Hunter survives frigid night in woods near Enid

Published 2:02 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

By Mike Suriani

WREG Memphis

A deer hunter in Panola County is lucky to be alive after getting lost and spending most of Sunday night in snow, sleet, and extreme winter weather near Enid Lake.             

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Slade McDonald credits his survival to a stranger who didn’t hesitate to give him food and shelter.

“She lives there in that camper, on Enid Lake, and she was a God send, most definitely,” he said.

McDonald, an avid deer hunter, is counting his blessings after a Sunday night hunting trip near Enid Lake with a buddy.

“We went down to the end of the road and went off in the woods. He went one way, and I went the other. I put in my phone where my vehicle was. I pinged where my vehicle was so I could find my way back out. Well, I lost my phone,” he recalled.

McDonald says he had no option but to walk to safety in sleet and snow and soon he found himself at the edge of a frozen Enid Lake.

“At one point, I guess I had gotten over the water ’cause I broke through the ice and I was in like waist deep in water,” he said.

McDonald’s hunting partner had already called the Panola County sheriff.

“We were able to get a search party going, looking for him, and we looked till about two o’clock this morning,” said Sheriff Shane Phelps.

Somehow, the lost hunter found his way to a cabin at the Wallace Creek Campground.

“So he came out to the lake bottom, and he saw the lights of the campground. So he walked completely across the lake bottom over here to Wallace Creek,” Sheriff Phelps said.

McDonald says he ate a bowl of chili and fell asleep at a woman’s cabin and then used her phone to call his mother.          

“So I called her and I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ She said, ‘What are you doing? The sheriff’s department has been looking for you.’ And I said, ‘Oh no! I stumbled on this campground. This lady has helped me out.’ And she said, ‘You need to call the sheriff’s department right away,’” he recalled.

Sheriff Phelps said about ten minutes later, McDonald called him, saying he heard that they were searching for him.

A potentially fatal crisis was averted and what did McDonald learn from his experience?

“One thing: Don’t depend so much on my phone ’cause if you don’t have it, you don’t have anything,” McDonald said.

Sheriff Shane Phelps says when it comes to hunting or spending time in the woods know where you are, know your surroundings, and tell someone where you’re going and what time you plan on coming home.