Hunting with Harry

Written by Jayson Jacoby December 12, 2012 09:07 am

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Harry Galloway of Baker City has slowed down a little — he turned 96 on Oct. 16 — but he still goes hunting or fishing frequently. He killed a cow elk in Wallowa County on Dec. 4.
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Harry Galloway of Baker City has slowed down a little — he turned 96 on Oct. 16 — but he still goes hunting or fishing frequently. He killed a cow elk in Wallowa County on Dec. 4.
By Jayson Jacoby

This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Harry Galloway got his elk, and so that was all right, but his aim, well, it’s just not what it was when he a younger man.

Age 95, for instance.

You can tell it sticks in his craw, that shot.

“I didn’t make too good of a shot,” Galloway said, talking about the cow elk he killed during a damage control hunt Dec. 4 on the Fence Creek Ranch on the Zumwalt Prairie in Wallowa County.

“They had to finish it off for me.”

When it comes to filling his freezer with wild meat, whether it’s an elk or a deer or a rainbow trout, Galloway, who lives in Baker City, is not accustomed to relying on anyone but himself.

That he turned 96 on Oct. 16, and so can be forgiven for not putting the bullet precisely where he wanted, matters not a whit to him.

Galloway downed a whitetail deer in Wallowa County a few years ago with his .357 magnum pistol.

That’s a fair sight harder, he figures, than dropping an elk with the Winchester Model 70 .270 caliber rifle he’s hunted with for half a century.

Of course the bedroom slippers might have thrown off Galloway’s marksmanship.

Todd Callaway, his longtime friend and hunting partner from Baker City, takes up the story:

When they got out of the rig and started hunting the morning of Dec. 4, Callaway noticed that Galloway was clad in slippers, a choice of footwear that seemed less than ideal on a cold, wet and muddy day.

Callaway figured his buddy had forgotten his boots.

Hardly an unreasonable assumption. 

Galloway himself admits the decades have pecked away a bit at his memory — “I can remember some poems I read in the fourth-grade but I can’t remember the titles.”

But the slippers, it turns out, were intentional.

Galloway figured he could walk farther with the flimsy slippers than with his much heavier boots.

This is not the sort of calculation many 96-year-olds need to ponder.

And fewer still 96-year-olds who have had both hips surgically replaced.

Galloway underwent the second of the two surgeries just a couple years ago, when he was 94.

“I think it just got wore out, by the feel of it,” he said.

Callaway chimes in: “When you put half a million miles on something it’s bound to get worn out.”

Notwithstanding the distance exaggeration — Galloway’s a man, after all, not an airliner — Callaway’s quip captures the essence of Galloway’s story.

His determination to continue hunting and fishing, regardless of age or infirmity, has earned Galloway a reputation that borders on legendary among the local outdoor enthusiasts who know him, or at least know of him.

Callaway, who’s 63, said that as recently as a decade or so ago, when Galloway was in his mid-80s, he had hunters less than half his age gasping for breath trying to keep up with him.

In an interview in 2005, not long after Galloway had killed a whitetail deer in Wallowa County on his 89th birthday, Callaway said: “I can barely keep up with him now. I’d had to have seen him 15 or 20 years ago. Or 30.”

Galloway understands that whenever he’s interviewed one question is inevitable:

“What’s your secret?”

He doesn’t have one — at least not the sort that gets into the fitness magazines.

“I always eat a doughnut for breakfast, and I never take a lunch,” Galloway said with a chuckle.

Callaway adds one culinary detail that, like Galloway himself, makes a mockery of the actuarial tables: “He really likes fried food for supper.”

Stamina can be a matter of mental strength as well as physical, of course.

Callaway thinks Galloway’s attitude has contribute to his longevity.

“He once told me, ‘don’t let anything get you down,’ ” Callaway said.

A special hunt

The whole thing started last spring when Galloway neglected to apply for a hunting tag.

Callaway, who retired in 2004 as a wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) in Baker City, called the office to ask about other options.

Daarla Klages, who works at the ODFW office in Enterprise, heard about Galloway’s plight.

She called Ed Grover, who manages the Fence Creek Ranch for owners Tim and Nancy Roberts.

Grover said that starting last year the Robertses decided to open their ranch, and make most of their landowner preference and damage control tags, available either to older hunters such as Galloway, or to teenagers who haven’t hunted before.

Grover and Cory Miller, who also works for the ranch, have guided a few dozen hunters who have helped pare the burgeoning elk population on the ranch.

“It’s more fun than hunting on my own,” Grover said.

Guiding Galloway last week was especially memorable, Grover said.

“That was just such a neat day,” he said. “It was an honor for me just to go out with him.”

Galloway, who like Grover is a military veteran, said Grover and Miller are “real nice guys.”

“That’s an understatement,” Callaway said.

He said Grover and Miller not only guided Galloway, but they butchered the elk.

And they’ve invited Galloway to come back next fall and try to find another elk.

The Dec. 4 hunt was also noteworthy for Galloway because his son, Dale, 63, who lives in Pennsylvania near where Galloway grew up, came to Oregon to join him.

Dale’s daughter (and Galloway’s granddaughter), Sierra, who’s 21, was here too.

But she didn’t go hunting with her grandpa.

She went on a different hunt, and she bagged her first bear.

“She’s quite a hunter,” Galloway said of his granddaughter.

With his elk tag filled, Galloway will shift his focus, weather-permitting, to ice-fishing.

He loves to fish, although he’s wary of the ice.

Galloway tells about one winter day at Malheur Reservoir, south of Bridgeport, when he was using one crutch to get around.

Rather than risk a fall on the slippery surface, Galloway, as he puts it, “scooted on my hands and knees” out to the hole in the ice.

His companions, including Callaway, “thought I was sneaking up on them,” Galloway said with a smile.

It’s perhaps no surprise that a man who has been around for almost a century puts much thought into the next couple of years.

Asked whether he’s thought about how he might want to celebrate his centennial, Galloway shakes his head.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it,” he said.

But Callaway’s having none of that.

“I’ve got big plans for him,” he said, grinning at Galloway.

Callaway said he watched a TV show a while back that featured a 100-year-old man who went walleye fishing.

“My goal for Harry is to have him out fishing at 100,” Callaway said.

Anyone who knows Galloway probably wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.

Unless, of course, he’s got an elk tag to fill first.