The Job and What's Involved

Gamekeepers work in the countryside looking after areas called beats. They make sure there is enough game in their beats for shooting. Game includes deer, and birds such as grouse, partridge and pheasant. They also manage and protect wildlife habitats.

The different types of gamekeeper are:

Lowland Keepers working in woodland and open farmland. They are mainly concerned with mallards, partridges and pheasant.

Upland Keepers working on moors. They are mainly concerned with blackcock, deer and grouse.

Highland Keepers mainly concerned with deer stalking. In some of the Scottish Highland areas they are also involved with ptarmigan (a type of grouse).

Gamekeepers work closely with farm managers and forestry workers, as well as clients who come to shoots. Their work varies according to the season. In spring and summer their main tasks are:

  • Rearing young birds from hatcheries or those bought as one-day old chicks (only lowland keepers).
  • Making sure game is kept safe from predators (birds or animals that compete with or may harm them). Predators include crows, magpies, foxes, stoats, weasels and rats. Gamekeepers shoot some predators and trap others.
  • Making necessary repairs to equipment, buildings and game pens.

In the shooting season, the busiest time of year, gamekeepers:

  • Arrange shoots and hire beaters, who flush birds out of their cover and collect those that have been shot.
  • Supervise beaters on the day and sometimes sell the game afterwards.

Other work throughout the year includes clearing woodland or burning heather, tractor driving, clearing land using power saws and other equipment, building fences and clearing ponds and ditches. They also keep records and may train gun dogs.

Some gamekeepers are also responsible for rivers, streams and surrounding wetland management.

Gamekeepers work flexible hours according to the season and jobs which need completing. This can include early morning, evening and weekend work.

Most of their working time is spent outdoors in all weather conditions. There is a lot of walking, and work can involve bending and lifting. There is some indoor work, including looking after young birds, maintaining equipment and machinery.

The job also involves using power saws and other equipment, and sometimes wearing protective clothing such as goggles or gloves. Gamekeepers need a good knowledge of safety issues.

The starting salary for a gamekeeper may be around £10,000 a year. Many employers provide free or low-cost accommodation and a vehicle. There may also be allowances for items such as clothing, telephones and dogs.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are estimated to be around 3,000 full-time and approximately the same amount of part-time gamekeepers in the UK. Jobs opportunities occur in rural areas, about half of them in England, a third in Scotland, and the remainder in Wales and Northern Ireland. Vacancies for full-time gamekeepers occur infrequently and there is likely to be much competition for them.

Gamekeepers work for landowners or shooting syndicates that rent shooting rights from landowners.

Job opportunities may be advertised in local newspapers, but more often jobs are found through contacting landowners direct, word-of-mouth, or through working for employers in another capacity. The National Gamekeepers Organisation's website includes a Gamekeepers Jobs Register.

Education and Training

There are no set academic requirements, but some employers prefer applicants with GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). Practical experience of working on the land or involvement in countryside activities can be useful in finding employment or training.

Most agricultural colleges run specific gamekeeping courses. Contact them individually for details of courses and any entry requirements.

Useful qualifications include:

  • BTEC First Diploma in Countryside and Environment (Gamekeeping).
  • BTEC National Award in Gamekeeping.
  • BTEC National Award, Certificate and Diploma in Countryside Management (Game Management).
  • City & Guilds National Certificate in Gamekeeping Level 2.
  • NVQ Gamekeeping and Wildlife Management Levels 2
    and 3.
  • SVQ Game and Wildlife Management Level 2.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

There is likely to be on-the-job training for people with gamekeeping qualifications or those who have become gamekeepers after working in other relevant jobs.

Gamekeepers can work towards NVQ's/SVQ's at work as achieving these qualifications includes workplace assessment.

The National Gamekeepers Organisation encourages high standards in the work, provides advice sheets, and runs a membership scheme. The Game Conservancy Trust is also a membership organisation.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A gamekeeper should:

  • Be knowledgeable about the countryside and its wildlife.
  • Have energy, strength and stamina for the tasks involved.
  • Be willing to work outdoors in all weathers.
  • Be practical and good at working with their hands.
  • Be alert and observant.
  • Have good knowledge of safety issues when dealing with guns.
  • Have good personal communication skills.
  • Be able to work alone for long periods, but also as part of a small team.

Your Long Term Prospects

There may sometimes be opportunities for gamekeepers to be promoted to senior or head keeper, especially on large estates.

Some gamekeepers move on to work in a different area of countryside management or work overseas in other European countries or North America.

Get Further Information

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC),
Marford Mill, Rossett, Wrexham LL12 0HL
Tel: 01244 573000

The British Deer Society,
Burgate Manor, Fordingbridge, Hampshire SP6 1EF
Tel: 01425 655434

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996

National Gamekeepers' Organisation,
PO Box 107, Bishop Auckland DL14 9YW
Tel: 01388 665899

Scottish Gamekeepers Association,
PO Box 7477, Perth PH2 7YE
Tel: 01738 587515

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Additional resources

Additional resources