It is estimated that there are approximately 5,000 full-time gamekeepers employed in the UK, as well as many thousands of people devoting their leisure time to the management of game.
There are also many syndicates who share the work of a gamekeeper among the members of the shoot. Being able to run a shoot on this basis has been made possible by the growth of game farms. These keep breeding stocks of pheasants, partridges and other game birds. From incubator hatched eggs, many thousands of game birds are sold as day-olds or as poults released to the wild on estates and farms. Releasing the stock to the wild needs a thorough understanding of the farming in the shoot area or young birds can be lost when crops are harvested.
The gamekeeper’s year is from February to the end of January when the shooting season ends. February/March is traditionally the time when gamekeepers change jobs and take their holidays.
During the spring and summer, the lowground keeper’s work is concerned with controlling predators and rearing young birds, either from their own incubators or by buying in day-old chicks. Maintenance and care of buildings, equipment and pens is a vital aspect of the work. Moorland keepers who look after grouse do not have game to rear but they will have heavy commitment to predator control.
Throughout the year the shoot habitat needs to be managed. This involves seasonal work such as heather burning, woodland clearing, hedgerow improvement and pond maintenance. Control is also an important area of work.
The shooting season is obviously a busy time of the year for gamekeepers. Keeping game on a shoot can be a problem. Losses to organised poaching must be avoided and may require many nights out patrolling the shoot area.