Where the clouds are birds
| Part 2 | by Bob Matthews
What’s remarkable about Cortaderas is its variety of opportunities for wingshooters. I experienced everything that I wanted, and it was all incredible. My biggest surprise, however, came when I hunted perdiz for the first time. The perdiz has to be one of the most underrated gamebirds in the world. It’s a medium-size bird with a long beak and mottled brown-and-dun coloring slightly reminiscent of a quail or grouse. They’re good flyers, though not as hard to hit as a grouse, and they hold really well for pointing dogs. Their native habitat is low, green cover that barely reaches above a hunter’s ankles.
To really understand perdiz, you have to imagine gunning quail without the briars or hunting chukars without the rocky, lung-numbing, knee-busting climbs! Distill just the sweetness of your very favorite gamebird, throw away all of the pain, and you have the beautiful, obliging perdiz. Just put out a pointer, hang your favorite double in the crook of your arm and enjoy.
My last hunt for perdiz was one of those clear, cool mornings that you imagine when you daydream of bird hunting. The winter sun slanted sideways to the ground and there was just a trace of a breeze. Puffy white clouds drifted slowly by, and it was just cool enough to enjoy a light sweater.
Chris and I drove a few miles, down the blacktop and turned off onto a sandy road that ended in a large field that appeared to contain about 300 acres of lush green growth that looked a lot like young alfalfa. We stopped, bailed out into the roadside ditch and put down a pretty little shorthair named Gina. She immediately started working the fence-line and pointed before we could even load our guns.
We scrambled to load up and when we walked into the flush, a single bird caught the wind and hooked right. Chris dumped him easily. At the shot, another bird jumped about 30 yards out front and Chris dropped him as well. It was a great way to start the day and an omen for one of the sweetest days that either of us will ever remember.
We took our time working around the perimeter of the field, not hunting so much as going through the motions, enjoying the company and just soaking in the last morning. Like every true gundog in the world, beautiful black-and-white Gina had other plans and was finding birds and pointing every few yards. As was her habit, she would freeze when she got a wisp of scent, and then sort of crouch-creep forward until she was certain that her nose was crowding the plump round butt of the bird.
Of course, we couldn’t fail to honor her efforts with a salute, and as the sun rose we continued to pick up birds every few minutes. Both of us were shooting well, and I don’t think either one of us missed more than a couple of birds. It was one of those mornings when everything seems to be right with the world and we had it all to ourselves.
When we finished working the big field, we were still a few birds short of a limit, so we decided to check out the adjoining pasture, which we were certain harbored a few of the escapees from our earlier shooting. Although the stubble in the field was only a couple of inches high, and it looked as barren as a moonscape, we each managed scratch down a couple more perdiz, just two birds short of our limit.
We were only a hundred yards from the truck when Gina slid to a stop and crept forward in the middle of the field, and when we walked forward a bird jumped about 30 or 35 yards out on Chris’ side. He dumped it with as nice a shot as I’ve ever seen. Just like our first flush of the day, another bird flushed at the shot. This one, however, got up behind us about 40 yards out and arced toward the cover on my side of the field. The shot was really too far, but I couldn’t resist a chance to fill out my limit, and to my surprise the bird tumbled head over heels.