If you like sunshine, sherry and partridge shooting then this convenient shoot near Madrid will appeal.
Thereare some misconceptions about partridge shooting in Spain. Firstly people often think it’s about massive bags of 700 or 800 birds a day. It can be at some shoots, but it’s certainly not the case universally and you can shoot a lot less should you wish to. Secondly, it’s sometimes said that birds are released on the day of the shoot. Anyone who has seen a bit of shooting can tell if that’s the case and it certainly doesn’t apply here at Cenicientos, just 80km from Madrid. The 4,000-hectare (nearly 10,000 acres) shoot is run by Javier López de Carrizosa – a tall, strapping man with a rugged
“Drives involve very steep, rocky terrain, where one mistake can lead to a nasty fall.”
look, and usually with at least one dog in tow. He loves shooting and loves to provide the sort of shooting his clients want on approximately 40 days a season: “An average day would be 300 birds but, depending on the time of the season and what our clients want, we can offer traditional Spanish driven days using double guns, with bags from between 500-800 birds, as well as days for teams using single guns shooting bags of 300 birds the English way,” he says.
What’s the difference between the Spanish and the English way? It’s not the easiest thing to define, but typically the Spanish way involves double gunning and
shooting much bigger bags. This may well involve shooting what would be considered close-range, low birds on a typical driven day in the UK. The English way tends to involve higher birds, smaller bags and more selective shooting.
Javier runs his own game farm and exports birds to the UK, where they are very well-liked for their strong flight and good return rates. There is no question of birds being released on the day here. In fact, on the day I shot here in February the hardy team of beaters had to negotiate some of the toughest ground I have seen on a shoot day. Some drives involve very steep and rocky terrain, where one mistake can lead to a nasty fall, and others involve dense, tall and thorny vegetation. This small team really have to work for their results, but they are well organised and on the four drives we shot they provided a steady stream of varied birds.
Let the shooting commence
The first drive we shot saw the guns line out along the bottom of a shallow and meandering gully. Because of the bends in the valley no gun can see the whole line but most can see their immediate neighbour on either side, some 35 yards away. Like a good drive in the UK we had a reasonable wait before hearing the first shots from the right hand side of the line, and gradually single birds started appearing in the middle of the line where I was in the hot seat.
With Lincolnshire farmer Tony Bowlby demonstrating quick reactions and accurate shooting with his beloved Piotti to my right, and Dorset sporting agent Will Templer shooting very nicely on my left, I was under pressure to keep my end up. Each of us benefited from the services of one loader, and with his help I managed to pick out birds as they appeared from all angles over and through the vegetation on top of the ridge to the front. It felt a bit like shooting a Compak
Sporting layout as I was presented with a series of crossers from both directions, quartering birds and straight overhead shots. The birds were flying well and it would be hard to say anything other than it was an extremely enjoyable drive.
To the hills
For the second and third drives we retreated to the nearby range of hills to peg out below two very steep inclines. In an unusual twist, we were also accompanied by some very heavy rain, extremely welcome with the local farming community but it was not the weather we had expected when we signed up for a trip to Madrid. However, rain doesn’t stop play for British game shooters and it soon passed anyway.
On the second drive I was again pegged in the middle of the line and enjoyed plenty of shooting, but the lion’s share of the birds travelled to my left where the brothers, Matt and Ben Jeans did a remarkable impression of a brick wall, stopping almost every bird that came their way. The game card would back this up later when it revealed they had shot 36 birds between them on this one drive, with Ben being the most accurate. It was a pleasure to watch and no doubt there was some sibling rivalry driving them on.
For the third drive we shifted along the valley a couple of hundred yards to line out around the base of a precipitous rocky slope to the front with another to the right and to the rear. When you have to tilt your head right back to see the crest of the hill in front you can reasonably expect some high birds, and so it proved.
I was on the far left of the line on a goat track running around the hill, which gave me a grandstand view of the guns beneath me.
I was leisurely enjoying watching them deal with some of the highest partridges you are likely to see, when a few stragglers started to appear unexpectedly over my head. As the drive continued more and more of these hardy little redlegs launched themselves from the ground ahead and set off into the sky. It turned into a surprisingly fruitful drive.
Sherry for elevenses
Having enjoyed three varied drives, this accurate team had earned a break and we retreated to a clearing in the low woodland to enjoy a typically Spanish refreshment
“It felt a bit like shooting a Compak Sporting layout as I was presented with a series of crossers.”
break, feasting on Iberico ham, tortilla, manchego, chorizo and of course sherry. Javier produced an unlabelled bottle of 40-year-old Oloroso from his own cellar, and a glass of sherry never tasted so good, with an open fire, camping chairs and good company.
Javier told me a bit more about the background to the sherry: “Sherry is something I have been brought up with. My family has always been involved in making sherry or in the sherry business. So the passion for these wines, the way they are made and for Jerez, the place where I was born, is something I feel I need to share.” I can only add that’s it a great privilege to be allowed to share some of these exquisite wines with a man who knows and cares so much about their production. Because the team had shot so well, we had just the one more drive after the break. This time we pegged out along a flat grassy meadow with a long bank of trees to the front. Javier explained it was a bit of an experiment and he hoped the trees would help push the birds up high enough to make for some good shooting. I was next to Nick Sellick for the first time, and it was clear the refreshment break had done nothing to diminish his accuracy as he was decisive, fast and effective in bringing down a stream of birds.
Beating a retreat
Once the shooting had concluded for the day we returned to the shooting lodge accommodation, which consists of one building with five double and five single bedrooms and one building with the dining room, sitting room and gun room. Both buildings are on a commanding hilltop position with far-reaching views to the plain beyond and offer everything a visiting team could need for a couple of days’ shooting.
The lodge is an hour and a half’s drive from the Madrid Barajas International Airport and with easy transfers there are almost no downsides on the Spanish side of this trip. However, checking in at Heathrow Terminal 5 with shotguns for British Airways flights was not quite such a seamless experience. Despite arriving at the terminal some three hours before the two-hour flight we still only just made it through on time. It’s an unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming procedure, which also involves extra payments, the amount depending on how much other baggage you have. And I would have to conclude it would be far better to borrow a gun in Spain than go through this tedious bureaucracy. In conclusion, for approximately 45 per bird (plus VAT) you can have back-to-back 300-bird days, with transfers, permits, accommodation and catering all included, and you will have a great variety of shooting with people who care about presenting birds in the best possible way. As Javier explained: “Our philosophy is to provide not only great shooting but also to ensure that all the details, such as great food, good wines and helpful staff are also in place to provide a memorable visit for guns and other guests alike.”
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On this day the guns were single gunning with loaders but double gunning is more than possible if you want bigger bags.
Will Templer latches on to another good bird.
Javier López de Carrizosa runs a very well organised shoot with plenty of good birds, and it’s a pleasure to see him working his own dogs on every drive.
Matt Jeans enjoying the laid-back Spanish style.
Expect dramatic scenery and high birds on some drives.
Javier offering the cards at the beginning of the day.
The lodge offers all the home comforts you and your team could need.
Lincolnshire farmer Tony Bowlby and his loader.