LEWISTON – If Steven Wright were a mountain goat, a person may be able to understand the course he took during his first 24 hours lost in the Maine woods.

Investigators from the Maine Warden Service are still analyzing the data in the Global Positioning System device Wright was carrying when he became lost near Tumbledown Mountain in northern Franklin County while hunting deer on Monday.

Wright, of Woodford, Vt., was hunting during the waning days of Maine’s muzzleloader season, which ends today.

He was found Wednesday evening by snowmobiler Donald Eisenhaur in an area closed to hunting.

On Friday, wardens announced they would not charge Wright with any hunting violations.

“There appears to be no credible information that leads us to believe that the intent of this individual was to violate the law,” said Acting Major Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service. “The severe weather and the physical and mental conditions of Mr. Wright during this ordeal were given careful consideration by the Maine Warden Service before making this determination.”

The north side of Number 6 Road near Byron was closed to muzzleloader hunting for deer a half-hour after sunset on Dec. 1. The south side remains open until a half-hour after sunset today.

The Maine Warden Service took possession of Wright’s GPS unit after his rescue, and wardens spent most of Thursday and Friday recovering data from the device.

They marveled at the course Wright took, based on the map they’ve made from the data in the unit, according to Deborah Turcotte, the acting director of public information and education for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Wright told reporters and wardens that he was following deer tracks when he became lost as the first major snow storm of the season was developing on Monday. More than 15 inches of snow fell in the area on Monday and into Tuesday.

GPS units communicate with satellites to help pinpoint a person’s location on the ground, but the satellite signals can be blocked if the unit doesn’t have a clear view of the sky. The units need to be able to communicate with at least three satellites in order to provide an accurate triangulation of its location.

Wright was found 4.1 miles (straight-line distance) north of where his truck was parked, but he wandered many more miles trying to find his way out of the woods. Wardens have not been able to fully calculate how far he wandered before being found.

Wardens have yet to say whether Wright’s unit was malfunctioning, but have said the tracking function in the device appears to have been working correctly. That’s allowed them them to reconstruct most the hunter’s route during the first 24 hours he was lost.

“It really is fascinating data,” Turcotte said Friday. She also said wardens are not sure whether Wright’s GPS lost its signal on occasion because it was inside his frozen clothing.

What the data shows is that Wright hiked up a shoulder of Tumbledown Mountain’s east side, crossed the mountain’s remote alpine pond during a blizzard, meandered in an area near the pond for about an hour afterward, before finding his way to a small stream on the mountain’s north side.

Wright followed the stream bed to a gravel pit before following a logging road north. There is little data from his GPS unit for his second day in the wilderness, but at one point during the first night Wright was a close as a quarter-mile from the road where his pick-up truck was parked and his hunting companions were searching for him.

Wright traveled back and forth up and down the mountain’s steep and wooded slopes, but he also circled downward and around the mountain’s backside, based on the recovered data.

The path he took was almost completely out of the perimeter of the search area established by the wardens and volunteer search and rescue volunteers.

Wright, who remained at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on Friday, was in fair condition, a hospital spokesman said. He was unable to speak to a reporter.

Meanwhile, Eisenhaur, the snowmobiler who rescued Wright, said finding the nearly frozen hunter Wednesday afternoon as darkness fell was “a fluke.”

“I usually ride in the mornings and haven’t been going on that trail because they were plowing it for loggers but since they stopped, I just happened to decide to ride in there,” Eisenhaur said at his home Friday.

That Eisenhaur decided to take an afternoon ride on his new machine wasn’t the only fluke that day. Snowmobilers don’t usually backtrack on the same trail as he decided to do that day, Eisenhaur said. Wright saw Eisenhaur go past but he was in a ditch and Eisenhaur didn’t see Wright until Eisenhaur came back on the same path on his way home.

“I wasn’t looking for him. I just was in the right place at the right time,” Eisenhaur said dismissing the notion he was a hero.

Eisenhaur did say he would like to meet Wright again under better circumstances and just talk with him a bit.

Staff Writer Ann Bryant and Regional Editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report.


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