Written by Jeremy Forte
The bags were were packed and loaded up and the ride north began. The excitement of riding to Nashville for the NWTF convention is always at a high level, but this year was most definitely a unique experience. This year marked 50 years of conservation efforts from the NWTF but the celebration wasn’t the only thing that boosted the anticipation.
The release of the Fox Haas turkey vest was coming and I knew that I had to get my hands on one. Why you may ask? Well for those that do not know, Mossy Oak released a limited number(1986) of turkey vests in 2007 in memory of one of the original members of the team, Bob Dixon.
Bob was a dear friend to the Mossy Oak family and unfortunately, he passed away with cancer in 2003. His legacy made such an impact on the community that the Mossy Oak team decided to develop a vest in his memory. This vest eventually became the most sought after turkey vest on the market. It also was a part of raising thousands of dollars which was donated to the ALS cancer research fund as well as the NWTF.
The legacy this vest created held an unbelievable response and the Mossy Oak team decided that 16 years later, it only felt right to commemorate the one and only Fox Haas in a different vest project. The things that Mr. Fox Haas has done for the hunting community is immeasurable and not many men can say that they have successfully harvested a turkey in 75 straight seasons at the age of 91.
I knew this vest would be special. As an avid turkey hunter, I knew that I wouldn’t be the only person thinking about how special the release of this vest was. It all started around seven in the evening once I had gotten settled in the room. My friends and I went for a walk before dinner to see if anyone was starting the line that 200 lucky folks would eventually be in to successfully obtain the first vests available to the public. I saw one man sitting against the wall in the hallway by himself. I told my friends, “that guy is already waiting.” They were in disbelief yet, I knew deep down he was truly waiting that early because he felt the same way I did about this vest.
Pictured: The writer, Jeremy Forte, and his fiancé hang out in line with Mossy Oak's Daniel and Neill Haas.
Around 10 pm, after dinner and a shower, the anticipation was killing me and I told my significant other that I was headed down to the spot to see if anyone else had joined the line. Once I arrived, I found two people speaking with one another. One was the man I had initially seen. I asked them, “are y’all waiting in line for the Fox vest?” They looked at me and said, “Yes, I guess we are in the right spot. Are you going to wait?” Once they asked me, there was no question in my mind wondering if I was going to stay and wait or not. The answer was simply, yes! At that point, I knew this wasn’t just going to be a wait in line to receive a turkey vest. I knew that this would be an experience of a lifetime.
It was a chance to meet other hunters that had the same mindset as myself when it came to chasing and conserving the wild turkey. Three of the first six people had Dixon vests and there was no doubt that they were going to get their hands on a Fox vest to pair with their coveted Dixon. The whole night consisted of swapping memorable hunts as well as gathering opinions on what we thought about the past, current, and future efforts of conserving what we love. This was one of the exact reasons that the vest was created! It enabled a group of guys and girls to get together and share their love for the sport of turkey hunting.
The morning (and doughnuts) came and we were awarded our tickets to redeem our prized vests once the doors opened the the show. Once my fiancé and I received ours, we knew this was a moment that we would always cherish. I can honestly say, when I wear my vest out in the woods, I can always look back and treasure the fact that I waited all night to get one with my fiancé by my side and while doing so, it also created several friendships and a bond amongst us in the process that will never fade away.
Forte and his fiancé were numbers 3 and 4 in line to buy a Mr. Fox Vest on Thursday morning.
Saturday rolled around and I was looking forward to the auction dinner to see what type of reaction there would be when the number five vest would become available for bid. After Daniel’s speech about his pawpaw almost brought me to tears, the #5 vest was auctioned off for $31,000! All proceeds were given to the NWTF so that they could continue fighting the good fight in ensuring that we will always have a huntable population of wild turkeys across this great country for many generations to come.
I will always wear my Fox vest with the pride in knowing that Mossy Oak loves turkey hunting as much as myself and that one day, I will be able to pass that vest down with the many stories that will come along with it. That is truly what it’s all about. Mr. Fox will be extremely pleased knowing that his legacy will forever be preserved. The 2023 NWTF convention/Fox vest release was one for the books and will be talked about for many years to come!