Mac shares stories about life as a guide, husband, and father.
Outfitter for Cross Trail Outfitters
Reidsville, North Carolina
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Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) is a youth non-profit hunting and fishing club working to empower the next generation through interaction with the outdoors. Mac McDowell, based out of Reidsville, North Carolina has been working with the group for over eight years while simultaneously raising a family.
In 2011, Mac discovered CTO when he stumbled across their booth at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh, NC. There he met Mike Johnson (CTO’s National Director) and Tom Harrison (CTO’s Chairman of the Board) who also happens to be an outfitter himself. After learning more about the mission of the organization, Mac was hooked. Today, the group spends seven weeks each summer hosting camps for aspiring outdoorsmen and -women. These camps involve inshore and offshore fishing, clamming, hunting, and more, all while unpacking the basics about faith, respect, safety, and camaraderie. (Note: CTO camps are up and running this summer while maintaining a CDC compliant facility and practices.)
Mac was born in South Carolina, raised single handedly by his father, a Pastor, alongside his two siblings. Mac’s father, as he described him, “...was a stud.” He invited them into all aspects of his life and allowed his children to find their own passions all the while offering them the freedom to pursue it. After high school, Mac attended San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas where he played baseball and studied English. It was nearing the end of his college baseball career at Liberty University that he met his wife of 26 years, Amy. “She was the math tutor that was going to insist that I learn math,” recounts Mac affectionately. Amy spends her days as a Doctor of Nursing Practice in the pediatric ICU where she cares for her young patients. “We want to encourage our children to follow their passion and enjoy what they do,” says Mac. “Enjoy it so much that you want to share it.”
Mac and Amy have four beautiful children; three girls and one boy. Chandler, the oldest at 24, works in education. Paige, 21, is following in her mother’s footsteps working in healthcare. Madeline, 17, is an inspiration to all of us as she’s recently in remission after a long battle with Leukemia. Last but not least, Brooks, 14, has taken to hunting just like his father. Most recently, Brooks has been focusing his efforts on archery. Just this year, Brooks has already harvested four longbeards - two with a gun and two with his bow.
Hunting and being outdoors has always been part of the McDowell family. From an early age, Mac has taken his children out hunting sharing the same lesson his father taught him: “if you’re going to go outdoors, you have to go full circle. It’s not just something for a photo-op, it’s something to appreciate as a resource.” Watching their father as a guide has allowed his kids to understand the full process, “There’s a hospitality component that has to be there,” says Mac. “There’s a responsibility to be productive, to be safe, and have all your ducks in a row business-wise... but you also have to like what you do.”
Mac shares a memory of his oldest daughter interrupted by laughs. “When [Chandler] was probably 11 or 12, we went down east to duck hunt at the coast. It was one of those draw hunts for youth only and the guides were paired with the families. Everybody’s leaving for the evening to get ready for the morning hunt the next day, and I asked, “Sweetheart, where’s your guide?” and she says, “I don’t have a guide.” And I looked around to the guy that’s in charge and he said, “Well yeah, Chandler said, my dad’s going to be my guide.” A heartwarming showcase of the pride and confidence Mac’s children have in him. There’s a special bond between father and child that’s pretty unique.
Mac recalls another trip a few years back with Madeline at T9E Ranch in south Texas where she took a beautiful buck. In honor of Madeline’s tremendous faith, fight and inspiring resilience, the McDowell family is in the process of building a pond on their property that’s handicap accessible; encouraging everyone to follow their passions and give back to others.
When asked what advice he has for other fathers, Mac encouraged that, “we should really be about engaging our kids. And that can be just as simple as going out shooting skeet or fishing and allowing our children to take the path and find the niche that suits them…” He mentions the importance of being open and honest with our children. The need to show up, share your passions, but allow them to make their own decisions and discover their own identity in the outdoors - no matter what that may be: a fisherman, photographer, artist, etc.
“We want [our kids] to be better than we were… It’s important for us to grow champions, to grow successful outdoors people who are going to be leaders in their career field... But then you can still get together and put on your boots or put on your waders. There’s a beautiful world out there that I think people need right now.”
Learn more about CTO here.