What Does a Gamekeeper Do?
Just to say the word ‘Gamekeeper’ conjures up (for me anyway!) an unforgettable image of Billy Connolly as ghillie to Queen Victoria, John Brown, in the film called Mrs Brown.
Not to mention, of course, the steamy character of Gamekeeper Oliver Mellors in Lady Chatterley’s Lover! I said not to mention that…
Away from the fictional characters: what does today’s real-life Gamekeeper do?
Types of GamekeeperDiverse landscapes need different skills and knowledge. In England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, the main types of area under the watchful eyes of professional gamekeepers are:
- Lowland-includes woodland and open farmland;
- Highland-specific areas of Scotland
- Upland-expanses of moorland
- Waterways-fishery management/water bailiff
Job DescriptionA dictionary definition states that a gamekeeper is: ‘A person employed to take care of game and wildlife, as on an estate.’ These days there are a few thousand full-time, and about the same number part-time, gamekeepers employed by shooting syndicates (as well as those employed by traditional private country estates). The basic role remains relatively unchanged since its beginnings; when the protection of deer was the main priority of a gamekeeper. Gamekeepers make sure there is enough game to shoot; but there’s much more to it than that. They need exceptionally good skills of organization, demonstrate a helpful, knowledgeable, but discreet attitude towards clients and excellent gunmanship.
Seasonal WorkWhatever the weather or time of year, the work of a gamekeeper revolves around outdoor pursuits. Be it wet, cold, windy or foggy, they’re all working days: that often start even before the dawn chorus…In spring and early summer, gamekeepers in some areas are kept busy with the additional work of rearing birds such as pheasant and partridge (poults) to be released on the land in their care during July-August. Tractor/quad bike driving, repairs to equipment, clearing ground of heather, building fences, gun-dog training and the inevitable record-keeping are among the extensive list of jobs expected of a gamekeeper.
Shooting SeasonThe obviously busy time is during shooting seasons, when gamekeepers’ are involved with arranging and over-seeing shoots. There is a lot of preparation involved. Apart from knowledge of where the day’s quarry is, the course it is likely to take and how best to reach it, some of the other tasks include:
- Working with farm managers and forestry workers;
- Assisting ‘guns’ as they are the paying clients;
- Arranging 4x4 transport for shooting guests, guns and dogs;
- Hiring of beaters, pickers-up and drivers;