Mark Kayser is an outdoor writer, hunting tv host, influencer and an all-around good guy. Mark has hunted all over the world and his writing has been featured in Outdoor Life, American Hunter, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Deer and Deer Hunting and many other outdoor publications. If you consume any hunting-related media the odds are that you’ve seen Mark’s content. A common theme of Mark’s writing and videos are practical and insightful tips and techniques that he shares with the audience. HuntTested was fortunate to have the chance to sit down and chat with Mark.
HuntTested: How did you get involved with outdoor media?
Mark Kayser: When I was in high school I work shadowed a game warden for a day and a newspaper journalist for another. My first year and a half in college was split between these two career paths when I finally decided that I could do both as an outdoor writer. I sold my first freelance articles in college. After college, I kept up my freelance venture but also worked in public relations for the South Dakota Department of Tourism. During that stint, I worked with many editors on placing articles about South Dakota and South Dakota’s great outdoors, in their publications. Those connections expanded until I felt I could make a living as an outdoor communicator.
This was also the beginning of outdoor TV and many of the same editors I worked with also hosted hunting shows. By guiding several to some great trophies they soon saw I could gab endlessly on screen too. Endless hours of work and a passion for hunting helped me make a career in the outdoors. Support from my family ensured it would work. Basically, a few good contacts and LOTS of hard work helped a nobody from rural South Dakota become a trusted member of the outdoor media living in the wilds of Wyoming. I almost ended up working in my dad’s tractor shop, but got lucky and ended up where I am at now. I’m truly blessed in many ways.
HuntTested: Ok Mark, Outdoor writer?, TV host?, Social Media Influencer? Which is it?
Mark Kayser: I guess you could say I’m all of the above (plus a Chiefs fan now) and to be quite honest, you have to be if you want to make a living in the outdoor industry as a freelancer. I’ve been working in this industry since I was in college and full-time for the past 18 years. In total, I’ve been working in every aspect mentioned for more than three decades. It just feels like yesterday though.
HuntTested: You’ve been at this for a long time. What’s changed about hunting for the better and for the worse since you’ve been at this?
Mark Kayser: I think the best changes are yet to come, but I believe social media and the internet have made it easier than ever before for anyone to become an outdoor communicator. You can start your own online outdoor show, you can share your experiences easily via social media and if you have a creative flair, you can draw enough audience for companies to take notice. You may even make money at it. Probably the worst part of the industry in regards to magazines is their disappearance or transition to digital diaries. Information is available yet, but it is put out in more of a bullet-point form. The pay has also stayed stagnant for years for writers so keep that in mind if you decide to jump into strictly a writing market. That’s why I’ve become a jack of all trades to make a living in such a competitive field.
HuntTested: Favorite type of hunting?
Mark Kayser: My favorite two genres of hunting are big game and predators. There’s nothing like rattling in a big whitetail, bugling in a bull elk or howling in a coyote. I love to hunt most species, but these keep giving me a thrill year after year.
HuntTested: How has being a hunting media professional changed since you got started? What do you think it will look like in ten years?
Mark Kayser: As I noted earlier, the biggest change is in how information is presented and the length of information. I’m a bit worried since new hunters learn from mentors and if everything is abbreviated it can be hard to share how to track a deer in less than a minute. In 10 years you could blink and miss the greatest hunt ever while watching it online. Regardless, more information than ever before is being shared so it will likely be just a matter of how much time you have to consume it to learn it.
HuntTested: I keep reading about how the number of hunters is shrinking. What can we do to change this trend?
Mark Kayser: That is a huge issue since the tax dollars generated by hunters and anglers goes toward wildlife management. Who is going to pay for it if those numbers continue to dwindle? The best thing you and I can do is to become a mentor. Share the hunting experience. Invite others to the range to enjoy shooting sports. And any time you have extra game meat you should share it with a nonhunter. Explain to them that this is true organic food from the greatest renewable resource in America. In short, be a mentor.
HuntTested: You’re an accomplished elk hunter, what’s your best elk hunting tip?
Mark Kayser: My best elk hunting tip is to be in the best physical shape possible. Public-land elk hunts can be grueling, both physically and mentally challenging. By being in shape you can walk away from the roadside hunting crowd, climb to the top of steep basins to find elk in a refuge setting and pack out your trophy after you find success. Going into an elk hunt without being physically fit is like going to a gunfight with no ammunition. If you have lots of money you can disregard this and book a ranch hunt for $10 grand and up.
HuntTested: What are some of your favorite items of hunting gear and why?
Mark Kayser: I love backpacks although I’m not a junkie to try out new models every year. I have several old, reliable packs that have helped me remove hundreds and hundreds of pounds of elk meat from the mountains. I also have an old Cabela’s backpack that has ferried literally thousands of pounds of antlers from the mountains during my spring shed hunting trips. Those packs may not be as “cool” as some of the latest, but they sure do the job and are packed with memories.
I also rely on two other items all the time: my boots and a good binocular. I typically wear a pair of boots out every two years so I get to test new ones routinely. I’m currently shopping for a pair of Zamberlan boots. As for optics, I’m in love with the Sig Sauer KILO3000BDX laser rangefinding binocular.
HuntTested: Bow or Rifle?
Mark Kayser: For rifles, I’m sold on Bergara’s lineup and have been pounding coyotes this fur season with the Premier Approach in 6mm Creedmoor fed with Hornady ELD Match ammunition. Last year I bowhunted with the Prime Logic CT3 and arrowed a hefty buck in Kansas with it. Two thumbs up for sure!
HuntTested: Where can people find your articles and videos?
Mark Kayser: Literally you can find my articles almost anywhere. I write for Bowhunting World, American Hunter, NWTF Turkey Country, Mule Deer Foundation, Bowhunter, Predator Xtreme and many more. Google my name and dozens upon dozens of articles will appear. For up-to-date videos always check Deer & Deer Hunting, www.deeranddeerhunting.com, or go to www.markkayser.com and visit my social media sites.
Pro Tip: “Going into an elk hunt without being physically fit is like going to a gunfight with no ammunition.”
HuntTested: What’s next for you?
Mark Kayser: I plan on continuing to share my hunts in any means possible. I enjoy producing video content, I love writing and I am always looking for the next, new image to post on my social media. I’m working on a new Facebook tactical show for Deer & Deer Hunting that will provide short tips and tactics to help hunters succeed on their next deer hunt. And yes, I plan to hunt as much or more than I’ve done in the past. Hopefully, it won’t get in the way of work … wink-wink!
HuntTested: Anything you wished we had asked you about?
Mark Kayser: Besides a productive career, my other great love is my family. I’m married to a very supportive wife, Sharon, who has been my business partner throughout this journey in addition to holding down a full-time job and raising our family. We have two great kids. Cole is our oldest and was my main hunting partner until he accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He had to choose between that and the Naval Academy, but he decided to “Go Army!” He graduates this coming spring and will spend the next 5 years, or longer, serving and protecting our country. My daughter Katelyn is a junior at the University of Wyoming. Before she started down her graphic arts road she was my hiking partner and my spring turkey hunting comrade. School makes it difficult to get away now, but she and I do escape to the mountains when time allows. My best friend, besides family, is my border collie Sage. She has ventured into the backcountry with me more than any other person. Whether hunting shed antlers, decoying coyotes or simply summer scouting, Sage is always by my side and quivering for more action.
Thanks, Mark! It was great to have you as a guest on HuntTested!
Connect with Mark at MarkKayser.com
Related Content: Ultimate Elk Hunting Gear List