A multi-skilled South Lanarkshire youngster who volunteers for Mountain Rescue and community causes in spare time has been crowned Scotland’s best Young Gamekeeper.
Cole Stewart (20), who hails from Braidwood, collected the coveted national prize which recognises outstanding youthful ambassadors for the gamekeeping sector, on Friday (5th August).
The award is presented annually by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), the body which represents professional gamekeepers, ghillies, deer managers and wildlife rangers.
Chairman Alex Hogg, MBE, presented the prize to Mr Stewart, described by the Head Stalker at Black Corries Estate in Glencoe as ‘one of a kind’, at Moy Country Fair in Inverness-shire.
When it became known that the youngster was to collect the prize, colleagues and deer stalking visitors in his shoot party stopped to offer the 20 year old a deserved round of applause.
Cole, introduced to rabbit and roe deer management as a young boy, has undertaken formal gamekeeping qualifications at North Highland College UHI in Thurso.
At Black Corries Estate he combines deer, grouse, low ground and habitat management while turning his hand to seasonal fishing ghillie-ing on the estate’s trout lochs.
Black Corries, a mixed estate, is home to conservation-listed Black Grouse, Golden Eagle and Black Throated Diver.
“I couldn’t be in a better place,” said the new SGA Young Gamekeeper of the Year, 2022.
“It is the variety which appeals to me as a gamekeeper. You can wake up in the morning and you might be going out to the hill with a stalking party and the next day you might be doing a walked- up grouse shoot with trained pointer dogs.
“Another thing that drives me is seeing the biodiversity which arises from good management. When you walk onto the estate, you can see the wider benefits of the predator control work we do. We have greenshank, snipe and wading birds in abundance. I believe that good gamekeeping is part of the solution for our countryside in Scotland.”
In order to satisfy the award judges, Mr Stewart received supporting nominations from college lecturers, estate guests and Head Stalker, Dave Thomas, as well as presenting at interview.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Chairman Alex Hogg, said: “It is an honour to present Cole with this award and to celebrate the future of gamekeeping. It is clear, from those who spoke so highly of him, that his willingness to work hard, learn and take responsibility makes him the type you don’t find every day.
“Not only that, he is willing to help out in the community, including with the Mountain Rescue, and is exactly the type of youthful ambassador that our sector requires in the modern day.”
Three individuals also received Long Service Medals from the SGA at Moy Country Fair, for an amazing 150+ years of combined, unbroken service to the sector.
Recently retired Strathconon Estate Head Stalker Angus Cameron, hill stalker and grouse keeper, Jimmy Miller and Perthshire grouse keeper, Ronald Kippen, all received medals and plaques for their loyal service of over 50 years each.