Editor’s Note: Bill Sugg, the president of Haas Outdoors/Mossy Oak, has been with the company and Toxey Haas, since its beginning. The relationship between Sugg and Haas was rooted in turkey hunting. In most companies the size of Mossy Oak, you'd expect to see the president of the company in a coat and tie with well-polished shoes sitting behind a big heavy oak desk, but not Sugg. During the spring of the year, when he arrives at work, he’ll usually be in full Mossy Oak camo and may have a turkey in the back of his hunting vest.
Oftentimes, when I'm guiding someone on a charity hunt or on a customer hunt, that person will ask, “What do you do at Mossy Oak?” I usually answer, “I'm in management, so I do a lot of things.” When we’re serving others, we all just put our shoulders to the wheels, and titles aren’t very important. When I'm guiding other hunters, helping them be successful and building memories for me and them, then these things are the number-one order of business. I feel fortunate to be able to work with some of the best people in the world who share the same value system that I do.
Above all else, the roots of Mossy Oak go back to turkey hunting when a man named Fox Haas took his young son, Toxey, to the Choctaw Bluff Hunting Club in south Alabama. The story of that man and that boy resulted in such a love for the sport of turkey hunting that Toxey Haas’s passion was to become invisible, so that the turkeys and other animals would come closer to him. That’s why Toxey developed the first Mossy Oak pattern – Bottomland. The name Mossy Oak came from a big oak tree that Toxey named the Mossy Oak tree at his dad’s hunting camp.
Mr. Fox Haas once lived in Mobile, Alabama, where he was good friends with Fred Stimpson, who played a major role in helping restock wild turkeys in the State of Alabama. He was also a major leader in the conservation movement in Alabama. So, turkey hunting was the founding block on which Mossy Oak was built. All the key members of the Mossy Oak executive committee who work in the home office share that same passion for turkey hunting that Toxey does. But they're not just turkey hunters! We all love big game hunting, waterfowl hunting and just about any outdoor sports. Ben Maki and Chris Paradise are also almost as rabid about hunting waterfowl as they are hunting deer and turkey. Bobby Cole, Lannie Wallace, Cuz and all of us have been bound together primarily around the sport of turkey hunting.
I'm often asked, “What’s one of the most unusual hunts you’ve ever guided?” We were out in Texas one year, and the fellow that I was guiding wanted to take his own gun. We always bring extra guns for people who may not have turkey guns. This fellow and I were on an afternoon hunt, went through a small cedar thicket and heard a turkey gobble. So, I quickly cut some cedar branches and made a little building. We sat down, and I began to call to the turkey. The turkey was coming to us, and my hunter leaned over to me and whispered, “Do you have any bullets?” I said “What!” My hunter looked at me and said, “I need some bullets. They told me that the guides were going to bring the bullets.” I told him, “You're out of luck, buddy.” So, when the turkey came within easy shooting distance, my hunter aimed at that turkey’s head and said in a loud voice, “Bang, you're dead.” Both of us laughed so hard that we were in tears.
Then, we went back to the truck to get the man some bullets. On the way there, we stepped over a rattlesnake. My hunter said, “That snake is just stretched out in the sun sunning himself. He's not going to hurt anybody.” I jumped up about 10 feet in the air, and I thought to myself, “My hunter may not be right in the head.” When we got to the truck, we only found one shotgun shell. So, we loaded the hunter’s gun, and we went back turkey hunting. I was able to yelp up another turkey, and my hunter bagged that gobbler with his one bullet. That is just one of the many stories that I can remember about guiding other hunters on a turkey hunt.
Bob Dixon, who passed away several years ago, was one of Mossy Oak’s most-avid turkey hunters. He shared that same passion that we all have for the longbeards. As I've mentioned before, turkey hunting is a strong influence in the fabric of the Mossy Oak Company.