Mathew Latchford reports on a Spanish trip to La Encinilla
For someone who has spent most of their childhood observing partridges fizzing off high banks in the West Country over an eager and demanding team, I would have considered my expectations of extreme game to be quite high...
Trying to keep these expectations under control I was very excited to be hosting a team of English guns on the La Encinilla estate in February.
There are many pre-conceptions about partridge shooting in Spain in the hot climate with thousands of birds flying low over olive trees. However to my surprise these pre-conceptions were soon proved flawed.
I left Heathrow at the same time you would leave London to shoot in the West Country or Northern England. The flight was an easy two and half hour hop and after checking through customs, the team and I took our private transfer into central Madrid. The range of hotels and restaurants within central Madrid is remarkable; there is something to suit everyone’s taste with an extensive variety of tapas and excellent fish and meat restaurants.
After a fun night we were picked up from our hotel at 9am and driven out to the estate. The journey took just 35 minutes. The team were inevitably excited, sharing tales from their first visit the previous year.
We were met with a friendly welcome and shown a vast selection of hire guns as this particular team had decided not to bring their own guns with them. Once everyone had remembered which eye they are dominate in, we had coffee and were introduced to our secretarios before heading off to the first drive. The shooting was not as I expected; we were placed with no pegs or small blinds to stand behind so this had a very English feel to it, bar the fact the weather was 18 degrees.
The gun line was well positioned through the valley with each gun roughly 40 yards apart. The birds were driven into a flushing point from a few different areas, some making the guns and others dropping in before coming forward.
The birds seemed to have a real zest and purpose in their flight, plus they are well broken up and didn’t come through in large waves. This is because everywhere you looked there is natural habitat for them to live in. There are no large game crops but small shrubs dotted across the landscape, which leads them to live in smaller groups. This also means they are willing to fly to any area behind the guns and not just a release area thus ensuring that all guns had quality, variety and exciting shooting.
I was personally very impressed as how our Spanish partners at La Encinilla have adapted so well to high birds, especially with the demand nowadays for producing high bird days throughout the shooting world.
One more drive was shot before heading back to the lodge for lunch, where if you thought shoot lunches in the UK were impressive; Spain takes them to another level. The atmosphere is notably more relaxed with the bonus of daylight lasting far longer than in the UK. This means that there is no rush to start the next drive, allowing everyone the chance to enjoy the infamous tapas whilst appreciating the incredible scenery.
It is safe to say the first day was a tremendous success. We finished shooting by 5pm having shot just over 300 birds to a team of eight guns.
After another cracking dinner in Madrid, we were back at the estate by 10 the following morning. If the previous day had shown us anything in comparison to shooting in the UK then I would say the birds were similar to those found in Wiltshire. Our second day proved to be more of those you would expect in counties like Devon or Yorkshire
The team had booked 600 birds over the two days and by lunch we had shot our quota. The question was asked if we wanted to go out again after lunch although there was no pressure to do so. The team agreed that they wanted one more drive so after shooting another 60 stunning partridges we drew stumps.
Spanish shooting was not as I had initially anticipated with the warm and friendly atmosphere, relaxed manner and the sheer quality of birds, I could not think of a better experience for a team of guns to indulge themselves and finish their European season in style.
I know we have some dates available for February and March 2018 so I’m busy trying to fill them so I can head back for some more happy memories.