Search parties find local hunter lost in North Carolina woods

BOLTON, N.C. — Search crews were able to make sure a local man will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family after he got lost in the North Carolina woods while on vacation.

According to the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, 56-year-old Michael Edward Abernethy, of Morganton, was on vacation with his family in Myrtle Beach. He researched some nearby game lands and decided to spend part of his vacation hunting in the Juniper Creek Game Land tract in the Green Swamp area north of Shallote, North Carolina.

The area encompasses both Columbus County and Brunswick County.

But Abernethy lost his way while hunting and couldn’t find his way out of the woods. When he did not return to his family at the scheduled time, they tried calling his cellphone but did not get an answer, deputies said.

His family then traveled to the game land area and found Abernethy’s vehicle. Inside, they found his cellphone, his heavy coat, gloves, and lunch box.

They then called 911 around 10:30 pm on Monday.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and Columbus County Emergency Management began searching for the man using tracking teams, a helicopter and K-9s -- including a bloodhound, that was able to pick up a positive track.

Officers searched throughout the night and early morning hours for Abernethey, who eventually heard the search parties and moved towards them. At around 10 a.m. on Tuesday, he was found.

Officials said Abernethy was cold, hungry, and dehydrated, but otherwise OK. He was reunited with his family and did not need to go to the hospital.

“Despite being an avid outdoorsman, Mr. Abernethy would not have survived for an extended period of time without proper cold-weather clothing,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “We are thankful that Mr. Abernethy can enjoy Thanksgiving with his family this year.”

(WATCH BELOW: Sheriff reunites with Casey Hathaway one year after boy vanished into NC woods)