The next gen­er­a­tion

SG meets Con­nah Baker, win­ner of the 2018 Frank Jenk­ins Me­mo­rial Tro­phy.

Sporting Gun - - Shooting Profile - Jan­uary 2019 www.shootin­

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”

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