The spotted tinamou of South America, commonly called “perdiz” (partridge), might be best upland gamebird I’ve ever hunted. At least that’s what I’m thinking right now, having just returned from Uruguay Lodge, with perdiz hunting fresh in my memory.
Perdiz are related to kiwis, of all things, but they are not flightless. They do prefer to run from danger whenever possible. They are about the size of a Hungarian partridge and, as Martin, our guide explained to me, they roost together at night, the wander off to feed individually during the day. He preferred morning hunts before the birds became too widely scattered and said if you hunt in the morning, when you find one bird, you’re likely to find more.
The tinamou’s most endearing trait is that they like short grass and Uruguay is fairly flat to gently rolling, so walking is easy. It’s strolling, really. Better yet, you can watch the dogs work. We hunted over English setters and one pointer, and they all pointed the old fashioned way, tails down, sometimes belly down on the ground, which I love to see. It’s very old-fashioned, and a good reminder that in pre-shotgun days, dogs were bred to point on the ground so hunters could throw nets over the dog and the birds it pointed.
The perdiz rarely sit tight for a point. The dogs will point and creep, the hunters have to keep up, and usually flank the dogs by ten yards or more. The birds flush when they feel like it and rarely sit still to be properly pointed. It’s a lot like hunting miniature pheasants. Martin and the other guides are sticklers for hunting into the wind, which gives the dogs a chance to scent the birds from a distance and not bump them. We would make a pass into the wind, and the field assistant would be waiting in the truck to ferry us back upwind so we never had to backtrack or hunt with the wind at our backs.
The limit is ten birds. We hunted perdiz twice; the first hunt we might have flushed twenty or so birds (many flushed wild in the rain, and I couldn’t see anything with raindrops all over my glasses when I was trying to shoot brown birds against a background of brown grass. That’s my story and I am sticking to it). The second hunt was about as perfect an upland hunt as I have ever been on: cool, but not cold, just enough breeze for the dogs to scent the birds. We must have flushed 40 or more birds in two or three hours and shot our limits, then we told Martin to pick up a gun and he added one last perdiz to our bag.
Since this is a gun blog, I should add that the Benelli 828U that I shot on the trip made a lovely perdiz gun: light and easy to carry at 6 ½ pounds, but disciplined enough to reach out and make some long shots on wild-flushing birds with the 1 1/8 ounce loads of 7 1/2s we used.
Perdiz pass the tablefare test with ease. They are white-meated birds, like pheasants, grouse and quail, and they are delicious. We had perdiz breasts pounded and made into cordon bleu that night for dinner and it made me want to go back for more, even though they live a very long way from home.