CENICIENTOS, SPAIN

If you like sun­shine, sherry and par­tridge shoot­ing then this con­ve­nient shoot near Madrid will ap­peal.

Shooting Gazette - - This Month - One for those who love sun­shine, sherry and well or­gan­ised par­tridge shoot­ing. By Will Hether­ing­ton.

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.

Travel te­dium

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.”

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, visit oje­s­pain.com or email: javier.lc@oje­s­pain.es

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.

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