Missing Hunter Gene Penaflor Survives On Squirrels

Hunter Gene Penaflor just might be able to show Survivorman‘s Les Stroud a thing or two about getting by in the wild: the San Francisco man survived 19 days stranded in Mendocino National Forest with nothing to eat but what he could kill. The injured Penaflor was rescued Saturday by a group of hunters who found and carried him out of the woods on a makeshift stretcher.

Penaflor, 72, went missing when he was separated from his deer hunting buddy on September 24. Penaflor then fell “straight down” a canyon and landed upright on his feet.

“I thought my knee cap was broken,” Penaflor told San Francisco’s KTVU on Sunday.

“It all went dead. I passed out, I don’t know how long,” Penaflor said.

After coming to, Gene Penaflor assessed his situation: a few trash bags, a Bic lighter and seven bullets on-hand but without enough energy to hunt deer. That meant limited dietary options for Penaflor; they included lizards, a snake, algae, berries and squirrels.

Gene Penaflor tried unsuccessfully to signal passing helicopters in the coming days. A four-day search was undertaken when Penaflor’s hunting partner reported him missing, using scent-tracking dogs and equipment from 15 neighboring agencies, but to no avail. It was two weeks before anyone heard from Gene Penaflor again.

“There were no clues, we had thoroughly searched the area and there was a weather front coming in,” Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office detective Andrew Porter said of the termination of Gene Penaflor’s rescue effort.

Saturday, October 12, hunters in the area reported hearing someone calling for help. Using their GPS coordinates, search-and-rescue teams went into the Yuki Wilderness for Gene Penaflor. By the time they reached him, the hunters had already assembled a make-shift stretcher for the injured Penaflor. Gene was then airlifted to Ukiah Valley Medical Center.

Reports on Gene Penaflor’s condition are good. But Gene won’t be hunting any time soon if the rest of the Penaflor family has a say.

“If he decides to hunt in a couple of years, that’s fine. But we joked around and said let’s make it a camping trip,” said Gene Penaflor’s son, Jeremy Penaflor.

What do you think of Gene Penaflor’s story? Could you survive the way Gene Penaflor did?