Gamekeeper of the Month – May

Mark Howard

Head gamekeeper

Mark Howard is a head gamekeeper based in Woodbridge, East England. His motto is “old fashioned values with a modern outlook.”

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and what got you into gamekeeping?

A: The family has long been involved in game and game shooting.

When I was younger, my uncle was a part-time gamekeeper at Cockfield Hall in Yoxford. He invited me to have a look around and it inspired me to pursue a career in gamekeeping.

Q: What is your most memorable moment as a gamekeeper?

A: I attended a Christmas shoot, on an estate I joined just after leaving school, and we spent a week building a fire in the middle of a wood.

On the shoot, we spent the whole day in one particular wood and at lunchtime they lit the fire and brought lunch for everyone by tractor. It was only a small bag but I remember the snow on the ground, the fire, and the fact it was Christmas.

Of course, two other times I remember clearly was the birth of my two daughters who have both attended shoot days.

Q: What’s the best thing about being a gamekeeper?

A: Habitat management in the late winter; coppicing and tree planting. I like the idea that something is being done for future generations.

Q: What does the job involve that people might not know about?

A: The conservation aspect is probably the area that the general public misunderstand.

It’s conservation not preservation. Conserving a species as a whole rather than the individual animal or bird, is what people don’t seem to grasp.

There’s also large misconception within the general public about where we fit into nature and the part we have to play to manage wildlife.

Q:  Do you think there is a future for gamekeepers and what advice would you give to someone thinking of a career?

A: Yes. I think it’s stronger now than it ever has been because of the numbers of people involved.  But the infighting, whether it be between shooting and other fieldsports or between large and small game shoots, must end.

I would not encourage everyone to go into gamekeeping as it’s something that you must make your own mind up about. So many people perceive the job as one thing and then realise it is something else.

All I would say is that if you are going to be a gamekeeper and it’s in your blood, nobody is going to stop you.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I run a rock ‘n’ roll club, go out to different clubs as well as vintage car shows and try to keep my Ford Zodiac on the road.

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