KALISPELL — Pat McVay, Montana’s first certified hunter education instructor, passed away on May 18 at the age of 100.
McVay taught hunter education for more than 60 years in the Flathead Valley.
Pat McVay moved to the Flathead Valley in 1952 taking a job at the Hungry Horse Dam as the dam’s first powerhouse operator. Pat and his wife Marie settled on a 40-acre piece of land outside of Columbia Falls raising their four daughters.
Along with hunting, McVay enjoyed fly fishing from his favorite horse and exploring Montana’s beautiful mountain ranges.
Pat's grandson Cody Voermans said the Bob Marshall Wilderness held a special place in his grandfather’s heart.
“He loved going into the Bob Marshall because he got to ride horses, see the wildlife and go through all the beautiful mountains that Montana has,” said Voermans.
Noticing a lack of hunter safety programs for beginning outdoorsmen, McVay started Montana’s first hunter education program in 1957. He would go on teach thousands of children and generations of Montana families how to be safe, ethical, and conservation-minded hunters.
“Got to see a whole array of not only different kinds of firearms but memorabilia from across the state that he could tell stories about,” said Voermans.
Retired Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks education program manger John Fraley worked alongside Pat for 28 years.
“Real fun hands-on type of class, and he was a special guy, he made everybody feel like they’re special,” said Fraley.
Along with hunter education, McVay started the 4-H shooting program in Montana, traveling to 52 counties for his teachings. He was elected into the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2016, followed by inductions into both Montana Shooting Sports and the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Hall of Fame in 2017.
Throughout the years, Voermans said students would send pictures of their hunting adventures to his grandfather which he would proudly showcase decorating the walls inside his home.
“Whether they came in the mail or the family actually came by to see grandpa and bring them a photo of their first hunt, he loved it, it was his greatest reward to see their smiles and see them safely come home,” said Voermans.
A celebration of life for McVay will be held this fall.