Below is a longer version of Answer the Call/Volunteer Highlight, found in the January-February 2024 issue of Bugle magazine.
“There’s just something good about the feeling you get when spending time with these people.”
From day-one, the late Wallace Pate had a grand appreciation for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s volunteers, members and mission.
Introduced to elk hunting a few years earlier, he joined RMEF shortly after its founding in 1984, later becoming Life Member #34. To use a term from deep-sea fishing, which he also loved, Pate dove into RMEF, hook, line and sinker. He served two terms as president, founded key programs and became the first chair of the board of directors in 1987.
“Wallace’s leadership from the very first meeting was outstanding. I’ve never met an individual who could so quickly galvanize a mixed group of people. He had the ability to understand a problem and lead any number of people to a successful, positive solution,” said Bob Munson, RMEF co-founder.
Born in 1993 in South Carolina, Pate served in the U.S. Army before working for his father’s business and eventually founding his own, Wallace Pate Real Estate. In later years, he established other business ventures while also chartering deep-sea fishing boats.
He learned his first lesson in conservation early in his life. One day, as he shot doves with a BB gun, he discovered one of the dead birds had been sitting on a nest. He learned a costly lesson that forever cured him of nonchalant killing.
It wasn’t until 1979 that he discovered elk hunting while on a pack trip into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. Like deep sea fishing, chasing elk became a lifelong pursuit.
Again and again in RMEF’s early years, Wallace’s passion translated into conservation in action. In the waning hours of its first land conservation and access project in 1988, RMEF lacked the necessary funding. Along with a $500,000 contribution from Anheuser-Busch, Pate committed a sizable personal loan to help push the 16,440-acre Robb Creek project in southwest Montana across the finish line. Today, it remains open for all to hunt and enjoy.
In 1993, the RMEF board established the Wallace Fennell Pate Wildlife Conservation Award, the organization’s highest conservation honor, presented for contributions of lasting significance for the benefit of elk and elk country. Later that same year, he passed away from cancer in his home state.
Fittingly enough, the first award was presented to all RMEF volunteers in his name in 1994.
Pate always recognized how extraordinarily dedicated members and volunteers are to RMEF’s mission.
“We’re dealing with a unique group of people who don’t have the asphalt syndrome. They have learned the value of going back to nature and getting whatever it is that you don’t get off the street. What you do get, in my opinion, is reality. And then you base your values, your moral character, from real things and not artificial things. I just think we’re dealing with a unique group of people whose values are grounded in the land and not in man’s artificial world,” said Pate.
In addition to his commitment to RMEF, Pate was involved in several other conservation organizations including Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, South Carolina Heritage Trust, Billfish Foundation, South Carolina Waterfowl Association, National Rifle Association, North American Hunting Club and the Georgetown Sportfishing Association.
Wallace Pate’s gravestone fittingly highlights this Robert Louis Stevenson requiem:
Here he lives where he long’d to be,
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.