There are parts of the world that to a hunter, are nearly synonymous with a particular species. Scotland: Red Deer, England: Pheasants, Georgia, USA: Quail. When it comes to Spain, there can be only one word that comes next: Partridges.
The word ‘ojeo’ has several meanings, one of which is ‘evil eye’, and another is 'browse', but for our purposes the word is both a noun and a verb - the beat, and the act of beating. It is the term that is used to refer to a style of wingshooting similar to the English style, in which a team of beaters drive partridges towards a line of waiting guns. But it is here that the similarities end. In England and the UK the focus has always been on showing the highest birds to test the skills of the guns. In Spain the focus is on speed.
The spanish strain of partridges are renowned for an almost grouse-like flight pattern. Fast and agile, they hug the contours, jink and bank. High-bird shots will need to adjust to taking low, fast crossers, curlers, and birds quartering from both sides, maybe even coming from behind.
Guns are positioned carefully in hides, similar to grouse butts. It is normal to shoot double-guns, with a loader and a ‘secretario’ - another difference from driven shooting in the UK. The secretario keeps a count of all the birds that their gun shoots, and ensures that they are all picked up at the end of the drive. This is often also the manner in which each gun’s fee is calculated, which many see as an advantage the UK system - using the spanish system you only end up paying for what you shoot, not what the rest of the team shoot.
For a taste of what a really great spanish partridge shoot is like, the latest Eagle Review on-location film is a great place to start. Our cameras visited the 15,000 hectare Fuentelfresno estate. Since it was King Alfonse XIII, a fine shot, who is credited with popularising the sport at the end of the 19th century, it is only fitting that we point out that Fuentelfresno has been graced by representatives of several European royal houses - Dutch Crown Prince William Alexander van Oranje, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Caroline of Monaco, not to mention the King of Spain himself, have all been guests of the de Llanza family.
The current owners, Lucia and Patricio, continue a tradition that was started by Lucia’s grandfather, the Count of Castillo de Centellas, who organised the first partridge shoots on the estate. Since the first shoots were for their grandfather’s friends, they try to maintain the friendly, family atmosphere when they host paying guests in their typical Castillian hunting lodge.
The estate not only offers the traditional style of partridge shooting described above, but thanks to La Mancha’s remarkable landscape of rolling farmland slashed by ravines and ridges, there’s something for the real high-bird fanatics too. In keeping with Lucia and Patricio’s philosophy of great hospitality there’s real care taken to ensure that the whole day of shooting is accompanied by outstanding food and drink, with a hearty breakfast before heading out, and a mid-morning ‘taco’ or snack, and lunch taken in the field, accompanied by great wines!
For a taste of what brought these regal visitors to Fuentelfresno, check out our latest video, Partridge Paradise (for English subtitles, don't forget to click on CC in youtube). The estate’s 15,000 hectares of La Mancha countryside offers not only the fast-and-furious action of traditional spanish partridge shooting, but, thanks to some unusual topographical features, can provide some testing high birds too. But don’t take our word for it - check it out here.
For more information on Fuentelfresno visit their Eagle Review page.