There was a record established recently in the hunting world that will almost certainly never be broken. Fox Haas, the father of Mossy Oak founder Toxey Haas, harvested a turkey for the seventy-first straight season in 2018. The commitment required to successfully take these birds for more than seven decades without fail is a testament to Fox Haas’ commitment the sport.
But the Haas family prides themselves more on what they’ve given back to nature than on the harvest they’ve taken. Mossy Oak is firmly committed to reinvesting in wildlife, and the company’s powerful partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) helps ensure that future generations are able to enjoy wildlife just as generations past have done. Here’s a look back at the history of these two organizations…and the bird that brought them together.
Twentieth-Century Turkey Conservation
Prior to colonialization wild turkey populations were suspected to exist in 39 modern states and several Canadian provinces, but as settlers pushed westward and large tracts of forests were cut down to be turned into farmland, bird populations fell. By the 1920s, wild turkeys had disappeared from 18 of the 39 states where they had once been found. In the 1930s and 1940s only remnant populations of wild birds existed, and some estimates claim that turkey populations dropped as low as 30,000 birds nationwide. Around World War II, turkey conservation became a major priority for wildlife agencies, and birds began to be transplanted to suitable habitats.
The National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973; two years, later Fox Haas (who was celebrating his thirtieth successful turkey season at the time), assisted the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in establishing new turkey populations in the state. Eleven years later Toxey Haas founded his camouflage brand, but by the time that the very first Mossy Oak patterns were being printed and showing up on clothes and gear in sporting-goods stores the Haas family had already invested time, money and energy into saving the wild turkey.
The efforts of the NWTF, state wildlife agencies and private citizens and landowners like Fox Haas helped reestablish turkey populations. By 1990, as the Mossy Oak brand was gaining momentum and becoming a household name, the estimated U.S. wild turkey population was 3.5 million. Today that number has doubled, and the there are currently open turkey hunting seasons in every state except Alaska.
NWTF and Mossy Oak Come Together
“Turkey hunting is at the very core of what Mossy Oak is all about,” says Toxey Haas, company founder and CEO. And in 2015, the two brands came together when Mossy Oak was named as the official camo of NWTF. Still, the collaboration between the two brands is about more than logos and titles. It’s about a shared passion that is the driving force between one of the largest conservation partnerships in U.S. history.
“From our very earliest days in the industry we drew our inspiration from those magical spring mornings, and we are so very proud to now be the official camo of the NWTF,” says Haas. “The NWTF has done an incredible job of galvanizing all the outdoorsmen and women who love wild turkeys, and have been instrumental in some of our great country’s most successful conservation efforts. We are honored to elevate our partnership to this level and look forward to many years of working together.”
How Hunters Support Conservation—Twice
Being the official camo of NWTF is great, but what does this partnership actually accomplish for wild turkeys? A great deal, actually. First, Mossy Oak helps fund major NWTF projects like the NWTF Hunting Heritage Center, NWTF scholarship programs, and the Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt initiative that protects and preserves thousands of acres of land. These programs are all important to raise awareness and, most importantly, to allow turkey populations to continue to grow as urban sprawl demands more and more of the nation’s space and resources. Those who support the NWTF and purchase Mossy Oak products, then, are effectively doubling up on contributions to save not only the birds but also their habitat. What’s more, Mossy Oak's Overwatch pattern is now the official camo of NRA. So in addition to preserving habitat the company is also working to protect the rights of gun owners.
In an era when companies are willing to voice their political views—many of those companies do not support hunting—Mossy Oak has opted to stand firmly alongside hunters and shooters, and Mossy Oak’s efforts are paying off. Once more the woods echo with the ringing gobble of turkeys each spring, and for those of us who are called to hunt these birds we owe a debt of gratitude to both the NWTF and Mossy Oak. None of us may ever kill a bird for 71 straight seasons, but thanks to hunter-funded conservation efforts it seems that turkeys may be around long enough to give a lucky few that chance.