Gamekeepers in the United Kingdom

Head stalker Niall Rowantree (leftmost) taking out a guest (on his right) deer stalking on Ardnamurchan Estate in Scotland

A gamekeeper (often abbreviated to keeper) is a person who manages an area of countryside to make sure there is enough game for shooting and stalking, or fish for angling, and who manages areas of woodland, moorland, waterway or farmland for the benefit of game birds, deer, fish, and other wildlife in general.


The common pheasant, the most important bird for many lowland keepers

Typically, a gamekeeper is employed by a landowner or by a country estate, to prevent poaching, to rear and release game birds such as common pheasants and French partridge, eradicate pests, encourage and manage wild red grouse, and to control predators such as weasels, to manage habitats to suit game, and to monitor the health of the game. Today, some three thousand full-time gamekeepers are employed in the UK,[1] compared to as many as 25,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.[2] In addition, there are many people who spend their leisure time and money rearing game and maintaining habitats on their own small shoots.

There are several variations in gamekeeping:

Donald Urquhart, head stalker on the Inverewe estate, late 19th century
Gamekeeper (left) with a shooter on a driven grouse shoot in the Highlands, ca. 1922
Controlled burning of heather, one of the countryside management duties of gamekeepers

Gamekeepers and country sports enthusiasts hold that gamekeeping is an essential part of countryside conservation. Two thirds of the UK rural landmass is managed for shooting. The shooting industry creates £1.6 billion. £250 million is spent on conservation as a result of shooting.[3]


Some colleges in the UK now offer courses in gamekeeping up to and including diploma level. Two of these include the Northern School of Game and Wildlife at Newton Rigg, Cumbria[4] and Myerscough College, Lancashire.[5]

The Elmwood Campus of SRUC (Scotland's Rural College) in Cupar, Fife is Scotland's main gamekeeping college. The main campus for attaining both NC and HNC levels in gamekeepeing for south Scotland is borders college.[6] Easton and Otley college: Easton Campus also provides a course on gamekeeping level 2 and 3.

Scottish Gamekeepers AssociationEdit

In 1997, as a result of months of adverse media criticism of gamekeepers, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) was formed with a goal of promoting the work of gamekeepers and developing training in the area of law and best practices in the field of game management. The SGA chairman is Alex Hogg, a gamekeeper from Scotland .[7]

The National Gamekeepers' OrganisationEdit

In 1997,[when?] the National Gamekeepers' Organisation (NGO) was set up for the same reasons and in addition they felt that the main shooting association was not representing the keepers properly. The NGO now has some 15,000 members. The NGO run industry-based training for keepers and were the first organisation to react to EU legislation with regards to game meat hygiene producing a course for experienced keepers and stalkers which had approval from the Food Standards Agency. The NGO continue to promote gamekeeping, stalking, shooting and fishing. Its chairman is Lindsay Waddell, a gamekeeper from Co. Durham. The NGO also have dedicated moorland and deer branches.[8]


The League Against Cruel Sports estimates some 12,300 wild mammals and birds are killed on UK shooting estates every day and sees gamekeepers as playing a key role in the destruction of wildlife.[9] On the other hand, the shooting industry says that gamekeepers are vital wildlife conservation workers in the countryside.[10] The National Gamekeeper's Organisation (NGO) claims that nine times as much of the British countryside is looked after by gamekeepers as is in nature reserves and National Parks.[11]

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has criticised the poisoning of birds of prey on some shooting estates. This is probably the most controversial of all topics surrounding the gamekeeper. However, this is now rarer than in its heyday, due to better knowledge of the ecology of birds of prey, and cases are generally condemned by the shooting community. The red kite is now widespread in England and Wales owing to persecution until recent years. It survived in South Wales and the increase in numbers was enhanced by controlled releases of birds in empty areas.[12]

In fictionEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Norman Maclean: A Less Green and Pleasant Land: Our Threatened Wildlife. Cambridge University Press, 2015, ISBN 9781107673236.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "About Gamekeeping". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  2. ^ Edward, Bujak. English Landed Society in the Great War: Defending the Realm. Bloomsbury Studies in Military History. London. p. 71. ISBN 9781472592163. OCLC 1049577685.
  3. ^ Shooting Politics. "Shooting Politics, episode 1, 19th August 2009". Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  4. ^ webmaster. "Welcome to!".
  5. ^ "Olympic dreams of sharp shooter Lucy | Myerscough College". Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  6. ^ SRUC. "Elmwood Campus - SRUC".
  7. ^ "Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) - Scottish Gamekeepers".
  8. ^ "NGO website".
  9. ^ League Against Cruel Sports - Consequences of the Shoot Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ BASC - The Gamekeeper: Professional Countryside Manager Archived 9 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "NGO Educational Trust - Nurturing Countryside Knowledge".
  12. ^ "RSPB - Which birds are threatened".