Shooting in Spain is a sporting experience like no other. Spanish gunmakers and family estate owners tell us why.
Spain is renowned for its hospitality, culture, gastronomy and climate. But for many Brits, Spain is also the ultimate escape for shooting, offering Spanish partridge, high-quality guns and affordable shooting days.
Shooting in Spain fits naturally into the sporting calendar – in the UK we have grouse in August, September and into October, which means you can then go to Spain before the pheasants really get going, and after the pheasant season closes. Whatever the time of year, you often find yourself shooting in shirtsleeves.
From the infamous Gunsmith City in Eibar to traditional shooting grounds scattered across the countryside, we spoke to four leading Spanish companies about why Spanish shooting is so special.
Spanish estates with the family feel
Sublime sport, luxurious backdrops and traditional cuisine are at the heart of the experience at Matarrubia Shooting Estate and Fuentelfresno, both under an hour from Madrid. Specialising in red-legged partridge, not only do the estates define true Spanish partridge sport, they also offer a traditional Spanish stay.
The first ever Spanish partridge shooting estate, Fuentelfresno has played host to much of Europe’s royalty over the past years. It’s in Guadalajara, only 40 minutes from Madrid Adolfo Suarez Barajas Airport. Fuentelfresno is run by Carlos de Llanza (Count of Castillo de Centellas), his wife María, his daughter Lucía de Llanza and her husband Patricio Herguido de Juan – a true family business.
“The Spanish red-legged partridge is the queen of the Spanish field,” says Lucía de Llanza. “The flight of our partridges is passionate because of the strong, challenging flight, the high birds and the speed of the birds. Our terrain is the perfect habitat for red-legged partridges. We have valleys, meadows, hills, cannons, green fields, olives, vineyards, wheat fields, beetle banks, rockrose fields and little forests. In a day of driven partridge shooting, we have around 40 beaters and two flag men in the flanks of the line of beaters. With every shooter, a loader and a secretario will help in the peg.”
When guests arrive at Madrid Airport, a chauffeur will help with paperwork and gun clearance at customs. They then drive guests to Fuentelfresno, where a reception dinner awaits in the main lodge. In the morning, after a Spanish breakfast, the guns go in 4×4 Jeeps to the field. Tapas and drinks are served after each drive, with the guns eager to discuss each shot. Lunch takes place after the third drive, in a wood hunting house in the middle of the field, with fine Spanish gastronomy and wines. There are two more drives after lunch, and after the fifth, the party comes back to the main lodge for high tea. Cocktails and tapas are served in the salon close to the fireplace before a formal dinner later in the evening.
“The quality of our birds, the beauty of our wild countryside, top service and gastronomy, and the proximity to Madrid are our competitive advantages, as well as our cosy atmosphere,” says Lucía. “Memorable days for us are when our guests are happy to share wonderful moments at Fuentelfresno.”
The price airport to airport is €45/bird (VAT included) with a minimum contract per day of 400 partridges per shooting party. Non-shooting guests can stay at Fuentelfresno for €200 per night.
Pepe Pazos Salier and Diana Gispert Perales are the team behind Mattarrubia Shooting Estate, also in Guadalajara, 45 minutes from Madrid Airport, and with a small, private airstrip five minutes away (perfect for a Pilatus). Pepe has hunted all over the world and aims to give clients at his hunting lodge the experience he hopes for on his own travels. His dream is to promote a place where hunting is an ‘entire experience,’ encompassing nature, wilderness, fine cuisine and luxury service.
They mostly shoot roebuck, wild boar and partridge. “The hunting area is open, not fenced, which makes it a special place to hunt because the birds and animals are in the 3.500ha because they want to be here, not because they are fenced,” says Pepe.
“The red-legged partridge is a very strong bird, extremely fast, and can go high, low, or make a ‘sidestep’ in front of you,” he continues. “This is what makes the shooting exciting, because each cartridge is going to be shot in a different way. Shooters have to be smart, fast and agile with the gun.”
The terrain is excellent for partridge shooting in Matarrubia for two reasons. The first is that the land is mixed with strong woods, so the partridges have plenty of food and places to hide. The second is the climate. Matarrubia has a continental climate: dry, very cold in winter and very hot in summer – the authentic environment for the red-legged partridge.
The lodge where the guns stay and are entertained is called La Cruz de Piedra. In an old, reconstructed farm, it has eight double suite rooms, and the atmosphere is warmed by five wonderful fireplaces. The lodge has all of the facilities you would expect, accompanied by the understated elegance of being in a private home with a family orientated atmosphere.
Pepe explains how the day unfolds: “At 6am our working team starts to prepare the journey, setting up breakfast in the dining hall. Drawn by delicious smells, impatient guests arrive down at 9am. During breakfast the pegs are chosen. The guns are given instructions for the day ahead and taken by 4×4 into the field. We start with two or three drives, then have lunch or ‘tacos’ in the field, based on traditional Spanish tapas with a hot traditional dish like paella or wild boar.
“After that we have two more drives and then usually go to the village tavern to buy the beaters a drink,” he continues. “Supporting the local community is a priority. The guns will enjoy 22 beaters, horses and all of the villagers coming to get involved, like in the olden days, so it is very romantic shooting for lovers of this sport.
“We then come back to the lodge to rest, have a hot shower and prepare the delicious dinner that starts at 8:30pm.”
Matarrubia offers small bags of 400 partridges (€18,400 + VAT) in the middle of the week, and bags of 500 partridges (€23,000 + VAT) on weekends. That’s €46 + VAT per bird; extra partridges are €28 + VAT. Usually parties book two shooting days (arrive in the afternoon with a welcome dinner, then two shooting days and leave on the third day after the shoot, or on the fourth day after breakfast). Walk up and stalking are also available on request.
The art of Spanish gunmaking
Eibar, in the heart of the Basque Country, is also known as Gunsmith City, with some of the finest Spanish gunmakers residing in the city. For decades, gunsmiths Grulla Armas and AYA have been hand-crafting unique pieces that are nothing short of works of art from their Eibar workshops.
Grulla Armas has been using the same artisan methods of developing some of the best shotguns and rifles in the world for over 80 years. “We’ve been manufacturing high quality, custom and handmade side by side shotguns since 1932,” says Inigo Usobiaga, export manager for Grulla Armas. “We manufacture different models of side by side shotguns, with the specifications of the best London guns. All our models include five or seven pins, true sidelocks and automatic ejectors. The upgrade models include the H&H-style assisted opening system, we use Turkish walnut blanks (different grades depending the model) in all our models and hand engravings, silver or gold ovals with the client´s initials. Our delivery times are between six and eight months.
“William Evans in London (and Bisley) are our biggest dealers in UK,” he continues. “Our Grulla shotguns are also sold by W Horton in Birmingham and we are working to get a few more dealers across UK. We have been selling shotguns in UK for the last 40 years, and most of these sales were to private buyers. We are incredibly fortunate to count sporting champions such as the Duke of Northumberland and other members of the House of Lords as our clients.”
AYA, founded in 1915 by Miguel Aguirre and Nicolas Aranzabal (the name stands for Aguirre y Aranzabal), also continues to make one of the most extensive ranges of guns available, leading the market in side-by-sides – both sidelocks and boxlocks – but also offering double rifles and bolt action rifles.
“The best gun for Spanish partridge shooting is the side-by-side sidelock; its balance and handling characteristics make it perfectly suited to the fast flight of this challenging game bird and the configuration of the barrels make it much quicker to load than the over and under,” says Edward King, managing director of ASI (Anglo Spanish Imports).
- “Each model is different and takes a varying amount of time to make,” he continues. “For instance, the AYA No 1 sidelock, which is entirely engraved by hand, had over 150 hours of engraving alone; this can rise when custom engravings are chosen. The oil finish on our best sidelocks has at least 20 coats of oil applied to it and smoothed between each application to build up that lustrous yet durable finish.
“The strongest market is the UK, where AYA has been the leading imported side-by-side for decades. The name is synonymous with reliability and has always been considered the logical alternative to the best London gun. The USA comes second to the UK in side, with a predilection for small bore guns used for walked up quail shooting.
“Ever since Miguel and Nicolas got together to make guns just over 100 years ago, their philosophy was guided by one main principle – never compromise on your raw materials. Use the best steel you can find: the cost of the raw materials represents little more than 15% of the overall cost of a gun, but harder steels are tougher to work with and blunt your tools more quickly, so there is always a temptation to use softer steels and to harden them more.”