A Family Tradition: The making of Infinity

To many hunters, Mossy Oak has been known for its achievements in the development of brand camouflage. And although striving toward camo perfection is still a huge part of Mossy Oak's business, the company's focus-and outdoor philosophy-has drastically evolved.

AS I walked through O'Hare Airport, I couldn’t help but notice the occasional— but worriedly obvious—stares. Generally carefree of the biased opinions of others, I casually ignored the first few. But I continued to draw enough glances that it began to gnaw on me.

After I checked my face in the bathroom mirror for remnants of the morning’s breakfast, I inspected my shoes for any clinging you-know-what from my Labrador—and triple-checked the zipper on my blue jeans. In my mind’s eye, there was nothing that made me look any different from any of the other air-bound travelers that morning.

“Goin’ huntin’?” a grandfather-looking gentleman asked as I sat down near the gate in preparation to board my Mississippi-bound aircraft.


“Well, you got on a camo hat and a camo shirt,” the man continued. “I figured you must be going huntin’.”

That’s when the light bulb went on inside my thick-walled head.

“Actually, no.”

Talkin’ To Toxey

During the early 1960s, Toxey Haas was wandering the woods of South Alabama’s Choctaw Bluff in search of any hunt able game species he could find, and a mossy oak was nothing more than a natural resource behind which his prey hid.

From a very early age, Toxey was obsessed with hunting everything he could, an obsession passed on from his father and a rural farm upbringing.

“I’m an only son, and that created a special bond I shared with my dad in the woods,” Toxey explained. “I began tagging along with my father since before I can remember, but when I was finally old enough, he asked me if I wanted to hunt —he never told me to do so—and that means a lot.”

Squirrel and various other small game pursuits quickly escalated to aspirations of bagging the wild turkeys that inhabited his father’s farm.

“When I began getting serious about bagging a turkey,” Toxey recalled, “I lived in perpetual fear of being busted. The only camo I had to wear—the only camo available, for that matter—was second-hand Army fatigues.”

In a search to curb his desires to find a more effective way to hide from sharp-eyed gobblers, Toxey sketched a rough drawing on an 81/2x11-inch piece of paper, stuffed a handful of dirt, leaves and sticks into a plastic bag, and took his ideas to a printer.

Although it wasn’t Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” little did Toxey know that the sketch on that piece of paper would leave impressions of similar magnitude with a different crowd. The sketch’s name: Bottomland.

Giving up his job of working for the marketing department of a meat-packing plant, Toxey took out a black-and-white newspaper ad, had a printable pattern made and purchased some clothing on which the Bottomland pattern was printed. Thus, in 1986, Toxey Haas officially planted Mossy Oak.

Living off his wife’s teaching salary for the first few years, Toxey poured all his dreams, efforts and passions into developing camo patterns under the Mossy Oak name, desperately trying to put nature on fabric.

“Any way in which the outdoors affects your life, including but not limited to hunting and conservation—we’ve got a brand to outfit that,” said Toxey. “It’s all about people connecting with what really matters.”

And for the past 24 years, that’s exactly what Toxey—and his team—have done. Anyone who has ever purchased a hunting license is undoubtedly familiar with Bottomland, Break-Up and Treestand patterns, and can readily pick them out of a line-up.

But for the Mossy Oak family, becoming a pattern-only hunting company simply wasn’t enough. After all, hunting revolves around much more than camouflage.

The Growth Of An Oak

Perhaps Bill Sugg, president of Haas Outdoors, who was Toxey’s first employee and has been with Mossy Oak since its inception, said it best: “Hunting careers go in cycles. There’s an initiation or ‘getting started’ stage, where a young hunter learns about hunting— and about him or herself— through time spent afield.

“And then comes the ‘hunting’ stage, when there’s never enough time in a day or tags in a season to curb the hunting urge. It’s a time when little else matters, such as the size of the game animal, besides the thrill of the hunt.

“And then the ‘trophy-hunting’ stage often develops; sometimes it lasts for a few seasons and sometimes for a few decades.

“But, eventually, almost every hunting career comes full-circle, when a hunter is more concerned about what he or she can give back than about what he or she can take. And that’s where Mossy Oak is today—working daily to give back through conservation.”

In short, Mossy Oak has become a symbol rather than simply a collection of camo patterns, a symbol that’s come to stand for the intangibles of hunting and conservation—the reasons why we do what we do.

And where the rubber meets the road, there’s plenty of proof to support the ideals of the company. To date, subsidiaries of Mossy Oak Brand Camo include: Mossy Oak Properties, Native Nurseries, Land Enhancement Services, Bio Logic, Mossy Oak Signature Lands, Rustiks, and the Land and Conservation Expo.

“Any way in which the outdoors affects your life, including but not limited to hunting and conservation—we’ve got a brand to outfit that,” said Toxey. “It’s all about people connecting with what really matters.”

For Toxey, what matters most is family. For every mounted whitetail he’s got gracing the walls of his Rustiks-outfitted office—and there are quite a few of them—he’s got at least three pictures of his family displayed, too.

“You and your family define your success,” explained Toxey, as he pointed to the biggest photo in his office, a portrait of his children. “The outdoors is a glue that holds a family together.”

And it’s obvious that Toxey’s family extends far beyond those with whom he celebrates Christmas and even further than those on his payroll. In the eyes of Toxey, his family consists of anyone and everyone who wears the Mossy Oak logo or helps fight for and believes in the same ideals Mossy Oak has come to represent.

“At the end of the day, the consumer is, ultimately, my boss,” he admitted. “We’ve grown Mossy Oak by staying tuned into what the consumer wants and needs—not by what the competition is doing. Consumer loyalty has built the foundation of this company, and we owe it to the consumers to be loyal in return. After all, they’ll lead us where we need to go.”

To Infinity, And Beyond

During the past umpteen months, the word “economy” has been used to complete dilution by nearly every business across North America in an attempt to refocus and regroup. It seems there isn’t a corner that hasn’t been cut, and the hunting industry has been no exception. Almost.

In a time when many companies are cutting back and cutting losses, Mossy Oak unveiled its newest camouflage pattern: Break-Up Infinity.

Like all Mossy Oak patterns, Break- Up Infinity ties back into its Bottom - land roots. Looking closely, you can see the company’s original pattern is woven into its most recent design.

“We layered the Bottomland pattern over the tree bark in the new Break-Up Infinity pattern,” explained Larry Moore, Mossy Oak’s director of research and development. “Bottomland makes the look of Mossy Oak.”

The Break-Up Infinity pattern consists of five layers of digital images, stacked on top of and woven into one another, in different stages of “blurred vision” based upon the distance from which the pattern is viewed. More simply put: Regardless of whether a game animal is 5 yards or 500 yards from a hunter wearing Break-Up Infinity, the pattern will be equally effective.

During conception, thousands of different woods photos were used to attain one basic goal: When looking at the pattern, it should appear to be looking into a woods setting with no end in sight. New technology, about which Moore is tight-lipped, made the transfer from woods to pattern to garments, possible.

“On garments, a camouflage pattern must repeat itself,” explained Moore. “We were able to use the new digital technology to make Break-Up Infinity the most realistic pattern available, by making it woodsy, earthy and not picture- perfect. Within the Mossy Oak company, there’s nothing more of a team effort than the development of our camo.”

But the key driving factor in the development of Break-Up Infinity was the desire to make it an impact pattern, a pattern that’s all things to all people in all places. Regardless of whether it’s worn in the North while hunting autumn whitetails or in the South while hunting spring turkeys, Break-Up Infinity is designed to be effective.

“We owe it to our following to leave it all out on the field,” explained Toxey as a confident smile appeared across his stubble-accented face. “Especially when battling a tough economy. Camouflage is a hunter’s uniform.”

Walking The Walk

As I sat across from Toxey, I had one final question: “As I walked through the airport this morning, it became obvious that as soon as someone saw me wearing camouflage, the first thought in their mind was, ‘That guy is a hunter.’ And although there’s nothing wrong with that, how can we alter that image so the first thought someone has when they see someone wearing camo is, ‘That person is a conservationist?’”

“That’s a goal we’re working toward every single day,” said Toxey. “We owe it to ourselves to live the very best life we can in the limited amount of time we have.

The critters and the land need to come first, or we don’t deserve to do what we do. We all leave a footprint on this earth, but it’s up to each one of us to leave a positive footprint rather than a negative one.”

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