Missing hunter found alive in Trinity County wilderness

Dave Stornetta (GoFundMe)


Missing hunter Dave Stornetta and his dog, Maggie, were found alive Tuesday, nearly a week after the man and canine went missing from a hunting group in the remote Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness in southeastern Trinity County.

Stornetta’s wife, Kelly, said her son Kyle called her just before 4 p.m. Tuesday and said Dave Stornetta had been found by a chartered helicopter. The air crew spotted smoke and a four-man team rappelled down into the forest. A fire was still warm and they followed footprints from a man and a dog and found Stornetta within about three hours, his wife said.

“I feel elated, I feel numb; I’m not sure,” Kelly Stornetta said by phone from the couple’s home in Manchester on the Mendocino Coast.

Dave Stornetta, an experienced outdoorsman, was in good health despite having survived seven days in the rugged wilderness of southeastern Trinity County through at least two rainstorms and temperatures that dipped into the 40s and possibly 30s.

“He’s so good, they don’t even have to take him to a hospital,” Kelly Stornetta said.

She said that Chris Thompson, with the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, estimated her husband traversed an impressive swath of rough terrain.

“From the coordinates, he must have scaled three ridges and climbed over 1,000 feet of elevation — they are blown away,” Kelly Stornetta said. “He’s going to be really pissed at how much I spent on those helicopters.”

Dave Stornetta is a member of the prominent Stornetta family, longtime ranchers on the North Coast.

He was hunting deer last week with his son Kyle and two others in the Indian Dick and Soldier Ridge areas of the wilderness in southern Trinity County. They set up camp on Monday and on Wednesday morning the group set out at about 7 a.m.

Failed to meet up

But Stornetta did not meet up at the trailhead with his son at noon for lunch as planned. His hunting party searched for him and contacted the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office at 8 p.m. to report him missing. He had a sweatshirt, a rifle and his 12-year-old, deaf McNab shepherd.

The Trinity County Sheriff’s Office quickly gathered a search team Thursday morning and conducted an initial search, spokeswoman Lynn Ward said.

On Friday a regional team of trained volunteers — including 46 hikers, four dog teams and two helicopters from 11 agencies — searched a 2½-mile radius on the ground and a larger area from the air. But they found no sign of Stornetta.

Storm halted search

A gusty rainstorm blew in Saturday and halted any search efforts. The next day, a team of 64 hikers, three dog teams and two helicopters set out again, covering a 5-mile radius on the ground and 20 miles from the air.

Monday was Stornetta’s 59th birthday and the last day the regional volunteer search teams would aid a stalwart group of friends and family, including Stornetta’s son Kyle. That day, 49 ground searchers, one dog team and one helicopter spent hours searching but by 7 p.m. their efforts were suspended without having found any sign of the man.

Stornetta’s cousin Kelly Richardson said her family was convinced the avid outdoorsman was equipped with the skills necessary to survive and they would continue to look for him. He lives and works on his family’s sprawling coastal ranch.

Continued effort

On Tuesday, Richardson asked for experienced mountaineers to join them as they continued the effort without the trained volunteers and asked for coats, hand-warmers, flashlights and other supplies.

A group of women had been working around the clock from the Stornetta home to coordinate food and supplies to send in waves up to camp.

But as his family and friends geared up for an extended hunt to find him without the aid of trained volunteers, Stornetta was found, alive and well.

Late Tuesday, Stornetta’s wife said she has not spoken to her husband yet and that he would likely spend one more night in the mountains before coming back home.

“It’s not really real to me yet,” Kelly Stornetta said. “I need to embrace him.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or On Twitter @jjpressdem.