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Missing Mendocino County hunter survived on squirrels, water

  • Gene Penaflor, 72, was released from Ukiah Valley Medical Center. (photo by Jeremy Penaflor)

A combination of wilderness savvy and luck helped a San Francisco hunter survive a nearly three-week ordeal lost deep in the Mendocino National Forest.

Gene Penaflor, 72, was found Saturday by other hunters who heard his call for help in a rugged canyon, 18 days after he didn't show up at lunchtime to meet his hunting partner in the Yuki Wilderness.

After falling, being knocked unconscious and waking up unsure of his location, the avid hunter and outdoorsman survived on squirrels and water until Saturday when he heard by a passing hunting party, Mendocino County Sheriff's officials said.

Missing Hunter Found In Mendocino National Forest


Sheriff Tom Allman credited Penaflor's survival with his decisions to stay put, stay dry and ration his remaining bullets through day after day of inclement weather.

“He kept his wits about him,” Allman said. “He realized he didn't have energy to climb the mountain, he used his rifle to kill wildlife that came close to him and kept the embers going.”

On Sunday, Penaflor was recovering at his home in San Francisco's Bernal Heights district with his family, Allman said.

“Other than being dehydrated, he was fine, he was joking around, he appeared very healthy,” he said.

Penaflor's survival story began Sept. 24 when he and a friend set out to hunt deer in the national forest in an area known as Bloody Rock, sheriff's officials said. He and his hunting partner split up for the morning and planned to meet up for lunch at noon.

But Penaflor didn't show up, and his friend couldn't find him. The next day, his friend called the Sheriff's Office to report him missing.

Penaflor, meanwhile, had walked further away from the road than he'd intended and at one point fell and was knocked unconscious when he hit his head, he later recounted to deputies at the hospital.

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