Cameron MacLean - Modern Apprentice in Gamekeeping

Cameron MacLean, aged 19 from Islay, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Gamekeeping with Dunlossit Estate through North Highland College UHI

Cameron MacLean holding a fish

"When I was young, my father would take me fishing and this is what founded my interest in the outdoors. As I grew up I was introduced to gamekeeping and shooting, thoroughly enjoying beating at local estates and learning about the industry. I knew then that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

Although I grew up in town and wasn’t from a gamekeeping background, I found it quite easy to get my foot in the door. At high school I was beating at a local estate and helped a deer stalker for a few days. I would really recommend this, as most gamekeepers and stalkers are very friendly and happy to help encourage the next generation. Tagging along with them will give you a taste of what the job entails and gets your name out there.

As part of my course with North Highland College UHI I am employed by Dunlossit estate as a trainee gamekeeper on the Isle of Islay. I have lots of important responsibilities, such as looking after pens of pheasants and partridges and keeping them fed and safe, helping with the deer cull, controlling pests and predators, making sure the estate is well kept and my drives are tidy, helping on shoot days and interacting with guests and the owners when taking them stalking, shooting or fishing.

In my line of work, no two days are the same. I also need a number of specialised skills, especially when taking guests stalking, shooting or fishing, as they are paying for my experience and expecting to be successful. I must be knowledgeable about all aspects of my job, including local plants and wildlife. It is very important to be passionate and driven, as often I work long hours and work alone.

I am in my third year of college studying gamekeeping. I have learned a lot there, especially the paperwork side of my job, as the modern gamekeeper must know the appropriate laws inside out. I have learned a lot from my peers too, as talking to trainee keepers from all over Scotland means we are able to share our individual skills and experiences with each other.

In the future I would like to complete my HNC in Wildlife Management at North Highland College UHI and further my knowledge of deer management, game bird management and local plants and wildlife while moving forward in my career.

My headkeeper continues to teach me more every day and this means I am able to take on more responsibilities and move forward.

I’d have to say the highlight of my career was last year’s pheasant return. It was my first full year taking pheasants from young poults to being shot and although it was a steep learning curve, the hard work paid off and we had a good return which we were happy with. This was a great confidence boost and good target to aim for this year.

With the endless hours we put into controlling pests and predators and taking care of stock, it is a joy to see plentiful game birds for shooting or to see wildlife thriving throughout the estate. When guests have a great day and really enjoy themselves or when I see lots of wildlife and rarer species it really makes it worthwhile."