NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A group of hunters became the focus of a search and rescue mission. They got caught off-guard by the historic October storm and found themselves stranded on a mountain in the snow.

“Oh man, this is real, we’re actually going to be stranded,” said Albuquerque resident and hunter Joe Lovato. He says he and his cousins got drawn for an elk hunt in Canjilon.

Lovato says they scoped out the northern New Mexico mountain in September and drove up last Friday. “I saw some game, nothing that was shoot-able,” said Lovato. He says he noticed it getting a lot colder Sunday afternoon. “Went to town, booked a room. Came back and I finally told the guys,” Lovato says. His plans to leave Monday morning quickly changed when he woke up to about a foot and a half of snow.

Lovato says dealing with snow during hunting season is not out of the ordinary, “Hunting with my dad, we would get a foot of snow and it would be fine but I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he says.

Lovato says cell service on the mountain wasn’t great, but eventually, he reached his wife, who contacted the Forest Service and Search and Rescue. He says Search and Rescue crews worked with a private landowner to plow a path for them to drive down the mountain. “We’re driving down following this snowmobile and everything was working out great, just moving along slowly,” said Lovato.

He says he’s grateful to the crews that got them down the mountain safely. “Getting out on the same day you’re stranded was, that was really good because we were just prepared to spend another night,” said Lovato. He also says it took them about three hours to get to the main road, something that usually takes a half-hour.

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