An elderly hunter who went missing in Fiordland for two days sheltered under a deluge of rain with a tarpaulin before happening across a group who fed him.

The 69-year-old experienced Christchurch hunter was with his brother near Shallow Bay at Lake Manapouri in when he became disoriented and lost on the morning of March 26.

A large scale search and rescue operation was launched before the man walked out of the bush two days later, kilometres from where he was last seen.

Southland search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Ian Martin told the Herald the man spent his first night out in the open, sheltering under a tarpaulin he'd brought with him against a battering of heavy rain.


"Possibly it will have saved his life. There was a substantial amount of rain - there was a deluge in the early hours of the morning and after that it cleared up," Martin said.

The next morning the man found a track and walked more than 8km to Green Lake Hut where he realised a group of people, believed to be trampers, were cooking a meal.

"He told the (searchers) he was a meat eater and he was looking forward to a feed - but they were vegetarians. He said it was the best meal he'd ever had."

The group loaned him a sleeping bag and the next morning they walked him out to a search and rescue headquarters at Borland Lodge, Monowai, another 17km away.

"He walked into the headquarters and said, 'do I look like somebody you might be looking for?' The boys said he was a humble person and he was quite grateful, even for the vegetarian meal."

The man was uninjured and in good spirits, and it was a timely reminder to hunters to be prepared for any event, Martin said.

Although the man had a day pack - it was unclear what other supplies he had - a compass or a light source would have been beneficial.

"Obviously we would encourage people to take a personal locator beacon and compass, GPS, that sort of stuff and definitely a good light source if people get lost at night. They'll be found much easier with a helicopter which has night vision equipment."