Shoot Like a King!

Driven redlegs are fast and evasive and offer some of the world’s most challenging wingshooting. (Note the loader seated in front of the Gun.)

Shooting driven red-legged partridge is, without a doubt, some of the world’s most exciting and challenging wingshooting, and it is a favorite sport of the King of Spain. It is a favorite of mine, as well, and when offered the opportunity to shoot driven redlegs in Spain, I am first in line. If you have yet to enjoy this type of shooting, I would highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.

The prime time for shooting driven redlegs is when it is warm but not hot, with the best months being September and October and February through April.

The experience itself is best described by recounting a shoot I was on several years ago at Huntinspain’s Las Ahijaderas(pronounced “Ah-hee-ah-deras”) Lodge, near Salamanca, with a group of eight Guns. Our adventure actually started in Madrid, where we spent the first night in one of the city’s elegant hotels. That evening we walked to the Mercado de San Miguel, in the city center, to visit the vendors’ stalls and sample the brandies, seafood delicacies and wines. The Mercado is unique and worth a visit. 

The next day we had arranged to shoot boxed pigeons at one of Europe’s oldest and most famous private pigeon clubs: Club de Tiros Somontes, in downtown Madrid. This is the club where Ernest Hemingway displayed his acknowledged shooting skills. The shooting was followed by a delicious lunch in the club’s beautiful wood-paneled dining room.

After lunch we returned to our hotel, where we were picked up by several cars and driven 2½ hours through the rolling hills of olive and acorn trees to Las Ahijaderas Lodge. There we settled in and relaxed before dinner. The Spanish traditionally dine around 9:30, which is later than most Americans are used to, but as the pace of everything in Spain is quite leisurely, we quickly became accustomed to the schedule. 

The lodge’s center courtyard is ringed with comfortable private bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, and every room is uniquely decorated in beautiful Andalusian and old Moresque styles. The accommodations are very private and comfortable, so a good night’s sleep is guaranteed.

Las Ahijaderas has been Alfonso Fabrés’ family business for more than 40 years, and in addition to high-quality driven partridge, the lodge offers a variety of other game shooting, including for various types of deer, sheep, Spanish ibex and boar. At certain times it even offers monterias, which are unique experiences where mounted horsemen and dogs drive a variety of game—including boar and deer—toward waiting Guns.

The main lodge has amazing displays of trophies that have been collected by the owners and their visitors, making for an intriguing setting for each evening’s activities. A variety of cocktails and delicious Spanish wines are followed by chef-prepared multi-course dinners of different local delicacies. No one goes to bed hungry.

The morning of the first shoot we enjoyed a full breakfast, and then our team of eight Guns drew pegs. Each shooter was introduced to his loader and his secretario, whose job was to count downed birds. Each Gun was shooting a pair of shotguns, and those who had not shot with a loader were taught “the two-gun tango” and given a chance to practice before the partridge started flying.

Following the introductions, the team was loaded into four-by-fours for the short journey to the first drive. Upon arrival, the Guns followed the loaders and secretarios down a steep hill to a valley where a rocky path beside a small brook led to the pegs.

The pegs were blinds made of rushes or leaves and branches, and there was a stool in front of each Gun where the loader sat. The secretario sat behind the Gun to count partridge as they fell. When the starting whistle blew and the redlegs began flying, the pace became fast and furious.

Because of the hilly and wooded terrain, the redlegs flew at greater speeds and in much more unpredictable patterns than other driven species, such as red grouse and pheasants. Just when we thought the birds were coming straight over the trees, they would hit the wind and jink up in the sky at amazing speeds and heights. 

The loaders were so experienced that no one was ever without a loaded gun. When a particularly great shot was made, cries of “Olé!” were heard or “Doooble!” when two birds fell.

Eventually the beaters appeared along the escarpment, waving flags and shouting for the last of the birds. At that point we shot at partridge only when they were behind us, taking care not to shoot at low birds. After the whistle blew ending the drive, the pickers-up with their fleet of spaniels, pointers and Labradors raced to collect the fallen birds. Then came the tally of redlegs shot to cartridges expended. This was joyful news for some and a humbling revelation for others. One look at the faces of the team members told the tale.

When we returned to the transport vehicles to head to the next drive, there was a break for tapas—a wonderful array of breads, Spanish jamón and cheeses, local olives and nuts, plus a variety of beverages liberally poured by a steward in a white jacket and gloves. It was a refreshing experience, indeed.

On the second drive the partridge were equally high and fast. After the first shots the birds would take evasive action—dodging, sliding and turning but never slowing. The key was to be selective and follow through on every shot.

After the third drive a full alfresco lunch was served. Set on a hill overlooking the valley, the tables were shaded by an awning and set with linen, crystal wine glasses and silverware. The chefs prepared a Spanish feast with courses of meat and fresh vegetables, and of course there were excellent Spanish wines. This would have been the time for a post-dining siesta, but no one wanted to miss the afternoon drives.

By the last drive of the day the weather had cooled, the breeze had picked up and the partridge were flying at even greater heights. By this time, however,  the Guns were no longer intimidated and pretty much had their shots down. When the final whistle blew, the targeted daily bag of 500 birds had been reached and the tally was greeted by cheers. Back at the lodge, the birds were laid out in a circle for the Guns to see and admire.

We had planned for three 500-bird days, or an average of 62 birds per Gun per day. As some shots were better than others, when the allotted 62 birds was reached, the Gun was informed and could either continue shooting and pay “overage” or stop shooting. None in the group elected to stop . . . .

Several of the Guns had traveling companions who were not shooters, and for them tours were arranged to explore Salamanca. This beautiful, historic walled city offers wonderful restaurants, museums and cathedrals, and the shopping, especially for Spanish leather goods, is world-class.

Shooters might also consider visiting some of the country’s gunmakers, most of whom are in the Basque region in or near the city of Eibar, about a three-hour drive from Madrid. Makers like Armas Garbi, Grulla, Arrieta & Arrizabalaga, Kemen, AyA and Lanber have been making shotguns for generations. A visit to any of their workshops is an enlightening experience.

There is so much to do and see in Spain that once you are there, it is definitely worth planning visits to other places before or after the shooting takes place. Whatever you decide, a trip to Spain will be a large checkmark on your bucket list. 

For more information on shooting in Spain, visit huntinspain.com.


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