Hunting Trip Claims Human Lives

Early snow storm in 1952 trapped hunters on the Mogollon Rim

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Hunting season can be an adventure in Rim Country. From the days of the ancient Native Americans, to the early days of white men, to the times of Zane Grey and to more modern times, things can go wrong during a hunt. Here’s a look at one hunt that Mother Nature disrupted.

A 1952 hunt started well, but a series of November storms changed things and by Monday, Nov. 24, all heck had broken loose under the Rim.

Here is a clip from the Nov. 24, 1952 Tucson Daily Citizen.

Four Hunters Still Missing

Phoenix – (AP) – Search operations in the Mogollon Rim area of north-central Arizona were suspended today as a new storm swept over the country where elk hunters still were trapped by the first snow of the season a week before.

Airplanes were grounded by the new storm which was expected to continue through tomorrow. Ground crews, working with snow plows and other heavy equipment, continued their efforts to get into areas where it is believed four men are still missing. Little hope was held by searchers for finding them alive.

This was a mean set of storms, especially considering the time of year. November is not typically when you see huge snows. By Nov. 24, there were already confirmed fatalities and there had been discussions of canceling the hunt.

A.W. Yoder, director of the Arizona game and fish commission, said the commission will not suspend or curtail the elk hunting season. Yoder explained there are so many hunters in the lower elevations of the area where there is little danger from the new storm that it would be practically impossible to notify them of an early end to the season.

Capt. Ken Shake of the civil air patrol at Prescott had suggested suspension or cancellation of the season to prevent hunters from entering the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountain elk hunting areas.

Yoder said the present storm, which is expected to leave an additional three feet or more of snow on elevations above 4,000 feet, is keeping hunters out of those higher regions, according to reports from game wardens.

This set of storms was really a mess. Payson Deputy Sheriff Howard Childers said at one point that snow was falling faster than he’d ever seen it fall. Hundreds of hunters were trapped or lost at one point and a few fatalities did occur. By the time the 1953 hunts came around, the previous year was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Over 5,000 To Hunt Elk

PHOENIX – (U.P.) – Some 5,000 to 6,000 elk hunters start out today in northern Arizona for the opening day of the two-week elk season.

Most of the hunters were expected to search for elk in an area south of Flagstaff to Payson, and east to Heber. The elk hunt will be along the Mogollon Rim from the vicinity of Williams east to the New Mexico state line.

So hunters can avoid the pitfalls which frustrated hundreds of Arizonans and law enforcement officers last year, the weather bureau plans to make regular reports by radio to warn of any impending storms.

Last year six hunters lost their lives and hundreds more were trapped at least temporarily with the coming of the first major snow storm of the year. The bodies of four men were not recovered until this past spring.

Tucson Daily Citizen, Nov. 12, 1953

As we enter November a key message should not be forgotten: big snow storms can and do happen in Rim Country in November, sometimes with terrible consequences.

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