This year the Hunting & Fishing retail group celebrated its 30th anniversary. Editor Grant Dixon spoke with its founder Andy Tannock on his lifelong involvement with the great outdoors…
‘Hunters and fishermen make the best conservationists,” says the founder of the Hunting & Fishing NZ chain of outdoor stores. “Firstly, they want to manage the resource so there’s always an excess to be harvested, and secondly, they come to love the environment they hunt or fish in.”
Andy says this motivates them to preserve and maintain it. And if you look back over the years, with Andy’s involvement in both the retail and sporting aspects of hunting and fishing, he had led by example.
While Andy’s father was not big on outdoor pursuits with rod and rifle in hand, his grandfather was. He recalls sitting on his grandfather’s knee from a young age listening to hunting and fishing stories, and it was not long before he yearned to get into the field, too.
“My grandfather died when I was eight, but by then the damage had been done. We lived in Palmerston North so I’d bike to the river and catch trout. On turning 16 I inherited my grandfather’s shotgun and rifles.”
By this time Andy had a car and a motorbike, so there were few limitations.
A 17-year-old Andy Tannock took his first big step into the ‘real world’ of a hunting and fishing career, convincing the then Wellington Acclimatisation Society to take him on as a trainee field officer based in Wairarapa.
“They had their own hatchery in Masterton, so I reckon I had the perfect job for a young fella, doing everything from trapping trout from local rivers, stripping the eggs, and being involved in the whole process through to releasing yearlings. Then, on the gamebird side of things, work activities involved wetlands, ducks and pheasants.”
One advantage of the job was it got Andy into some great areas, something that was to have a big influence later in life.
Not the least was the upper Rangitikei River, where they regularly drift-dived, or the world-renowned Wairarapa wetlands, which introduced Andy to another aspect of his future interests.
Following the traineeship in Masterton, Andy became the Manawatu field officer at the age of 20, before taking on the sole charge manager/field officer position for Westland Acclimatisation Society, based in Hokitika, at 25.
The West Coast proved the perfect location to discover whitebaiting and further another passion that was burning strong by then – deer stalking.
Getting back to this article’s opening gambit, Andy gets annoyed when hunters get bad press.
“You don’t see too many greenies buying wetlands to preserve them or getting off their butts trapping wetland predators.”
Andy is a trustee of the Gamebird Habitat Trust and heavily involved with the Waterfowl Enhancement Trust, where the aim is to decrease and erase the predation on mallards from the likes of ferrets, stoats and weasels.
This goes hand in hand with the preservation of wetlands, with both projects receiving the blessing of the Department of Conservation and Fish & Game.
One of several activities that Andy helped dream up was the ‘Swamp Comp’.
“Fish and Game research identified the huge impact predators are having on nesting ducks, so we mobilized an army of hunters nationwide to trap around wetlands, ridding them of as many pests as possible.”
It is interesting that just this month the National Government has announced plans to make New Zealand ‘pest-free’ by 2050.
Andy had a natural desire to move into the more commercial side of the outdoors, which led him to rep for the Rotorua-based Wynrod Tackle Ltd, the Shimano and Sage agent of the time. Initially he was their South Island rep and built things up pretty quickly.
“They had to replace me with three people when they moved me up to the North Island,” Andy quips.
He worked hard, developing a good rapport within the industry, although he was disappointed that the majority of stores at the time sold general sports gear and did not cater for the keener hunter or fisher. This stint in selling and wholesaling gave him the confidence to get into retailing.
In 1986 he set up shop in a small Palmerston North development headed by former All Black Mark Donaldson.
“There was quite a good mix, including clothing, adventure, diving, and Andy Tannock Hunting & Fishing!”
Never one to stand still, Andy saw an opportunity to establish a mail-order aspect to the business.
“We had good support from the then-Shimano agency and, with the help of full-page advertisements in NZ Fishing News, sales grew to the point that Andy Tannock’s Hunting & Fishing became the wholesaler’s biggest account, despite being located in Palmerston North, far from the sea.”
The first boat show they attended was the 1988 IMTEC, the forerunner of today’s On The Water Boat Show, located on Auckland’s waterfront.
The NZ Boat Show followed in 1989, and twice a year for almost 10 years he and his staff made the pilgrimage to the big smoke with a trailer load of gear which they invariably sold almost completely.
“It was good gear at good prices, and that show gave us a national profile, which was reflected in further growth in mailorder sales, much to the dismay of other retailers around the country.”
forerunner of today’s burgeoning e-commerce scene.
In 1992, Andy called a meeting of those he’d identified as other key outdoors retailers with a vision for the future, and put to them his ‘plan’ for a nationwide chain of stores which would trade on their combined buying power to negotiate better deals on stock and save outgoings by sharing the cost of national advertising.
“There were a number who were suspicious, but the ‘brave six’ – Hamills Hastings, along with Allen White Invercargill, Ballingers Christchurch, Tony Entwhistle’s Fly and Gun in Nelson, and of course my Hunting & Fishing stores in Palmerston North and Masterton – put their hands up.
“What resulted was a bunch of business-motivated hunting and fishing enthusiasts, driven by their passion, putting a big effort into their stores and ultimately enjoying the benefits.”
Today that band has grown to 37 outlets, the latest being Peter Francis and Dave Scott’s new Albany store, its grand opening set for October, to bring the number up to 38.
Collectively the co-operative has seen the group develop a number of its own branded products as well as representing the high-profile brands.
The three catalogues produced seasonally have evolved too, with hunting dominating autumn, freshwater fishing in spring, while saltwater fishing, camping and diving feature strongest in summer.
“They are not only great marketing tools, they are also a national shop window,” Andy says.
“Our owners and their staff are all passionate about their sport, and that is one of the main ingredients to running a successful specialist store. Because they are engrossed in the outdoors, they ensure our product range is relevant for their regions.”
Andy is also quite proud of the fact their group was one of the inaugural ITM Fishing Show sponsors and remains so today. He says presenter Matt Watson is a great ambassador for the outdoors.
Others to benefit from Hunting & Fishing support include LegaSea, the Game & Forest Foundation, the Southern Seabird Trust, various Fish & Game projects, Coastguard, and the Waterfowl Enhancement Trust.
So how about life in retirement? “I have been able to enjoy some fantastic outdoors experiences through my work, as well as the association with store owners who are as much family as business associates, but there are still a few boxes to be ticked.”
Absolutely passionate about his duck shooting, Andy’s haunts include the windswept Lake Wairarapa, and of late he has been discovering some unique locations in the South Island.
Opening Day is something of a family tradition on the Manawatu River, enjoyed by wife Michelle and sons William, Campbell and Ben. Andy says he has had fantastic support from his family, and the opportunity to share the outdoors with them has been a huge bonus of the job.
The family has a bach at Tairua, where they enjoy fishing from their Challenger 565 trailer boat over summer. They like to chase snapper and kingfish in particular. One fishing highlight was when son Willian, 14 at the time, landed the boat’s first billfish several years ago off New Plymouth.
They also like to camp north of Coromandel, where the attraction is to fish the Hauraki Gulf, soft-baiting and slow-jigging for snapper in particular.
However, Andy still likes taking to the hills with a rifle in hand, particularly enjoying the physical side this type of hunting offers.
With a bit more time on his hands, Andy has plans for some more fly fishing, as well as getting down to Hokitika and South Westland to chase whitebait.
A friend is also keen to introduce him to tahr hunting. “It will be great to do this on ‘west coast time’ – get down there with no end date!”
A benefit of making the call to retire at 60 is two-fold he says, making way for new skills to come to the fore in the operation of the business, as well as enabling him to keep up a level of fitness that will allow him to carry on exploring some of those places he hasn’t been able to get to yet.
“While I won’t be completely out of the business, I am taking a huge step back from it, confident with the team and shareholder structure we have in place to carry on the legacy that is the Hunting & Fishing New Zealand group.”
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