The Glorious 12th has once again been and gone, and with it all the romantic notions of one of Scotland’s most historic sports.
Despite the worldwide fame of the day, behind the scenes, the hard-working gamekeepers and support staff rarely get the recognition they deserve, and yet without them, August 12 would just be another date in the calendar.
The game and wildlife industry is a burgeoning sector in Scotland and includes everything from the management of upland and lowland moors to woodland and wetland game and wildlife species management, including partridge, grouse, pheasant and deer.
The industry supports tourism and recreation and employs 2.8% of the land-based and environmental sector’s total workforce. In the UK, there are around 5,000 full-time gamekeepers.
Gamekeeping is one of the most popular careers within the sector, according to Kevin Patrick, regional director, Lantra Scotland.
He said: “The profession provides a skilled and challenging outdoor occupation that requires expertise in a variety of areas. Gamekeepers work outdoors either alone or as part of a gamebird management team, focusing on all aspects of successful gamekeeping and wildlife management.
"This includes contribution to estate game and habitat management planning, rearing game, maintaining game habitats and other wildlife management activities like pest control as well as general conservation and land management. There are few more rewarding careers for people who relish working outdoors.”
Gamekeepers also provide leadership and general support and administration of shooting days. On larger rural estates or shoots, underkeepers may work to support the head keeper who oversees the entire gamebird team.
Gamekeepers tend to work on large rural estates or smaller shoots, often in remote upland regions such as the north-west Highlands of Scotland, as well as lowland areas including the Borders and Perthshire.
As with all rural industries in Scotland, you need to get the right vocational qualifications before you can expect to land your dream job.
A visit to the Skills Development Scotland’s website should be your first port of call – www.myworldofwork.co.uk – or Lantra’s careers website www.lantra.co.uk/careers.
You will need to choose the type of qualification you are looking for and then search for qualifications available in Game and Wildlife Management.
School leavers and career changers interested in a career in gamekeeping should also consider doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Game and Wildlife Management.
Having the right qualifications is important, but it is not everything – experience working outdoors and knowledge of the countryside will give you an added advantage over your peers.
Work experience is especially useful as an introduction to gamekeeping and gaining a first position as an underkeeper.
Gamekeeping is a vocation that provides a multitude of challenges and variety like no other job. As a guide, a head gamekeeper may command an annual salary of around £20,000.
Actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live. Some positions come with accommodation, a vehicle or allowances for clothing or dog food.