Gene Penaflor was fit to survive. The 72-year-old San Francisco man went missing in the Mendocino woods for almost three weeks, keeping himself alive by eating squirrels and lizards and wrapping himself in leaves.
But the missing hunter was found Saturday afternoon -- 19 days after he went missing -- about 3.25 miles from where he was last seen near the Bloody Rock area of the Mendocino National Forest. A group of hunters at the bottom of a remote canyon heard his weak pleas for help, according to NBC News.
And it was lucky that they stumbled upon him. Penaflor, an experienced hunter, later told his son that he didn't think he'd make it another 72 hours.
The hunters carried him down a steep hill using a makeshift stretcher. He was met by rescue teams who took him to Ukiah Valley Medical Center where he's reportedly eating well and recovering with his family by his side.
His son, who had started to give up hope that his dad would survive out there, was stunned when someone from the rescue team called him. "I asked him 'What's going on?'" said Penaflor's 31-year-old son, Jeremy. "Then he told me 'hunters found your dad.' I was just in shock. I was shaking."
Penaflor later told his family that on the first day of his hunting trip, he hit his head and was knocked unconscious. When he awoke from his injury, he was disoriented and couldn't figure out how to get back to his camp site.
Instead of walking around aimlessly, Penaflor stayed nearby a creek where he got water. He made fires, ate snakes and berries, and waited for somebody to find him.
"He's fine," Jeremy told NBC News. "It's like he went on vacation and came back with a beard."
Check out the full interview with Penaflor's son: