The winner of the Farmers Weekly/CLA Gamekeeper of the Year 2007 award is Kevan McCaig, wild partridge keeper on Northumberland Estates.
Kevan, 36, has worked tirelessly over the past three years to develop a wild grey partridge shoot on intensively farmed land at Alnwick.
He has rises to the challenge of creating a very special shoot and his efforts have radically improved habitat and increased wild grey partridge pairs from 16 to 200.
Today, more than 200 acres of conservation headlands and field margins, cover crops and game-mixes patchwork the 350 acres of the shoot.
This improved landscape has also provided tremendous benefit to other wildlife from insects and voles to lapwings and owls.
Round-the-year feeding and targeted predator control has also greatly increased songbird numbers.
The initial aim of the project, the success of which rested on Kevan’s individual efforts, was to conserve wild grey partridge.
However, there was an additional incentive to provide a shootable surplus of 50 brace for the Duke of Northumberland’s 50th birthday last year. This was more than achieved.
Judge William Gascoigne of the CLA praised Kevan’s “commitment to wildlife over and above the partridge he was trying to nurture”.
Geoff Garrod of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation said: “Kevan is an outstanding keeper who is now seeing his ambition of establishing a wild partridge shoot being fulfilled.”
Kevan wins £400 and an engraved hip flask.
The runner-up is Stuart Langdown, underkeeper at Druids Lodge Estate, Salisbury, Wilts.
“Stuart is making landscape changes on the shoot that will benefit shooting and conservation for years to come,” said judge Alex Hatton of BASC.
Highly commended is Tommy Johnson, head keeper at Cassillis & Culzean Estates, Maybole, Ayrshire.
“Unafraid of change, Tommy has significantly improved the shoot in the past three years and the excellent way game from this estate is handled and marketed is an example for others to follow,” says judge Tessa Gates, representing Farmers Weekly.
Kevan McCaig (centre) talks to our expert judges (right to left): Geoff Garrod of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, Tessa Gates of Farmers Weekly, William Gascoigne of the CLA and Alex Hatton of BASC.