Editor’s Note: Brenda Valentine of Puryear, Tennessee, became a Mossy Oak ProStaffer in the early days of the company. However, she was rejected the first time she turned in an application.
I had hunted all over the county (my home county in Tennessee was the world to me), and I had built up a good reputation as an archer and a bowhunter. I was taking big bucks every season, and I don’t believe there was anybody in the county who didn’t know me. There were also a number of local big buck contests, and I had won quite a few of those. I had started shooting 3D archery tournaments too, on local and regional levels and had placed fairly high, even though I hadn’t won a national competition.
I started hunting when I was about 4 years old and had hunted deer with a bow most of my life. I saw an article in a national magazine that was showcasing all the camouflage companies at that time. The article also mentioned the names of the people on each company’s ProStaff. At that time, I didn’t own any of the new designs for hunting camouflage. I was wearing World War II woodland camo that was designed, made and sold for the military that I bought at yard sales. I also created some of my own camouflage on Carhartt overalls, pants and jackets with model airplane paint and a small brush, drawing limbs and leaves on those garments. When my Carhartt brown faded to white, I’d buy red clothing dye, tie knots in the pants and shirts and dip and dye them.
One day I found some Mossy Oak bibs at a yard sale, and I liked them. So I told myself, “Brenda, you’ve got a reputation as being a good hunter, and you place high in archery tournaments. You ought to be on the Mossy Oak ProStaff.” Of course, I had no understanding of what a Mossy Oak ProStaff person was supposed to do or be. So, in the late-1980s, I wrote those Mossy Oak folks a letter and told them why I wanted to be on their ProStaff and how successful I’d been as a hunter – the number of deer I’d taken, their sizes and that I squirrel and coon hunted.
In those days, West Point, Mississippi, (Mossy Oak’s home) seemed like a long way from my home in Henry County, Tennessee, which is in the northwest section of the state near Paris Landing on Kentucky Lake. From the description of the company in a national hunting and fishing magazine, I got the impression that the Mossy Oak folks were rural, country folks just like me. Since I was a country woman and I loved to hunt and fish, I thought I’d be a pretty good catch for Mossy Oak. I didn’t ask for any money or clothes; I just wanted my name on that ProStaff.
About 2-3 weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland at Mossy Oak congratulating me on all my accomplishments and saying, “At this time, we don’t have a ProStaff.” I went back to the article in the national magazine and sure enough, Mossy Oak didn’t have the names of any ProStaffers in that article. I said to myself, “Dang, they rejected me.” That was the last time I ever asked any company to be on its ProStaff.
However, in the next couple of days, I received a nice, soft and comfortable Mossy Oak vest and a pair of pants. I wore those pants and vest forever, and I still have them. That package really helped my bruised feelings.
As I became better known in the industry and associated myself with Browning, Bass Pro Shops, and several other major companies, one day a representative of Mossy Oak approached me and talked to me about becoming a Mossy Oak Pro. But when a lady gets her feelings hurt, you know she is going to have hurt feelings for several years. Then I started going to the SHOT Show, the ATA Show and other major outdoor events. Mossy Oak’s national salesman kept coming up to me and saying, “We sure would like for you to be a part of the Mossy Oak family.” Then I got notes, too, saying, “We sure would like to see you wearing Mossy Oak.” I sent a note back that said, “Remember, I was rejected by Mossy Oak, and I still have hurt feelings.” For three years, this went on. However, I liked the clothing and camo patterns that Mossy Oak created. So, I finally joined the Mossy Oak ProStaff and learned how family-oriented the company was. My first impression had been right. Mossy Oak people were good ole country folks trying to make a living just like me.
I explained to the Mossy Oak folks, “When I start lining up with a company, I'm looking for a long-term relationship. Being on the Mossy Oak ProStaff isn’t about my receiving money or clothes. I want to support y’all, because you have the same values that I do.” I've been on the Mossy Oak ProStaff ever since. When someone asks me, “Why have you been a part of the Mossy Oak family for so long?” I have one simple answer, “Why would I ever want to leave?” I love Toxey Haas, the creator of Mossy Oak, like he's my brother. I feel like Toxey and I are kinfolks.
I was really excited when Mossy Oak started GameKeepers and Nativ Nurseries. I recognized then that Mossy Oak really cared about conservation and the future of the sport of hunting. Not only was Mossy Oak interested in having animals to take every year, it was interested in having better quality animals and making sure that the animals had plenty of food, cover and time to grow. About that same time, I bought a farm and dedicated it totally to wildlife. So, I was able to walk hand-in-hand with GameKeepers in my own personal life. I also loved how Mossy Oak partnered with organized conservation groups to make conservation a theme of the company and support other conservation groups with the same mission as Mossy Oak. I'm also a spokesperson for the National Wild Turkey Federation, and I see Mossy Oak supporting programs for young people, veterans and many other organizations that help make our industry so strong.
Although Mossy Oak started out as a camo company, with a shirt and a pair of pants, today its reach is much larger than just camouflage. All the programs the company participates in now are programs I participate in and believe in their worth. Mossy Oak has been a leader in the outdoors industry - promoting outdoors values, conservation, young people and women in the outdoors. This makes me really, really proud that I got over my hurt feelings and have been able to work with and be a part of the Mossy Oak family. When I put on my Mossy Oak shirt and pants, I'm not just telling the world that I’m a hunter. I'm telling the world that I’m a GameKeeper, and I’m trying to help the wildlife that we all enjoy. Congratulations on Mossy Oak’s 30th Anniversary!