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Discover Atholl Estates on ‘Meet the Gamekeepers Day’

The team at Atholl Estates is delighted to welcome visitors to the first ‘Meet the Gamekeepers Day’ which takes place in the grounds of Blair Castle, 1pm – 4pm on Sunday 7 June 2009.

Visitors will be given the opportunity to meet and talk to the Atholl Estates Gamekeepers and see first hand the varied equipment that they use in their day to day work. There will be demonstrations and the opportunity to participate in ferret handling and rifle sighting (through telescopic sights). The machines used to manage the moorland will be on display – Land rover, Argocat (all terrain vehicle) and wildfire fighting equipment. There will also be a Highland pony tacked up with deer saddle and ghillie (pony boy). Two of the Estates’ resident rangers will be on hand with the gamekeepers to explain and host fun activities relating to deer and nature and make fun badges for the children with their badge-making machine.

This event will give individuals an insight into the fascinating world of game keeping. There are about 3000 full time gamekeepers in the UK and a similar number who do the job part time. Game keeping is a very old profession. The first gamekeepers in Britain would have been the men who protected the deer from poachers in the medieval Royal hunting forests. Today, gamekeepers are still concerned about poachers but their main work is to manage the land and wild animal populations to ensure the long term wellbeing of the woods and moorland on the Estates; the welfare of all animal species; while delivering a harvest of grouse and red deer during the sporting seasons.

Looking after the woods, hedgerows and fields in which the game birds and animals live is crucial. Most game birds need good grassy cover in which to nest, plenty of food and protection from rats and crows which would otherwise attack and eat the chicks. Hares need open country and protection from foxes.

Because lots of other wild birds and animals benefit from these things too, gamekeeping helps to ensure a balanced countryside with plentiful wildlife.

Many of the younger keepers now learn their trade not from their fathers but in one of a number of rural studies colleges which offer a qualification in the profession. Like all things, the job has become more technical as time has gone by, and today’s keepers need to understand veterinary medicines, agricultural practice, and annual budgets, as well as retaining their more traditional harmony with nature and the countryside.

Activities will take place between 1pm & 4pm in the grounds of Blair Castle and are free to castle visitors as part of the standard Castle or Grounds entry.

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