I can’t wait for that first meal I can make with my elk when he gets here.
Do you know what you’re gonna fix?
MACEY: Probably some elk steak and mashed potatoes, because that’s my favorite elk thing to make.
MARK: Or elk spaghetti?
MACEY: Yeah, that’s good too. Elk spaghetti. …I like everything elk.
Macey, tell us how your first hunt went?
MARK: You need to tell them the whole story about how I ruined your first bull.
MACEY: It was the second evening and we came across these elk. We set up really quick and they were really close to us. So this bull comes charging right at us. He turned and went behind a tree, where a cow was. When he went behind the tree, the cow came out. So, out of my dad’s instincts—even though I saw it was a cow—he yelled, “Don’t shoot the cow!” Every animal heard that, to China, probably.
MARK: They all took off. I run ‘em off.
MACEY: And everybody on that hunt looked at him like “you…”
MARK: Idiot…you idiot.
MACEY: Yeah. It was awesome.
But it’s still great you guys experienced Macey’s first hunt together.
MARK: Macey being able to step into the provider role at the age of 12…that really did my heart good. A lot of people think that hunting is something that men are supposed to do with their sons. I have two daughters, and if neither one of them wanted to hunt, I’d be okay with that. But for me to be able to provide that next generation with the ability and skills to provide for themselves was a neat revelation to me. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do this.
MACEY: [in sing-song voice] That’s where you’re wrooooong.
MARK: Macey’s watched all kinds of hunting shows, and without ever being in the woods, I guess the thought process is that after 22 minutes, you’ve got something on the ground. You watch a hunting show and they roll into camp and two sets of commercials later, there’s an animal on the ground. It didn’t work out that way so much for little princess. She learned a lot about patience. I think she took away a greater admiration for what goes into harvesting your own food.
Mark, how long have you been hunting? You had your music career and met your wife and were starting a family at a pretty early age—where did you find time to hunt?
MARK: I was 23 when we got married. We had Malley (Macey’s sister) when I was 25. I’ve traveled pretty much my entire adult life. That’s pretty young to be out on the road and traveling with a family.
I was never a hunter. I’ve been a shooter pretty much my whole life. But I didn’t hunt until about six years ago. I got invited by a family that has a big ranch outside of Sheridan, Wyoming, to do a Wounded Warrior hunt.
That was right before Macey started having her digestive issue. So I went on another hunt and was able to bring home another elk, and that sort of began my love and appreciation for the outdoors more than just trophy hunting.
I’ve always done stuff like, when our church has wild game dinners I’ll go down and help them harvest animals for that. That’s how my hunting career began. It wasn’t just to go out and shoot stuff, it was to harvest animals for church functions and for my family. That’s sort of what I’ve continued to do. I’m extremely appreciative and extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to do that kind of stuff.
We saw your Instagram video, Mark, that you were “Never ever ever ever” going hunting with Macey or Kristy Titus again. Of course, that was lighthearted fun and part of the memories you make in the field. But, Mark, have you ever sat with two women in a blind before? What did you learn?
MARK: Absolutely it’s the first time! I wanted to be right next to Macey, just because we’re dealing with firearms.
MACEY: But the thing is, you were just a little bit scared that you were sitting in a blind with two women who are a little bit better shots than you…
MARK: Really? You’re gonna throw that in there? Let me tell you something, little girl. You shot your elk at 75 yards, I shot mine at 125 yards, so… I’m getting ready to mute your phone now.
I wanted to make sure I was close to Macey if a shot presented itself, so we could talk through it. Well, in the blind we get Macey set up, we get Kristy in the blind, and then my spot… I probably had six or eight sticks poking me in the back. I was trying to get as far back in there as I could, but the problem is they had cut these branches off, and the limbs were like hypodermic needles poking me in the back.
And they’re sitting over there, Kristy’s got her legs up on her backpack, and Macey’s sitting there, they’re just enjoying themselves. And I literally have to sit on my feet and get stabbed in the back. And they’re making fun of me! That’s where the whole thing came from. It was all fun, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. I was having a blast and I was getting to sit there and experience my daughter’s first hunt.
And Kristy is amazing, she really is. She is probably one of the coolest ladies I’ve met in my life in the hunting world. Not only does she know what she’s talking about, but when it was time to get in there and field dress this animal, son she was right in there.
MACEY: She’s so cool. I love her. She’s like Barbie, and then five minutes later, she’ll be gutting an elk.
MARK: I stood out of the way and let one of our guides and Kristy go to town skinning this elk. I had to just stand back and watch because I thought I’d get my arm cut off going in there. You see her on television and she always looks put together, but then for her to just jump in there and know her way around an elk and know how to clean it and skin it, it’s pretty impressive.
Is that pretty cool for you to watch too, Macey?
MACEY: It was really cool. She said “in just a few years, you’ll be in my place, and you’ll be with a girl as old as you are right now, and you’ll be saying ‘I remember the first time I did that.’” And I thought that was cool. I hope that will definitely happen.
So what gives you more adrenaline these days, Mark, playing in front of a crowd or looking at a bull through your scope?
MARK: You know, it’s totally different. I love music, I’ve been a huge music fan all my life. So, for me to stand up in front of a crowd, I still love that.
Hunting for me is not…a lot of people talk about the adrenaline, buck fever, elk fever, whatever. That’s never been an issue for me because I don’t look at it as going out to kill something. I truly look at it as putting food on my table. I try to be very conscious as a hunter that I’m taking something’s life. It’s not a macho, beat your chest kind of thing. When I take an animal, I try to be very humble, very appreciative that I have the ability to take that animal and feed my family with it.
What did you learn on the hunt?
MACEY: It’s so fun. Now I understand why they call hunting a sport. Instead of being done in 22 minutes, it took five days. It’s a little bit of work.
What do you replay in your head about it?
MACEY: Everytime I open my phone, my background is me with my elk. So I keep replaying walking up that little hill and seeing him lying there and thinking “Oh my gosh, this is real.”
And he was so big. I didn’t expect him to be that big. When you see them on a little TV screen at your house, you’re like ‘wow.’ But when you get it for real, you’re like, “WAHHHOW!”
MARK: It was the opportunity to spend five days with my daughter where we were basically one. We had the same mission, and that was to find her an elk. It was the time we spent together that made the hunt special for me.
Hunting for me is not about going out and shooting something, it’s the camaraderie, it’s the opportunity to spend time with each other. So, for Macey and I to hunt, I take away from it the opportunity to spend those days with her, and have breakfast with her every morning and lunch with her every afternoon, have dinner with her every night. And talk about that one elk we saw, maybe we can go back and find him again tomorrow, or you know, the whole process.
If she had not brought an elk home it wouldn’t have made it any less special. It would probably have been a different outcome for her. But for me, it would have been the same: the appreciation and the opportunity to spend the time that we had together made it just a wonderful week.
What would you tell other dads thinking about taking their daughters hunting?
MACEY: I have a few friends who are girls and hunt with their dads, and they love it. But some girls enjoy different things. So, I think that dads, you should definitely take your daughters out hunting. But if they don’t like it, find something else to do. Because just spending time with your dad is definitely one of the most important things for a girl.
MARK: My oldest daughter is not a hunter, but she likes pageants. So I take her to the Miss America pageants. Dads spending time with your kids, whether it’s outdoors or something else, you have to make that happen. For a dad who has a girl who likes to hunt or be outdoors, get them out of the house. Go enjoy the outdoors and that time together, because you won’t get that back.