking off in Cheyenne.

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Sheridan County, Johnson County and Big Horn County Search and Rescue teams contributed about 36 people to help in the search Tuesday, which continued despite thick fog, rain and snow.

A Wyoming National Guard helicopter again tried to fly the area Wednesday but returned to the Sheridan County airport because of weather. Wednesday’s search included about 50 people on foot and on horseback from Sheridan County, Big Horn County Search and Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service and the Wyoming National Guard.

Wednesday morning at about 11:20 a.m. a hunter thought he spotted Miller in the Sibley Creek area, but he was prevented from reaching him by the terrain and weather.

From there, search crews on horseback followed fresh footprints and eventually reached Miller, who spoke with them before he was taken to Sheridan Memorial Hospital where he was evaluated for “precautionary measures,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Miller was found by rescuers at about 5:22 p.m. Wednesday, about one mile west of the forest service boundary in the Wolf Creek drainage. It's possible he spent much of his time in the area where the hunter spotted him Wednesday.

"Where he was found was directly east from where he was last seen down a drainage, down the face of the mountain," Dominguez said. "We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, especially with the conditions that the search crews were faced with. The weather and the elements were definitely a challenge for them."