Stuart is a junior gamekeeper and conservation officer at the Stradsett estate in Norfolk. This is his first job since leaving college and allows Stuart to indulge his passion for the countryside.
What are your main responsibilities?
I am an underkeeper, which is a junior gamekeeper post. I help to run the shoot on the estate, as well as getting involved in the general habitat management and estate maintenance. This also involves breeding and rearing the birds for shoots.
What type of shooting events are there?
We breed pheasant for family and commercial shoots. Commercial shoots are when we rent days out to people who pay to come to the estate for a day's shooting. The pheasant are reared over the summer months and the season runs from the end of summer until the end of January.
What does estate maintenance involve?
It covers all types of pest control, including rabbits, rats and hares, as well as looking after the forestry, fencing, hedge trimming and grass cutting. I use equipment like chainsaws, strimmers and weed-sprayers. The estate has a 25-acre lake – about the size of 10 football pitches – and people come to fish here between February and September. During the summer I also get involved in lake management.
What varieties of fish do you stock?
We have carp, pike, roach and bream. I use a boat to check things like water quality and, of course, our fish. I sometimes have to call in the eel man, who comes to take eels out of the lake before they harm fish stocks.
How do you get around the estate?
I drive different vehicles depending on which part of the estate I am working in, including a quad bike (which I had to get a licence for), a 4x4 jeep, a tractor and a self-propelled, grass cutting machine.
Do you always carry a gun with you?
Not all the time. I tend to use a shotgun in spring for shooting pests like rodents and crows. My rifle is used when we need to reduce our deer population, as well as for pest control.
What are your working hours?
In winter, I start at 7.00am and work until 4.00pm but fit in various breaks throughout the day. During the summer months I work longer – especially with the lighter evenings. I suppose I work an average of 40 hours a week throughout the year.
How did you get this job?
I live in the neighbourhood of the estate and used to spend my school holidays working with the gamekeepers and the beaters during a shoot. After my training a position came up and I was successful.
What training have you had?
Apart from my college courses, I have a stalker's certificate of competence, certificates in chainsaw-related operations and I've also learned how to drive a tractor and a fork-lift vehicle.
What qualities do you need for this job?
Apart from the obvious love of the countryside and conservation issues, you have to be hard working and dedicated, reliable and good at using your own initiative. To be a gamekeeper you need to get shotgun and firearms licences.
What are your long-term career goals?
I want to become a head gamekeeper on one of the top shooting and conservation estates.
- Go beating on local estates to get experience.
- Go to college or university before you decide whether this is the best career for you.
Stuart's route to becoming a Gamekeeper
- First Diploma in Game Management.
- National Diploma in Game, Wildlife and Habitat Management.
- On-the-job training with head gamekeeper.
Gamekeeper related jobs
- Countryside/conservation officer
- Countryside ranger/warden
- Forest officer
- Forest worker
Gamekeeper salary information
- Pay varies according to the employer and whether the job comes with accommodation, a vehicle and other allowances such as clothing.
- As a guide, a junior or underkeeper will earn around £11,000 a year.
A career as a Gamekeeper
- Although qualifications are not essential, some employers prefer basic qualifications and agricultural colleges require some GCSEs/S grades before accepting students on courses to study gamekeeping, countryside and wildlife management courses.
- Relevant courses include a BTEC (Edexcel) First Diploma in Countryside and Environment (Gamekeeping) and a HNC/D in Countryside Management (Game Management).
- In Scotland, the SQA offer HNC Gamekeeping and Wildlife Management.
- Game and Wildlife Management Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) are available.
- NVQs/SVQs at Level 2 and 3 in Gamekeeping and Wildlife Management are available as well as in specialist skills such as deer and game (bird) rearing.
- A gamekeeper will normally need a firearms or shotgun certificate. Headkeepers earn up to £25,000.
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