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Hunting with Tui Interview

Tui on her hunting high near Rotorua

This is the opening edition in our series on some of the personalities within the hunting community – people who can represent what we love about hunting and break down those barriers with the general public. By showcasing these legends, NZRod&Rifle wants to play its role in highlighting and helping to get their positive messages out to the wider community.

In March this year, I had the privilege of being in an episode of the new show Hunting with Tui which airs on Maori TV. The show is based around Tui’s journey of discovery about not only hunting but also herself; it’s very family orientated – a refreshing and very watchable program. Tui is often accompanied by her husband Comrie – a serving policeman – and their young family; the husband and wife combo have a great energy that’s fun to watch. I had the opportunity to be a part of the show when a charity I run, which is set up to organise adventurous and outdoor activities for those who’ve served in the armed forces, was running a ‘Hunting Skills Course’. The course is set out to give participants a good base knowledge of hunting in New Zealand and a chance to secure their first animal. Being Ex-Royal NZ Navy, a charity supporter and member, Tui asked if she could film an episode on the course; it was an easy decision to say yes – for a brand-new charity, the value of getting our message out was too good to pass up! Over the course of the next few months, I came to know this inspirational woman and her family and made a point of catching up with them for an interview.

Tell us about your new show; what’s the premise of the show and what was the inspiration behind it?

Tui: While the title is Hunting with Tui, hunting is probably the last thing on my list actually! For me, it’s everything else in between – the whole experience. The first episode occurred up at Mt Hikurangi, on my ancestral land, and that really set the scene for the whole series of Hunting with Tui. How I describe it to people is, “You know, now I’ve experienced hunting, something has changed deep within myself”.

It’s something about my journey as a whole. The episode that aired last night was set in the Ureweras in Tuhoe country. That was another defining moment when I just felt a real connection with the land and with the people of Tuhoe. I suppose a lot of untruths have been exposed in my journey through hunting … the lies I’ve told myself: “I’m not good enough”, or, you know, “Females don’t hunt”. Or, “I can’t be as good as a male hunter”. Seeing the truth and learning about myself has been incredibly uplifting; I look at life through different lenses now.

I agree, hunting is a journey of self-discovery, isn’t it?

Tui: Absolutely. Yeah. Finding out about myself through the land, through learning, and the confidence I’ve gained … such as, we have this Pa Wars competition on the East Coast, and I’ve been a spectator every year. But after filming Hunting with Tui, I did a 100m sprint and I came last, then a 25m swim, and I belly flopped! I just needed the confidence to give it a go; I looked terrible, but my confidence has gone to the next level – I’m just keen and happy to try new things and give things a go.

It’s really interesting you should say that, because your background – having served in the New Zealand Navy and as a policewoman – I would’ve thought in those jobs, you’d need to have a lot of confidence. What’s the difference between Tui the policewoman and Tui
the hunter?

Tui: It sounds really bizarre and really sad, but it took me 39 years to discover who I am; I suppose I was an imposter for those 39 years as a naval rating and as a police officer as well – I think it’s those self-limiting beliefs that I held onto for so long.

I think hunting has made me feel comfortable in my own skin. Whereas being a police officer or in the Navy … you know … when I had that uniform on, I couldn’t be myself – I had a role to play.

Dave: It sounds like with this journey, you’ve experienced freedom to be yourself and really just be who you are on that journey and not have any sort of outside pressures.

What’s your earliest memory of hunting?

Tui: My husband, Comrie, has been a big influence; I’d be babysitting the kids while Comrie went out hunting – that was his gig. I was happy for him to go, and I remember feeling sad when he came back with nothing.

What was it that drew you to hunting and started you on your journey?

Tui: I was heavily pregnant with Riley – she’s five now. We went out for a hunt; I just like hanging out with Com in the outdoors. I couldn’t walk far, but I was enjoying the exercise – I was very much hands off at that stage. Comrie got a wild sheep that day, and I didn’t want to witness the kill. I didn’t want to touch the sheep. I didn’t want to be part of any of that. But I was still happy for him and happy for him to do that kind of thing.

My journey really started when I went on a guided hunt; one of our friends took us out. It was on this hunt that I shot my first deer. It may have been the endorphins or the weight of the moment; something cut inside of me and I could understand how we’ve been created to hunt for our food – it just felt right. I didn’t feel gross anymore, and I didn’t feel like I couldn’t touch the animal. It was a defining moment and I was hooked; I thought, “This is something we could do as a family”. Up until then, we’d found it hard to find something that both Comrie and I were into.

I do Zumba. You know Comrie would never do Zumba; I think he’s been once, and he didn’t know anyone.

Comrie was into MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] but for me … I wouldn’t want to get into that with him. So, it’s been really neat to find something we both enjoy together.

Obviously, Comrie has hunted before. Did he teach you what you know? Or are you now teaching him? Has the master become the pupil?

Comrie: It’s one of those things where I can’t teach her. I can tell her how to do something a hundred times ….

Tui: But I don’t listen.

Comrie: And then you come, Dave, and tell her the exact same thing that I’ve told her, and she’ll listen and say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense”. But when I’m telling her, it just doesn’t go in.

Tui: Yeah. It just sounds like a lecture from Comrie some of the time. You know how it is – but I do listen!

Does he get his police voice on when he tries to tell you something?

Tui: Yep!

Comrie has written a great article for NZRod&Rifle and Tui is the TV star. You guys are like hunting celebrities!

Tui: I don’t know about that, but I have been asked to write a book – but it’s not really me. A publisher has contacted us, but we haven’t had the time to think about it.

So, having seen you guys together, I have to say that Comrie’s nickname we gave him when we filmed a show was the ‘gun dog’, because of what a faithful, supportive husband he was during that whole experience. Your family is very important to you, isn’t it? It shines through in the show.

Tui: Yeah, it is, and I believe Hunting with Tui  has made our marriage so much stronger and our whole family unit so much stronger as well; and it’s just cool to have Comrie on the show. I suppose kotahitanga is something we’ve always been mindful of – which means unity or that you’re on the same path. In all marriages, you know, sometimes you could be on different paths. But it’s making sure we’re checking in with each other and getting back on that same one path – hunting helped this in a big way; it just feels like we’re sticking to that same kaupapa … being on the same waka together.

Comrie: We do find when we’re both into something together and both of our energies are pushed into something, it’s so much better; we’ve always said, “Two are better than one”. We have a picture in our living room of us together; the image is of just our hands together and it says, “Two are better than one” – it’s kind of corny, but it’s true.

Tui: In the Bible, it says that if either falls down, one can help the other up. And that’s something we’ve tried to apply to our marriage – but also hunting has been very much a part of it. Two are better than one.

From NZRod&Rifle’s perspective, people like yourselves are super important for the survival of our way of life. We’re at a tipping point now with the public perception of hunting and firearms, and so, people like yourselves – who have such an amazing message … whether you like it or not, you’re both role models to our community. How do you see our future and the relationship between hunters and non-hunters?

Comrie: What I’ve found is that people who watch the show who are’nt into hunting actually don’t focus on the hunting side of things. Even though they view us actually harvesting the animal, they see the unity between the family and, I suppose, the togetherness.

A lot of people have told me they watch the show because it’s whanau based and less about the hunting. But the hunting for us is just as important; we both love it, because it provides for our family, and it brings us back to the basics.

It’s softening the image of hunting almost so people can relate to it more; you know, “This is what we do for our family – we hunt for our food”.

Hunting with Tui is very family based and that makes your show very different to the other hunting shows out there – it’s unique! Are there plans for a second season?

Tui: Yes, there are. To get a Series Two, you have to jump three hurdles – there are two large hurdles and one small hurdle. We’ll find out shortly if we get the final sign off. It’s looking really promising; Maori TV are very happy with the show.

We want to stay true to our kaupapa and keep that thing going; people seem to respond well to the banter and family feel of the show.

I watched last night’s episode which didn’t have Comrie in it, and I think it kind of lost the excitement the show’s been getting with the first two episodes that had Comrie in.

You’re in the middle of finding out what it is to be feminine and a hunter; because, as you explain, it’s never really portrayed on air, but it is different. So, you’re forging that path of what it means and how to mix the two together and find that balance.

Tui: I’m speaking to the local NZDA branch soon, and I’m keen to talk about me coming out of that box and also empowering both women and men to see how we can hunt [together]; females can be a part of it so it’s not perceived as just a boys’ club – it can be a whanau club.

Dave: Personally, I think the NZDA will surprise you about how keen they are to get more women and families involved with hunting; you’ll be a great role model – I think your talk will go down really well.

I hope you get the green light for the second series. Best of luck for the future, and I’ll look forward to the rest of the episodes.

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