Agricultural, Natural, Animal Care
Gamekeepers work on large country estates, shooting clubs, or for management firms, making sure that there are plenty of animals such as birds, deer or fish. They breed deer, ducks, trout, grouse, pheasants and other game, to keep up the number of animals. They make sure that the countryside is suitable for the animals.
Gamekeepers work outdoors, in all sorts of weather, and it could be cold, wet and muddy. They have to work hard, for very long hours and often on their own. Gamekeepers need to be independent, tough, self-reliant and love the outdoor life.
Typical job responsibilities include:
- Breeding game such as deer, ducks, pheasants, grouse and trout to ensure good stocks of animals
- Ensuring that the local habitat is suitable for the rearing of the animals
- Planting and protecting crops, clearing land and keeping rivers and streams clean
- Guarding against poachers who may try to steal the animals
- Trapping and killing predators such as rats and magpies which could attack the birds and other game
- Using a gun, working with dogs and patrolling the estate
- On shoot days, organising the beaters
- Some gamekeepers may be involved in the training of dogs
- Organising shooting and fishing parties
- Checking that anglers have permits and rod licences to fish
The work of a gamekeeper is varied and could include such activities as carpentry, tree trimming, cleaning guns, skinning animals and working with gun dogs. You may have to face dangerous situations, for example, dealing with poachers who are trying to steal the stock.
The hours of work will vary and will involve weekend work and late or early starts. Gamekeepers work in the countryside, often in remote areas and may be given accommodation to live in. They usually receive clothing and other allowances as well as tips from participants in shooting parties. This work can be hard to get into and there is fierce competition for jobs. A good way to start may be to approach an existing gamekeeper for beating jobs.
It may be possible to progress to head of estate when you have gained skills and experience in shoots and land management. It may be possible to advance from trainee to head gamekeeper quite quickly. To do this job you must have good health and be physically fit.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Key skills for gamekeepers
- Unsentimental approach to animals and game as this job includes the killing of wildlife for sport
- Excellent communication skills as you will be giving advice about gun usage to clients involved in shooting days
- Excellent level of physical fitness and stamina
- Sound practical skills
- A strong love of the countryside and outdoor life
- Ability to be self-reliant and work in an independent way
- Not mind working for long hours in all sorts of weather
- Comfortable with handling a variety of animals and wildlife
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of gamekeepers
Examples of typical employers of gamekeepers include:
- Landowners of large country estates and farms
- Shooting clubs and syndicates which rent shooting rights from landowners
- Management firms
Qualifications and training required
To become a gamekeeper no formal qualifications are required although some GCSEs may be useful, for example, in English, maths, a science or craft subject. It may be possible to secure an intermediate or advanced level apprenticeship for this area of work although competition is likely to be extremely strong. You may get in through a Modern Apprenticeship. There is a framework in Rural Skills at Levels 2 (SCQF Level 5) and 3 (SCQF Level 6/7).
In Scotland you could take a National Certificate (NC), National Qualification (NQ), Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) in gamekeeping and wildlife management or conservation, countryside skills or countryside management before applying for a job. Entry requirements for the NC are up to 4 subjects at National 4 or 5; for the HNC or HND normally 1-2 Highers or the NC are required
Gaining relevant skills through paid or unpaid work experience would be very important. Assisting a gamekeeper would be ideal but working on a farm or in forestry would also be valuable work experience.
Training is usually carried out on the job and you might be able to work towards Diplomas in Work-based Game and Wildlife Management at level 2 and 3. You may also train towards City and Guilds Land Based Services Awards, Certificates or Diplomas. These will provide you with the proficiency to use chemicals, pesticides, chain saws and other equipment.
Gamekeepers may attend college on a part-time or day release basis as well as full time course as they work towards relevant qualifications. The number of colleges running relevant courses is relatively small. These are usually BTEC level 2 or 3 courses in Countryside and Environment or Countryside Management.
At a higher level there is the HNC in Gamekeeping with Wildlife Management which requires practical experience before entry. There are also a few Foundation Degrees available in Countryside and Environment (Gamekeeping) at several colleges. These would require a level 3 qualification or 2 or more A levels for entry.