Gamekeeper

Image of a pheasant

What does the gamekeeper do?

Gamebirds are special types of birds that are used for food, in the same way that farm animals are kept to provide food. Pheasant, partridge and grouse are all gamebirds and it is these birds that gamekeepers help raise from young. Gamekeepers need to provide a good habitat for gamebirds, and so they look after large areas of countryside to do this.

Image of a gamekeeper’s dog

Gamebird shooting

Gamebirds are shot in the shooting season and then eaten all year round. The season, in autumn and winter, is a busy time for gamekeepers who use their dogs to flush out the birds from the undergrowth. The dogs also retrieve shot birds using their sense of smell to find them.

Image of deer grazing

Conserving the countryside

Gamekeepers control predators such as foxes in the woods, hedgerows and fields, which they look after. This helps to keep a good balance of different kinds of animals. Many parts of the countryside where gamekeepers work have been chosen as special conservation areas because they are home to important plants and wildlife.

Click on the facts

 Gamekeeper facts

  • 1. Gamekeepers have been around for more than 1000 years – the first ones were the men who protected the King’s deer in the royal hunting forests in medieval times
  • 2. Only one in 50 people has ever met a gamekeeper!
  • 3. Seven out of every 10 gamekeepers care for at least one SSSI: Site of Special Scientific Interest, the most treasured countryside in the UK
  • 4. There are about 3000 full-time gamekeepers in Britain
  • 5. Gamebird shooting supports 70,000 full-time jobs
  • 6. Gamekeepers manage about two million hectares of land – an area of countryside about the size of Wales
  • 7. Gamekeepers have different types of dogs but Spaniels are usually used to flush out gamebirds and Labradors are often used to bring back shot birds

 Moorland facts

  • 1. Moorland is wild, hilly countryside where there are no or few trees and where very few people live
  • 2. Britain has 75% of all the heather moorland in the world and it covers 12% of Scotland’s land area
  • 3. Upland gamekeepers manage and protect rare moorlands, carrying out conservation work as they do so
  • 4. The red grouse is a totally wild bird and cannot be hand-reared by humans
  • 5. Scottish Moorland kept for grouse shooting supports a wide variety of creatures, including golden plover, curlew, short-eared owl, merlin, plus several mammals and amphibians

 Gamekeeper jobs

  • 1. Making sure that gamebirds have the right kind of nesting and feeding areas (gamebirds lay their eggs on the ground)
  • 2. Preventing predators such as rats, crows and foxes from eating chicks and young hares
  • 3. Watching out for poachers – people who try to illegally catch and steal wild animals
  • 4. Defending the countryside against vandalism and pollution
  • 5. Maintaining a good supply of pheasant and partridge for shooting days
  • 6. Rearing gamebirds by hand in spring, when necessary, and releasing the birds into the wild in summer
  • 7. Conservation work such as tree and hedge planting and removing invasive plants (plants from outside the region, which tend to take over an area of land)