MADRID – Darkness was not far off Wednesday as Donald Eisenhaur headed home after an afternoon on his snowmobile. Slicing back over trails he had cut earlier in the day, he thought he spotted an animal standing ahead of him.

“I thought it was a moose,” the 68-year-old Eisenhaur said. “Then as I got closer, I could see the orange vest and I knew who it was.”

It was lost hunter Steven Wright, 53, slouched on the trail ahead of him. The late-afternoon discovery brought a halt to a two-day search, and in most opinions, saved the life of the missing Vermont man.

“He was kneeling with his head down. He still had his gun with him,” Eisenhaur said. “The way he looked, it wouldn’t have been good for him to be out there much longer. He was able to speak to me somewhat, though it was limited. He was able to tell me who he was, anyway.”

Finding the hunter was mostly a happy fluke. Eisenhaur had been out on his new snowmobile for two hours and was headed home when he passed through the area near an unused logging road, roughly 15 miles from Route 4 at the backside of Jackson Mountain.

It was approximately 3:45 p.m., less than a half-hour from nightfall. Had he taken a different route back or passed through the area minutes earlier, Eisenhaur said, he might never have seen Wright.

“He heard the snowmobile, and he crawled up out of a gully,” Eisenhaur said. “He had been in water. I could see that his footprints had already filled with water.”

One of Wright’s hands was bare, Eisenhaur said.

Finding the hunter proved to be the easy part. The next order of business was loading the ailing man onto the snow machine and finding a place where he could call for help.

“I had to cradle him in front of me,” Eisenhaur said. “I kept him between my arms but it was hard for me to tell how he was doing. He was slumped over the (handlebars). There were a couple tricky areas to get through.”

Dazed and weak, Wright was jostled a few times into the snowmobile’s kill button, causing the engine to stall. Each time, Eisenhaur restarted the snowmobile, repositioned Wright, and kept driving, looking for an area where he could make a call on his cell phone.

If that wasn’t enough, the snowmobiler lost his glasses somewhere along the way.

Miles away, his wife Kay was at their Madrid home. She had instructed her husband to keep his eyes open for the lost hunter earlier in the day, not really expecting that he would find the man. When the call came in, it was hard to understand what her husband was saying.

“He had to get to a high hill so he could call me. There was a lot of static,” Kay Eisenhaur said. “He said, ‘Listen to me. I found the lost hunter. Call 911 and have someone meet me.’ “

Donald Eisenhaur estimates he carried Wright roughly 15 miles from where he was found to an area near his home. He backtracked over the trails he had cut earlier in the day rather than risk traveling new terrain.

When he was finally out of the woods, rescuers were waiting. Wright was conscious as he was helped into an ambulance. He was even alert enough to joke with the people who had come for him.

“He was still able to do some things on his own. He was still able to talk,” Eisenhaur said. “In fact, I think he asked the ambulance driver if they had any beer back there.”

Eisenhaur kept Wright’s muzzleloader until game wardens came later in the day to retrieve it. Hours after the gun was taken inside, Eisenhaur said, it was still frozen.

The Eisenhaurs answered questions from investigators and from the media until things started to quiet at home. Donald Eisenhaur was modest about his part in ending the search.

“It wasn’t like I was out looking for a lost hunter,” he said. “I was just in the right place at the right time. I hope he’s OK; that’s all that matters.”

His wife was a little more gushing about it all.

“I was just beside myself,” she said. “I’m very proud of him.”

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