A group of raccoon hunters has found the body of a fellow hunter that went missing early Saturday morning.
Just after 11 p.m. Saturday, the group was searching for Preston Luft, 26, of Carroll, who went missing after splitting from a group of hunters competing in a coon hound competition at the Central Iowa Coon Hunters Association, 2293 Zeller Ave., Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamatchus said.
"We weren't notified until a considerable amount of time from when the person was last seen," he said.
Witnesses last saw Luft around 2 a.m. Saturday when he went to retrieve his dog that had wandered off during a coon hunting competition along the Iowa River, Kamatchus said. Concerned members of the association contacted the sheriff's office Saturday afternoon.
Dan Boucher, the association's representative for the district, said people began to worry when Luft had been gone for a while without contacting anyone. Hunters spend two hours treeing raccoon before taking brzaks, he said.
"He didn't make it back to the truck," Boucher said.
Saturday night, a group of about 40 decided to go looking for Luft, he said.
Coon hunting can be dangerous because, although competitors are in teams of four, essentially they are alone on the hunt, Boucher said. Luft had no way of communicating to his fellow hunters that he was under duress.
"For whatever reason he had moved himself into a very intense area of undergrowth," Kamatchus said. "They follow their dogs through everything, and those dogs will go anywhere to get a coon."
At about 2 a.m. Sunday, authorities found Luft's body in a densely wooded area, which hampered the body's recovery, on the north side of the river, approximately 1.5 miles northwest of the unincorporated community of Quarry, Kamatchus said.
Deputies notified the family and called Dr. Mark Bethel, the county medical examiner, to the scene. Neither Bethel nor police have determined a cause of death.
No sign foul play was evident, he said, but the incident remains under investigation.
"There are a lot of things that we don't know," he said.
Le Grand, Tama, and Marshalltown Fire Departments, Marshall County Emergency Management, K-9 Connection and numerous volunteers including local coon hunters assisted the sheriff's office with the search.