How to become a Gamekeeper. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Gamekeeper do?
As a gamekeeper, you would usually work on a country estate, making sure there is enough game (including deer, and birds such as pheasant, partridge and grouse) for clients to shoot.
Your work would vary according to the season, but your main tasks would include:
- organising shoots and fishing parties
- hiring and supervising staff such as beaters (who flush out birds during shoots)
- keeping records of what is shot or caught and arranging the sale of game
- training gun dogs and working with them
- breeding game birds for release in the wild
- controlling predators such as foxes, crows and rats by shooting and trapping
- protecting game from poachers by patrolling the beat area at night
- repairing equipment, buildings and game pens and cleaning guns
- clearing woodland and burning heather
- liaising with the police to deal with crime such as badger digging and hare coursing.
As a keeper protecting and managing rivers and streams as habitats for trout and salmon you would be known as a river keeper or ghillie.
You would work long, often irregular hours, usually with early starts, late finishes and weekend work.
You would work in the countryside, often in isolated areas, and spend most of your time outdoors in all weather conditions.
How much does a Gamekeeper earn?
Gamekeepers can earn from £14,000 to around £20,000 a year.
Employers often provide free or cheap accommodation and a vehicle.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You would usually start your career as a gamekeeper by working as an assistant or under-keeper, working with an experienced keeper.
Competition for vacancies is strong, so it will be useful if you have some paid or unpaid experience, perhaps as part of a beating team, or in a related area such as forestry or farming. Practical skills such as carpentry would also be useful. You would need a driving licence for most jobs.
You could prepare for work as a gamekeeper by doing a relevant full-time course before looking for work, although this is not essential. Courses include:
- BTEC (Edexcel)Level 3 Certificate or Diploma in Countryside Management.
- SQA National Certificate Introduction to Gamekeeping (in Scotland)
- SQA Higher National Certificate in Gamekeeping and Wildlife Management (in Scotland).
You should check with individual colleges for their entry requirements. See the ‘Links’ section of the National Gamekeepers’ Charitable Trust website for a list of some of the colleges running gamekeeping courses.
- National Gamekeepers’ Charitable Trust
You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Training and Development
Once you start work as a gamekeeper you will usually receive on-the-job training.
If you are involved in tasks that could be dangerous, such as operating chainsaws and using pesticides, you are required by law to have certificates of competence. These (and other useful courses) are available through:
- National Proficiency Test Council
- Scottish Skills Testing Service
- Lantra Awards.
You can develop your skills and knowledge by completing short or residential courses run by organisations like the British Deer Society (BDS), the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation.
- British Deer Society
- Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
- British Association for Shooting and Conservation
You will need to keep up to date with the latest legislation, grant schemes and scientific research. One way to do this is to join organisations such as the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation or the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. Visit their websites for membership details.
Skills and Knowledge
- an interest in the countryside and in working outdoors
- the ability and willingness to tackle all sorts of practical jobs
- the ability to work on your own for long periods but also work as part of a small team
- good knowledge of health and safety
- good observational skills
- the ability to communicate well with others.
You could be employed either by a landowner or by a shooting syndicate that rents shooting rights from a landowner.
Competition for vacancies is strong. You may be able to start on a part-time basis on smaller shoots and progress to a full-time position. There are also opportunities for seasonal and contract work.
Vacancies are sometimes advertised in local newspapers, but jobs are often found by word-of-mouth, by contacting landowners direct, or by moving from another job with the same employer. The National Gamekeepers Organisation website has a Gamekeepers Jobs Register.
- National Gamekeepers Organisation – Gamekeepers Jobs Register
With experience you could progress to head keeper.
Alternatively, you may be able to become self-employed by renting the shooting rights to land or working as a contractor.