Success on the pitch and in field for rising star Savio

The traditional role of gamekeeping in Scotland has been undergoing a bit of a revival of late, with many college courses oversubscribed and demand for suitably trained staff on the rise. SRUC Elmwood, Borders College and North Highland College UHI recently reported a spike in demand from sporting estates for newly qualified gamekeepers and Modern Apprentices, indicating the industry is in good health.

Savio Genini, a 19-year-old trainee gamekeeper working at Pitmain Estate in Kingussie, is a great example of the kind of talent the industry is looking for.  Savio is already well known locally as a talented shinty player, having represented Scotland at under-17 level and been part of the Kingussie team which won the Camanachd Cup for his home town. But it’s possibly less well known that Savio is also a rising star in the world of gamekeeping too. He was Modern Apprentice of the Year at North Highland College UHI while working at Pitmain Estate and later went on to win the Game and Wildlife category and the Overall Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year award at a ceremony held by Lantra Scotland in March this year.

Savio’s interest in gamekeeping flourished as a 13-year-old, when he spent many happy days fishing, beating and helping out on Pitmain Estate, just a few miles from his home in Kingussie. During this time, he got to know the estate’s Head Gamekeeper Graham Mabon, who gave him his first opportunity to train as a Modern Apprentice. After successfully completing his apprenticeship, Savio has gone on to study for a National Certificate in Gamekeeping at North Highland College UHI, while continuing his work as a trainee at Pitmain.

Savio said: “Learning my trade as an apprentice gamekeeper under the guidance of Graham and my tutors at North Highland College UHI, has really helped me to develop my skills and build my confidence. Gamekeeping is a tough job with long hours, but it’s really rewarding. I’m passionate about what we do, particularly the role we play in managing the countryside. Gamekeeping is not just about shooting. We do a lot of work conserving and improving habitats, which has a big impact on grouse numbers and many other bird and wildlife species. By controlling vermin and carefully managing the land, we have seen populations of white hares, curlews, and many other species thrive.”

Savio’s Head Gamekeeper, Graham Mabon, said: “One of the first things that struck me about Savio was his maturity and passion for his job – he always asks questions and you can see his willingness to learn. These are some of the things we look for in our trainees. They have to bring with them a level of self-discipline and show they can take the initiave. Savio has this in spades and we have rewarded him by giving him more responsibility on the estate. Recently he has been helping to run one of the beats on our grouse moor and this year he’ll be taking personal control of the line of beaters, which is a big responsibility.”

The job of a trainee gamekeeper is always varied and there is rarely a dull moment, according to Savio, who continued: “Gamekeepers never stop, as there is always something to be done. Our main role on the hill is to manage the habitat to allow the grouse to thrive, which is a year-round job. Disease and vermin control, heather burning and spreading grit, which helps grouse digest the heather, are just some of our roles. We also assist with managing the low ground shoot, controlling the fox population, feeding the pheasants and managing the woodland and game crops. And this is before the shooting season has even started. From 12th August we manage the grouse shoot, then on 1st September it’s the partridges and in October the pheasant shooting season starts. We also start stalking red deer hinds and stags from October, which helps to control the population and keep the herd healthy.”

Kevin Patrick, Regional Director of Lantra Scotland, the Sector Skills Council for the Land-based, Aquaculture and Environmental Industries said: “It is encouraging that demand for gamekeepers on the rise and Savio is a great example of the level of talent that is available to estate managers across Scotland. We are seeing more young people taking the Modern Apprenticeship route into gamekeeping, as they know that combining college studies with hands-on work experience provides the practical and academic skills they need to succeed in the industry.”