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Environment, Agriculture & Conservation careers

Gamekeeping & Wildlife Management

Why get into gamekeeping & wildlife management?

When you think of the word ‘gamekeeper’, it might conjure up images of men who look a little bit like Prince Charles, traipsing around the countryside with a gun, a Springer Spaniel and a packed lunch consisting mainly of shortbread, cucumber sandwiches and Bovril.

This is not entirely true, so before we get going, you should forget about those misconceptions and we’ll talk about what gamekeepers and wildlife managers actually do.

What do gamekeepers do?

Essentially, gamekeepers have two major functions: 1) rearing and managing game (i.e. deer, pheasants, grouse etc.) for shooting purposes, and 2) making sure animal populations are able to flourish in the right numbers. This is done through the process of habitat management and pest/predator control.

Pest control? Predator control? Yep, that’s right! Gamekeepers want to make sure that certain species continue to thrive in great numbers. However, they also need to keep some animal populations down. Certain predatory species and animals which are regarded as pests can pose a threat to endangered species and thus they need to be controlled.

Don’t get too excited though! It’s highly unlikely that you will be stalking invisible beasts through a jungle whilst brandishing a huge machine gun like Arnie and his friends do in the film Predator. It’s more likely that you will be trapping and shooting animals using your trusty shotgun.

Incidentally, gamekeepers need to be trained how to use a gun effectively. Understandably, when you find employment, you will also need to obtain an official gun handling licence and you will have to undergo an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check – formerly known as the CRB check.

As you can probably tell, a career in gamekeeping and wildlife management is not going to be your average nine-to-five, office job in the middle of a city. Without exception, you will be working in rural areas. You will also spend the majority of your time working in the great outdoors.

Likely stomping grounds tend to be country estates, areas of national parkland and other pieces of government-owned land. However, the majority of gamekeepers are employed by private landowners who own large estates. You’re most likely going to be working in areas like the Scottish Highlands, the Peak District, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Moors.

What does it take to be a gamekeeper?

Gamekeeping and wildlife management careers are very hands-on. Consequently, you will need to be physically fit and not afraid to get stuck into a bit of manual labour now and again.

Come rain or shine you will be working outdoors. Therefore, if you don’t like the feel of the wind slapping you in the face or rain dripping from your nose, then you should probably look for a career elsewhere. However, if you love fighting against the elements and feeling fresh air in your lungs, you should definitely get involved.

A gamekeeper’s working week can be incredibly varied. Understandably, shooting season keeps you incredibly busy, as you will spend the majority of your time organising shooting activities and managing teams of ‘beaters’.

However, a large amount of your time will focus on land management too. For instance, you might be fixing fences, cutting down trees in dense wooded areas and repairing vehicles, such as tractors and quad bikes.

You certainly don’t need a university degree to break into this line of work. However, gamekeeping and wildlife management careers are few and far between. This means that competition for positions is fierce.

Consequently, it’s advisable for you to study a gamekeeping and wildlife management course at an agricultural college or enter the profession via an apprenticeship scheme.

So if you’re a regular Dr Dolittle, with a natural talent for handling animals and a love for the outdoors, it may well be worth considering a career in gamekeeping and wildlife management!