- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

BIG TIMBER, Mont. (AP) - Human remains found last week in south-central Montana are those of a 38-year-old Bozeman man who went missing during an elk hunt two years ago, Sweet Grass County officials said Tuesday.

Dental records confirmed that the skeletal remains a rancher found Friday west of Melville were those of Aaron Joseph Hedges, Undersheriff Alan Ronneberg said.

The cause of death is still under investigation. But initial indications are that he died of hypothermia and exposure, Ronneberg said.

Hedges was reported missing in September 2014 when he became separated from a hunting party on the western side of the Crazy Mountains.

That fall, searchers found a pair of boots, a water backpack and a fire spot believed to belong to Hedges on the eastern side of the mountains.

In June 2015, a man doing fencing work found other items belonging to Hedges, including a bow, a backpack and a hunting license. Sweet Grass County officials searched the area at the time, but they did not find Hedges.

His remains were found about a half-mile away from the bow and backpack, just outside the 2015 search area, Ronneberg said.

Hedges’ remains were found about 15 miles from where he was last seen and about 6 miles from where his boots were found. Officials speculate he must have had another pair of shoes, because the rocks were very sharp where Hedges’ boots were found, Ronneberg said. A cellphone was found with his remains.

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