An Angus youngster who turned a land-based hobby into ‘a way of life’ was yesterday named Scotland’s Young Gamekeeper of the Year, 2016.
Callum Low (20) from Arbroath saw off significant competition from both ends of the country to land the prestigious honour from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).
His Head Gamekeeper at Invermark Estate, Garry MacLennan, was on hand to receive the prize on his behalf at The Scottish Game Fair, flanked by SGA Chairman Alex Hogg and Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing.
Nominations for the annual accolade are invited from colleges running game and wildlife management qualifications, rural estates, employers and senior industry professionals.
Best practice in stewardship of the environment and a willingness to work and learn are key criteria, with the winners chosen as youthful ambassadors for their profession.
Callum, appointed as a beat keeper a year ago following a successful placement, manages for grouse, deer stalking and other resident wildlife on the 55 000 acre mixed sporting estate in Angus.
Raised on the edge of the North Sea and not traditionally from gamekeeping stock, he is delighted he chose to follow his passion to work on the land.
“It is a real honour for any young gamekeeper in Scotland to achieve this recognition and I am grateful to the judges. I enjoyed fishing when I was younger but I didn’t really have connections to gamekeeping.
“My family are electricians and most of my friends went into engineering, the oil industry or onto University. I suppose I was regarded as a bit of a ‘black sheep’.
“Gamekeeping is not just a career, though, it is a way of life. It is a major commitment and you have to make sacrifices to be able to give it the care it requires.
“Although I enjoy the sociable shoot days when the hard work is rewarded, it is also a privilege to see the other wildlife benefiting from your management such as waders and eagles.
“These things are all a part of the work you do, as well as producing grouse and stalking.”
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said the judging panel was very happy to receive a strong recommendation, once again, of Callum’s work at Invermark.
The youngster helped out with pest control and game farming before pursuing qualifications and an estate apprenticeship.
“Callum came to our attention last year. We know how highly regarded he is for his work ethic and maturity. As well as the skills he has learned at North Highland College UHI and, through working with senior Gamekeepers, he has the modern view of land management that we look for in this award.
“It is vital to the environment and to Scotland’s rural economy that we continue to have, and reward, highly trained new entrants into the profession.
“Shooting and angling is worth £315 million to Scotland. We need level-headed young people like Callum taking it forward as role models for others.”
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I recognise the value of field sports to Scotland’s rural economy. Plainly, having a highly skilled workforce will help our rural economy to grow at the same time as creating more employment opportunities for our young people.
“That is why it is so important that young people thinking about a career in gamekeeping can access formal training and work-based learning, as well as having role models such as Callum Low, who is indeed a worthy winner of this year’s Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award.”
*The SGA Young Gamekeeper prize is the most respected award in Scotland for an early stage practitioner in gamekeeping, stalking, gillie-ing ( on river and land) and wildlife management.
It recognises individuals who, in either college placement duties or apprenticeship or early years employment demonstrate high standards in wildlife and land management and are responsible youth ambassadors for the industry and their peer group.
The award criteria is:
Passion for his/her field of land management
Adherence to/appreciation of the law and best practice in delivery of duty
A strong work ethic and an ability to learn and adapt
A solid understanding of why responsible management is important to Scotland’s countryside, economy and environment.
The candidates are nominated by employer estates and lecturers in the college/education sector.
A shortlist is drawn up before a final winner is selected by a Judging Panel of the senior SGA Committee on the basis of the criteria, a short informal interview and the strength of recommendations or endorsements of that individual candidate.
About Callum Low: Callum graduated through North Highland College UHI and was named Student Gamekeeper of the Year. Last year he was Lantra’s Apprentice of the Year and Learner of the Year. He has been well schooled in both theoretical and practical land management and exemplifies everything the SGA, as advocates of best practice, look for in young entrants to the profession.