The next generation
SG meets Connah Baker, winner of the 2018 Frank Jenkins Memorial Trophy.
How does it feel to be chosen as the country’s top gamekeeping student? Brilliant! I didn’t believe it when I read it, but it’s amazing.
What do you think set you apart from the other hopefuls? I did a lot to engage with a lot of different types of people from different walks of life, as well as doing a lot of community work, so I think that was a big push towards it.
When did you first start shooting? I picked it up when I was about six, going out with my dad. Then, when I was about 12, my dad said: “This is as much as I know, so if you want to take it further then you’re going to have to go and learn from different people”.
Aged 15, I won a competition with Night Vision UK and met a guy named Will Lomas (of Ottershead shoot in Lancashire). He introduced me to the gamekeeping side of things, which I didn’t really know much about. After meeting Will, I started going on his shoots.
I started working with Carl Creed at Bostock Estate Sporting in Cheshire. I’ve done a lot with him. Then I went on to Reaseheath College, where my tutors, Ged Hunston and Matt Goodall, took me out and pushed me to help me progress.
What inspired you to seek a career in gamekeeping? It was the side of managing your gamebirds that interested me and the work that goes in to vermin control. I really enjoy everything like that.
What is your most memorable shooting experience? It would have to be stalking roe deer in Scotland, near Aberdeen, when I was about 14 years old; I got a silver medal, six- point buck. That was a really good experience.
Now that you’ve finished your studies, what’s next for you? I’m currently working at Bostock Estate Sporting, but it’s just temporary and I’m looking for jobs. There have been a few come up and a few people have contacted me since I won the trophy.
I want to be a headkeeper on a grouse moor; that’s where I ultimately want to end up. I’d also like to do things for the National Gamekeepers Organisation and similar groups so I can keep up the community work and events that I have done previously. What do you think are the biggest issues faced by gamekeepers? We’re definitely bad-mouthed in the press over many different issues, but I think the best way to overcome that is to get more people involved, explain what we’re actually doing and show them the good it does.
We can put a massive push into projects, such as working more closely with schools and educating people. A good, yet simple, example of this being successful is telling people about magpies in the garden — when you explain the damage magpies are doing to the songbirds, the person always wants to know how they can do something about it.
I think it’s so important to educate people more and keep doing what we can to come into contact with the community, speaking to them about what we’re doing and how it is beneficial.
“get more people involved and show them the good it does”