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Search continues for missing hunter in Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area

Posted at 2:18 PM, Dec 30, 2022
and last updated 2023-01-12 13:08:43-05

UPDATE | Jan. 12 — Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor said the search for Wayne Phillips has been suspended after search and rescue exhausted every resources they had.


DELTA COUNTY, Colo. — Authorities in Delta County are continuing to search for a duck hunter who has been missing in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area since Dec. 21.

At 6:08 p.m. on Dec. 21, a person called Delta County 911 to report a missing duck hunter, who was last known to be around South River Road near Cool Rock Canyon Trail, which is along the Gunnison River in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. This is between Delta and Hotchkiss, north of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

The man was identified as Wayne Phillips, 51, of Montrose.

Deputies with the Delta County Sheriff's Office responded to the area. His family had reported him missing after he didn't return from his hunting trip.

Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | December 30, 11am

The sheriff's office said Phillips' wife and son found his black Ford F-150, hunting dogs and other items near the river before they called authorities.

While the group waited for search and rescue personnel to arrive, the deputies helped the family search for Phillips.

When the Delta County Search and Rescue team arrived at the scene, they covered the immediate area on foot and used a drone to search farther away. However, they were not able to find him.

Since then, the search and rescue team has continued to search for Phillips with the help of his family, the Hotchkiss Fire Department, West Elk Mountain Rescue, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado out of Montrose, and Mesa County Search and Rescue, according to the sheriff's office.

They searched the river and banks with probes, underwater cameras and sonar, drones, fix-wind aircraft and a helicopter from San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.

As of Dec. 30, they have not been able to find him.

Due to the wintry storm front, the search efforts were scaled back.

Anybody who was in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area or was on the Gunnison River near the Cool Rock Trail on South River Road and saw or heard something unusual is asked to contact the Delta County Sheriff’s Office at 970-874-2000.