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Photograph by Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr. · www.southernfocus.com

Magazine


True Grit

From the Winter 2008 issue

“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.” Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

George Barry is a hunter. The gunsmith by trade is a competitive sharpshooter and won a national sporting clay championship in 1996. He has hunted all over the world, as well as in 35 United States, including Alaska. A hunter of all game animals and varmints, he has a total of over 250 deer under his belt. While these accomplishments may impress even the most avid hunter, there is one that stands out above all. George Barry is handicapped.

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In a life-changing accident in 1980, Barry was left paralyzed from the waist down. While others may have succumbed to this seemingly insurmountable obstacle, Barry says that the accident lit a fire under his already determined spirit. “You might say I’ve always been an independent cuss,” he explains. “I’m very self-reliant, so the accident served to make me that much more determined.” Although many health problems plague a paraplegic, Barry continues to overcome each with more grit and determination than before. “I figure I can still hunt, I’ve just gotta do it a different way.”

A lifetime hunter, Barry was raised in Forrest City, Arkansas, before moving to Indianola in 1978. He learned about guns and gun safety at an early age and could outshoot his father by the age of ten. “Hunting was all I knew as a small boy; I would head to the woods to shoot squirrels,” he says. “I guess I was a little overly independent even then, but it was just what I loved to do—and still do!”

This love of the sport led him to gunsmith school in Colorado after his high school graduation. Before his accident, he was a fulltime gunsmith, specializing in hunting guns—construction and repair. “It’s kind of like being a General Practitioner for guns of all types,” Barry explains. He remains a foremost authority on guns and makes his own ammunition, though his handicap just doesn’t permit him to work fulltime. He has also written articles for several magazines across the nation, including Delta Wildlife.

Barry has adapted by building contraptions to accommodate his handicap. “You do what you have to do. What is it they say?” he continues, “Necessity is the mother of invention?” His inventions include an elevator tree stand with an electric winch mounting, a tower stand mounted above his four-wheeler, and his own hand-pedaled and battery-operated “Harley” pedal bike. “Did I also mention I was a biker? It’s become my summertime hobby,” laughs Barry, who also enjoys attending biker rallies throughout the country. “I suppose I’m a bit of an independent thinker and have somewhat of a ‘biker spirit’!”

Hunting highlights include trips to South Africa, where Barry bagged over 110 animals in ten days on one such trip. “That trip came about when I met a South African hunting guide here who said he wanted me to go over and inspire his clients,” he explains. “That trip was really a great challenge, because nothing in Africa is wheelchair accessible. But there was an ever-present entourage who carried me in a sedan chair. Although conditions were tough, it didn’t hinder my hunting success.”

Barry has also made several trips to Alaska. “I met a Baptist preacher from Fairbanks who did mission work with the Eskimos, and he invited me to go moose hunting on several occasions. When we would arrive at our destination, they would land the small plane and let us out. I literally crawled on my hands and knees for days at a time. When I would kill a moose, I would donate the meat—1,000 pounds of meat!—to the church, where they kept it in a cooler as sort of a mission project.” Sometimes they would be cover 300 miles of frozen terrain on one of the drop hunts. He adds, “You just don’t understand what it’s like until you’re in a situation like that. You really find out about depth of character and what you’re made of!”

Barry most recently returned from Canada, where he drove himself there and back in less than a week. The big black bear he bagged on his second day there will soon arrive in Indianola in the form of a rug to join the rest of his trophies. Whether in Africa shooting big game or monkeys, in Alaska in search of moose, or in the northwest varmint hunting, Barry says he’d rather be right here in the Mississippi Delta hunting along the River.

“I’m very thankful for my friends who help me access private lands and clubs I couldn’t otherwise afford, and for their help in the heavy lifting I cannot do,” adds Barry. He, in turn, shares this spirit of with others, spending a great deal of time with area kids so that they will develop a love of the sport as well. He patiently instructs them and comments, “Sometimes the instruction is more welcomed when it comes from a friend rather than from a dad.” Barry also is instrumental in the Youth Handicap Hunts, where he serves as a hunting guide for handicapped children. “It just gives them self-confidence and another outlet to enjoy,” he says. “I guess I have a crusader voice for the sport, whether it’s guiding adults or children, even if they are physically challenged.”

Inspirationally meeting all obstacles with unquenchable drive, creativity and character, Barry explains, “I just want to do it all, and I’m gonna run wide open while I can!”