from C.A.S.H. Committee To Abolish Sport Hunting

ID: S.E. Idaho bow hunters rescued after surviving night in the wilderness

From David Ashby,

September 5, 2017

Lonnie Labbee and Andrew Blomquist found themselves in a major predicament while bowhunting in the Inman Canyon area northeast of Inkom on Saturday.

While maneuvering around the numerous ridges and mountains looking for deer, they went down in a canyon but couldn’t get out.

What was even worse was that Labbee, a 50-year-old Pocatello resident, did not have his diabetes medication with him and was suffering from chest pains and extreme dry mouth, which gave him severe coughing fits.

Labbee told his hunting partner to go ahead without him. But Blomquist, a 28-year-old Inkom resident, flatly refused to leave Labbee behind.

“I knew I had to stay with him,” Blomquist said. “I told him ‘no man left behind’ and that we would have a better chance of survival if we stuck together.”

Webb Creek

At that time, they were near the headwaters of Webb Creek. Knowing that the creek would lead them somewhere close to Inkom, they decided to head downstream. However, because the hills surrounding the stream were so steep, they had to trek directly through the creek’s cold waters.

Neither Labbee nor Blomquist had adequate clothing or gear for the journey through the creek. For example, Labbee said he was wearing pants, a T-shirt and tennis shoes and only had his bow, two pistols and a BIC lighter.

“Sometimes we were in waist-deep water,” Labbee said. “I fell down multiple times and was soaked from head to toe.”

What was even more troubling was the absence of wildlife. There were no animals that they could feast on in case their situation turned especially dire. Earlier in the day, their search for deer also came up empty.

However, their decision to stay close to the creek ensured they would stay hydrated and that Labbee would have plenty of water so his mouth and throat wouldn’t get dry. Whenever his throat became too parched, he would violently cough and vomit.

“I must have drank 10 gallons of water from that creek,” he said.

Once the sun set and nighttime fell, Labbee and Blomquist found a small clearing to bed down for the night. They assembled some firewood and created makeshift beds out of some leaves. These beds were not very comfortable.

But despite being wet and cold from their march through the creek, Labbee was able to use his damp BIC lighter to start a small fire.

“It lit right up,” he said. “I was shocked.”

Every hour through the night, they put some more wood on the fire while trying to get some rest. They were hoping that somebody would see the flames and come to their rescue.

Search and Rescue

At approximately 8 p.m. Saturday, Labbee had called his wife from his cellphone. Before the line went dead, he told her that he and Blomquist were lost and that he was having chest pains.

Despite numerous attempts, she could not reconnect with her husband, so she promptly reported him missing to the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue personnel from both Bannock and Caribou counties launched an intense search for the men. An emergency helicopter from the Portneuf Medical Center and at least one civilian aircraft participated in the search, which began Saturday night and continued Sunday morning.

The families of both Labbee and Blomquist were also involved in the search efforts. Blomquist said some of his relatives even beat search and rescue personnel to the scene. Blomquist’s mom left Las Vegas for Southeast Idaho as soon as she learned that her son was missing.

At around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, authorities located Stan Wallerstedt, 69, of Inkom, who was in a pickup truck in Inman Canyon. Wallerstedt was hunting with Labbee and Blomquist earlier in the day. But when his partners didn’t return, he waited in the truck.

Though Wallerstedt was safe at that time, Labbee and Blomquist’s whereabouts were still unknown.


Labbee said that the minute the sun’s rays were visible on Sunday morning, he and Blomquist started moving again.

This time, they were able to climb up a ridge to get an eagle eye view of the area. Despite being surrounded by wilderness, they were able to spot a house near the Rapid Creek area approximately 5 miles away, which reassured them that they were heading in the right direction.

They continued their hike downstream throughout the morning hours on Sunday.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., they came across a dirt access road. They hadn’t walked more than 100 feet on the dirt road before they were located by search and rescue personnel, who were combing the area on their ATVs.

Remarkably, neither Labbee nor Blomquist were injured from the experience, even though they had spent more than 12 hours soaking wet in the cold, mountainous wilderness.

After eating and being cleared by medical personnel, Labbee and Blomquist went home.

Labbee said he went back to his residence in Pocatello, took his diabetes medicine and immediately fell asleep.

“I came home and just passed out,” Labbee said. “I’m still sore as hell.”

On the other hand, Blomquist spent Sunday being reunited with his relieved family, including his mom.

Ironically, this is the second time in less than a week that a local resident had to follow a creek to find a way out of the wilderness.

On Thursday, 65-year-old Pocatello resident John Milburn was reported missing after he took a long detour while hiking on Mount Borah in central Idaho.

Like Labbee and Blomquist, Milburn spent a night in the wilderness, but he eventually found his way out by following a creek to safety.

Worst-Case Scenario

Labbee, Blomquist and their families said they want to extend a sincere thank you to the members of the search and rescue teams, as well as the aircraft personnel, for their efforts in locating the missing men.

Labbee is an experienced hunter, and he said he took Blomquist out on the weekend to help get him acquainted with hunting in the backcountry. Though the hunt didn’t go as planned, it was something they were glad they went through as outdoorsmen.

“It was definitely an experience worth having,” Blomquist said. “It teaches you how to survive in a worst-case scenario.” 

See Current Hunting Accidents and Violations index
See Hunting Accidents and Violations Archive: 2003-2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017