Fife, Scotland, is a hilly county where sheep graze in pastures and wheat field ripples, and where wild animals live in scattered forests. In one of the forests in Cupar, a town located in the eastern part of Fife, there is a training facility for students of Elmwood College’s gamekeeping course, where they study hunting, gamekeeping and wildlife ecology.
Gamekeeping lecturer Jim Goodlad, while driving a four-wheel drive car, tells six students accompanying him to look at pheasants pecking at insects in cattle manure. It is a part of field courses to learn how to rear pheasants, a popular game for hunting. To create a feeding place for pheasants, the students laid straw on forest grounds and scattered wheat grains on them to replicate wheat fields after harvest. They inspect the place in the morning and the afternoon and manage the population. They listen to Goodlad’s explanation that in winter, the place will become a feeding place not only for pheasants but for other birds as well.
There are currently 30 students in the gamekeeping course, their ages ranging from 15 to 24. They are enrolled in either one-year or two-year course, and learn necessary skills for wildlife management in a short term, including how to hunt deer, how to use air guns and shotguns and knowledge on the food chain in the forests. As the course focuses on fostering gamekeepers ready to work immediately, most of the classes are given out in the fields. The students also obtain a certificate for deer hunting and a license for driving special-purpose vehicles fit for rough roads.
Courses to foster professional wildlife managers are available in 27 colleges in Britain. Three colleges in Scotland including Elmwood College offer such courses, and more than 1,500 people obtained a certificate for deer hunting through the courses.
The courses’ graduates are highly evaluated in the region, and there are lots of job offers for them, including working for large-scale private and public forests or becoming hunters or alpine guides. They also bear the task of reducing wildlife damage to farmlands by managing excessive population of deer which eat pasture grass and sugar beets.
Greg Trowell, 15, the youngest student in Elmwood’s gamekeeping course, says he likes to spend time surrounded by nature and it is hard for him to engage in a desk job. Since his parents are hunters, he spent his childhood in nature. After he was graduated from high school, he entered the gamekeeping course with a future vision of becoming a wildlife manager or doing business for hunters, he says.
Holly Swaney, 23, says she decided to apply for the course because she could not find a good job after graduating from another college, and she learned that the graduates of the gamekeeping course receive many job offers. Although she did not have a good impression of hunting in the beginning, she changed her way of thinking after taking gamekeeping classes, she says. She stresses that in Scotland, where there are no natural enemies for deer, it is necessary to manage them thoroughly based on field research and plans.
Goodlad tells students that gamekeeping is not an easy job, saying that they need to work 14 hours a day in summer and eight hours in winter. He says the students need to have passion, adding that he hopes they will learn to understand biodiversity and take a general view of nature.
Many young people here are learning management skills to adjust the ecological balance and control wildlife damage to crops.
(Oct. 17, 2013)