Megan Rowland, a deer manager from the Highlands, was chosen as the overall winner of the INEOS Grenadier Countryside Champion Award 2022, coordinated by GunsOnPegs. The judging panel, which consisted of key figures from across the rural community include GWCT Chief Executive Teresa Dent CBE, were unanimous in their view that Megan is a worthy winner, embodying not only the award’s aim to highlight the impact of unsung rural heroes but also the ‘spirit and grit’ of the INEOS Grenadier, the award’s sponsor.
The judges were particularly impressed by Megan’s strong communication skills and her tireless championing of sustainable deer and land management in the highlands and beyond. They also acknowledged her support and encouragement of women and girls in the rural sector, leading by example and breaking down stereotypes in a traditionally male-dominated industry, feeling that she was someone who could inspire others into action.
Discussing why Megan was selected, Teresa Dent said:
“I was delighted to be asked to help judge this competition. It is so important to celebrate success and inspirational work in the rural sector, especially whilst the countryside is facing such challenges. Megan is a great example of someone who has embraced sensible wildlife management and wants to share her knowledge and commitment.”
Megan is employed as a Deer Management Officer for NatureScot but has also worked as a professional deerstalker on a Sutherland estate, guiding clients from around the world, and as an underkeeper on a pheasant shoot. Her route into the profession was somewhat unconventional; for the first 18 years of her life she was a vegetarian, before adopting a ‘locavore’ diet, which includes small quantities of self-sourced local meat. Eventually, her interest in conservation and ecology led her to pursue a career as a deer manager.
Using her personal blog and social channels she has built a platform from which to document her life as a deer manager and make the case for hunting as a conservation tool. Her prolific twitter feed and thoughtful writing has led to numerous appearances in the media, including on BBC Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland, the Into the Wild podcast and regular columns for Shooting Times. She has also supported the Rural Youth Project and Women in Wellies with a view to encourage more women into the rural sector, and launched ‘Hind Sight’, an initiative to provide women with an interest in deer management with an open and supportive environment to learn more.
Upon receiving the news that the judges had chosen her, Megan commented:
“I’m surprised and delighted to have been named as INEOS Grenadier Countryside Champion. Since becoming actively involved in deer and countryside management over a decade ago I’ve always tried to be honest and open about what we do - and the good that comes of it. This award, for me, is a recognition that the more we talk about what we do and tell our stories the better.”
GWCT Director Scotland, Rory Kennedy was similarly delighted:
Megan is the embodiment of what our sport should be. Self-effacing, deeply knowledgeable and compassionate, she demonstrates a deep understanding for her craft as a hunter but also as a knowledgeable and articulate conservationist. Her personal journey from vegetarian to hunter presents lessons for all, both in addressing ethical challenges within our sport but also for the general public, who often show little regard for the sustainability or ethics behind the meat they consume.