Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak camouflage was the brain child of Toxey Haas of West Point, Mississippi, 28-years ago. In the beginning, Mossy Oak was a start-up company with one pattern, Bottomland, but has grown into a multifaceted family of companies under the Mossy Oak brand. Why has Mossy Oak continued to grow? Why are thousands of outdoor enthusiasts joining the Mossy Oak brand? What’s in the future for Mossy Oak? To get the answers to these questions, we went to the source and the founder - Toxey Haas.
Question: Toxey, some have called you and Mossy Oak the evangelists of the outdoors. What does that term mean?
Haas: We at Mossy Oak don’t think you can live your best life, unless you spend time in the outdoors. One of the best church pews is a tree stand. When you're in the outdoors, we believe that you reconnect with all the wonders God has made. As you listen to the wind in the trees, and the songs sung by free-flowing water as it dances over rocks, there is silence, peace and an opportunity to reconnect with your soul, as you behold the many wonders that the Good Lord has created for all of us.
Question: Toxey, yesterday you told us about the changing attitudes of the sportsmen and the growth of the concept of a gamekeeper. How do you define a gamekeeper?
Haas: I define a gamekeeper as someone whose physical and spiritual priority is connected to the land. In today’s terminology, a gamekeeper is a wildlife manager, a habitat manager and someone who has a strong kinship to the land and wants to improve the land and habitat to leave the earth a better place. Gamekeeping is not just a practice of people who own the land. Gamekeeping is a practice that anyone can participate in who enjoys land, whether you own 1,000 acres, lease 1,000 acres or have the rights to use 100 acres. You may have a friend who’s a farmer who gives you permission to hunt, hike, fish or use his land for recreation. If so, you have the opportunity to be a gamekeeper. You may be able to plant fruit and nut trees for wildlife, create a food plot or help the farmer improve the habitat in some way for wildlife. A gamekeeper walks out into the woods and says, “What can I do to help improve this property for wildlife?” This message is the one more outdoor people are beginning to understand, and that’s the gospel that we at Mossy Oak preach.
Here’s the reason that I think Mossy Oak folks are having a positive impact on the land. If you go back to the year 2000 and try to find an article on building food plots, planting fruit and nut trees and/or improving habitat for wildlife those articles are few and far between. Yet today, you’ll often see multiple articles on improving habitat for wildlife. Improving property for wildlife is different in every area and each state. For instance, you can’t put a duck pond on some properties, and you can’t create habitat for elk on other lands. Land differs in soil type, terrain, vegetation and timber. Each piece of property that outdoor people use often requires different types of habitat manipulation and food plot planting. However, on most any property, you can improve habitat for song birds, quail, rabbits, turkey, grouse and other wildlife. The good news is that you never can learn all there is to know about being an effective gamekeeper. I feel like you get a special feeling that you can’t get anywhere else when you go out into the woods by yourself or with friends and family and become one with nature.