As it is another start to the season, who better to feature as my next Top Gun but Twitter’s best loved Girly Gamekeeper. If you aren’t already following her on Twitter then I am judging you! Get yourself on there asap and search for ‘@girlygamekeeper’. Quite possibly one of my favourite follows, she keeps me amused throughout the season – and beyond – and some of her Tweets actually make me laugh out loud. Yes she’s got pretty nails, drinks pink champagne and can accessorise but she’s also a real life girly gamekeeper making her way – and bringing a bit of glamour along the way – in what has been, traditionally, a role for the boys. She shoots, she bakes and she keeps it real with a fine balance of chat between cake, gamekeeping and pheasant poo.
So, Girly Gamekeeper…
How did you get into Gamekeeping?
I have always been around shooting, one of my first jobs was beating! It beat getting up at 6am to do a paper round or having to wash dishes! Plus there was always some top nosh and I got £25 for walking the dog! As I grew up I got more and more involved in the keepering aspect and now I do it alongside my other jobs.
How you find being a girly gamekeeper in what has been, historically, a male dominated role?
You have to give as good as you get and have a thick skin. Only today I was told not to mistake a cartridge for my lipstick, to which I replied “you’ll never mistake it for your [Editor’s replacement: ‘male appendage’], it’s too big”. You have to prove yourself much more as a female – just because I have my nails done doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to get stuck in and covered in shit! You also have to push to be involved and never give up!
What does your normal day entail, both during and outside of game season?
In Spring, post February 1st, it’s down time with lots of clearing up, tidying and general sorting. I also work at a clay ground, and have a business, so my life is always crazy juggling everything!
June onwards is chaos. Day old chicks arrive (pheasant, partridge and duck) and the main focus is keeping the buggers alive! Pheasants have a death wish from birth and if there is a way to die they will find it…You have to keep them fed, watered and warm – which requires checking every few hours in the first few weeks. Once they get older you have ‘bitting’ (placing a plastic bit in their beak to stop the aggressive little shits brutally murdering their mates!) this involves sitting in hot dusty sheds semi-naked, as pheasant poo is easier to get off skin than clothes!
Next up they are ‘taken to wood’,meaning they are released into massive pens outdoors with a clipped wing so they get used to ‘home’. They are fed and watered and eventually allowed free into the big wide world…
Come September (for partridge) and October (for pheasant) it’s time to don your glad rags and spend the next three months running round the countryside, dementedly waving a flag in the vain hope the buggers will go over the guns whilst your dog starts to answer to the name ‘little shit’- come to think of it I usually answer to that too from Head Game Keeper!
What is the best piece of game shooting advice either you have been given or you have overheard?
‘If your not sure don’t take it’ and ‘a bad reputation is hard to shake’
What are your top tips for a successful and enjoyable day on the peg?
As a female we are inclined to think we are being scrutinised. You’re not. Everyone is too busy looking for the next shot so relax and focus on that next shot too
What advice would you give for anyone on their first game shoot?
Take an experienced shot with you to guide you, it’s a daunting place being on a peg on your own and having that person on your shoulder to say it’s good/ bad helps with confidence and to relax you 🙂 I do a lot of this for people in the game season and really enjoy it!
What is your favourite Game recipe – either cooking for the shoot itself or cooking the game afterwards?
Good god I have so many!! I’d love to write a game cookbook as it’s my staple food in winter months! I love pheasant rilletes- pheasant slow cook in oil and herbs and spices but a current favourite of mine is pheasant and partridge sausage rolls:
Equal parts game meat to sausage meat. (Finely dice game meat)
Onions finely diced
One clove garlic crushed
Gently fry onions and garlic in butter and port until reduced. Set aside to cool.
Mix sausage and meat along with mace, juniper, salt, pepper, a glug of brandy. Add onions and garlic. Mix well. Roll out pastry (can use shortcrust or puff). Smear the centre with a jelly (I used port and damson this time) place meat on top and roll in a kind sausage roll. Place in freezer for 15 mins or fridge for an hour. Cut to desired length. Use and egg yolk wash and place on buttered baking parchment…
Cook for 25 mins until golden 🙂
What are your pocket essentials for game day?
Lip balm, a packet of tissues, a tennis ball for the dog and rhubarb and custards sweets! A flask of hot Ribena with a tot of port in helps on cold days too!
What is your preferred cartridge?
Anything that’s knocking around in the bottom of my cartridges bag – usually other people’s left-overs.
Are over/unders acceptable on a game shoot?
Absolutely, it’s each to their own. What right does anyone have to dictate? Use whatever you like as long as it’s works for you.
What is the funniest thing you’ve witnessed, or has happened to you on a game shoot?
I was stop on a drive but they changed their minds last minute, so I ended up weeing where I thought I’d be hidden only to end up being caught with my trousers round my ankles… Oh and the day my friends labrador somehow managed to retrieve and come back with a d*ldo?!