Messick search

Forest rangers, state correction officers and representatives of the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control go over search plans Nov. 23, 2015, from a command post at Horicon Town Hall. Missing hunter Thomas Messick Sr., who was last seen Nov. 15, 2015, has still not been found, despite efforts from rangers, police, volunteers and family members.

Post-Star file photo

HORICON — Two years ago Wednesday, Thomas Messick Sr. vanished in the woods of Horicon while deer hunting with friends and relatives.

And despite the thousands of hours dedicated to the search, it remains unclear what happened to Messick, whether he got lost in the woods, had a medical problem or was the victim of foul play.

His son, Thomas Messick Jr. of Troy, said loved ones are hoping for some closure and remain as “perplexed” about what happened as the professional and volunteer searchers who scoured the woods south of Brant Lake for weeks in November and December 2015.

“We’re stilling praying for answers,” he said.

Messick Sr. was 82 when he disappeared Nov. 15, 2015 near Lily Pond in an area of state land that is part of the the Lake George Wild Forest.

Messick was supposed to remain in a stationary post while others in his party moved into the woods to push deer toward him and another hunter. When the group reassembled late that afternoon, Messick was not among them.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation oversaw a massive search that went on for weeks, using dogs, helicopters and divers to check ponds in the remote area, to no avail.

The DEC scaled back the effort to a “limited continuous search” after two months, in which local forest rangers and search-and-rescue teams will conduct spot searches and training exercises in the search area and nearby areas not previously searched.

State Police Aviation helicopters and forest rangers also periodically checked the lands and waters in and around the search area, but no one has reported finding any sign of him or any of his belongings, including the rifle he carried.

The area is also popular with hunters, anglers and hikers, but no one who has been there in years since has reported finding anything that could be linked to Messick.

“The search for Thomas Messick remains in limited continuous status since Jan. 20, 2016 after DEC forest rangers and others spent two months and more than 10,000 searcher hours seeking him to no avail,” DEC spokesman David Winchell wrote in an email. “Since that time, DEC forest rangers and others have periodically searched and conducted search training in and around the area where Mr. Messick went missing but have not found any sign of him. DEC asks hunters and others in the woods to report any possible signs of Mr. Messick or his belongings to the DEC Ray Brook dispatch at 518-897-1300.”

Messick Jr., who was not among the family members hunting with Messick Sr. that day, said the family theorized that his father walked off and either had a medical problem (he had a history of heart issues) or got lost and settled in a spot behind a tree or rock where he couldn’t be found. The forest area also has some caves and crevices.

“They had over 300 people a day in the woods for over two weeks,” Messick Jr. said. “They covered a lot of ground.”

He said his father was an avid woodsman and hunter.

“He was a hunter instructor for a lot of years, so he knew what to do,” his son said.

The State Police continue to investigate an active missing persons case for Messick Sr., but the agency reported no new developments in its investigation as of this week.

The disappearance was one of two unexplained missing persons cases in the region involving outdoorsmen in a matter of days in November 2015. On Nov. 24, Fred “Fritzie” Drumm, 68, disappeared from his property on Burgoyne Road in the town of Saratoga. Police theorized he went for a walk on his 170-acre piece of land along Fish Creek, but no trace of him was found, either.

Police do not believe the two cases were related.

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Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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