|IF Hall of Fame Old Bird for 2005|
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
flying racing pigeons at 9 years of age. At 17, I left the sport went
to college and served in the Army. I was discharged in 1969 and married
in 1971. In the mid 1980’s I reentered the sport. I fly with the
Mingo Homing Club in Allentown, Pennsylvania with the Lehigh Mountain
Combine of Pennsylvania. I love to fly the long races (400-600). I have
over the years developed an excellent long distance strain mainly HVR.
2. Do you think your position is a good one as far as Combine Races are concerned?
No, my loft is located to the North/Northwest, off the Southwest course line of flight. Most of the lofts in the Lehigh Mountain Combine are in a line from Reading and Lebanon, PA to Easton, PA. (Approx 65+ miles) Our old bird races start in April and run thru June with winds either westerly or northwesterly. The winds play a big part on race day and it seems like every race day they are against my loft location. When Rusty flew his 8 races straight and won, the winds were either north, northwest, west or showers with N/NW wind. (Not favorable at all)
3. How big is your Combine / Club?
The Lehigh Mountain Combine has nine individual clubs with 70-90 lofts. The Combine is split into two sections, north and south. Our club (MINGO) has approximately 26 members. Most of our club members lay to the south or southeast in the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton PA area. By road this is 17 to 25 miles from my loft. We have very competitive and All American Flyers in the Combine and Club and to win a race you need an exceptional bird, which must break away from the flock on race day.
4. Do you have an original family of pigeons?
Years ago I purchased performance/Quality HVR breeders from Ken Swenson, Robert Baird, Ben Housman, Joe and Fran Politi, M&S Loft of Danny Buonoguiro and Stan Borowski of the Pittsburgh area. I mated them and cross breed until I developed a family of winners and steady performers for long distance races. I strongly believe that you have a much better chance of breeding winners from winners if you strive for performance pigeons. BUT, not all champions breed offspring that will be winners. Only the shear performance enhances the possibility. I fly mainly (90+% HVR). Every now and then I introduce a new bird into my loft to see how they compete against my family of birds.
You can buy from auction sites, European stock and pay thousands of dollars for Superstar youngsters, only to be disappointed because they do not produce winners. I prefer the way I started by selecting performance/Quality breeders from local champion flyers and breeding my own family of winners.
I'm asked frequently what type of bird I like to fly. What Strain!!! My birds are medium size pigeons. Originally I started with birds, which could only handle distances up to 300 miles. Then I acquired the HVR strain, a medium bird with lots of heart, confirmation, racing ability and desire to win at all distances. (Especially long) Most of these HVR's are blue checks, splashes and blue bars. Performance at the long distances is a necessity and it is an important measurement in determining what type of bird you need to breed.
6. Can you give us a little history on your champion bird?
The parents of IF 03 LMC 3159 named Rusty are a HVR and SION. His mother died shortly after his birth and was the only bird bred from this pair.
My wife named him “Racing Rusty” a very special pigeon in many ways. She likes giving the birds names instead of just plain old band identification numbers.
Rusty is a HVR/SION cross, born in April 2003. He was banded for a special
Lehigh Mountain Combine Futurity race to be flown in October of that year.
As fate would have it Rusty was lost in September in a 150 mile race and
didn’t return home till the following March 2004. He was trained
for the 2004 Old Bird season but had only flown in four races that year.
Some pigeon flyers might have culled this bird but he, being the only
brick colored red on the flying team, I decided to let him mature in the
Racing Rusty is not only special because of his racing performance but also because of this brick red color. You see 90+% of my race/breeding team are HVR (BC, BB Splashes, White-fights). NO REDS!!
Rusty also won Outstanding Old Bird for 2005 in the Lehigh Mountain Combine
Record Club Combine North Section
He was the IF Outstanding Hall of Fame Old Bird for 2005.
7. Story on parents, brother, sister that bred or flew well for you?
Both parents were stock birds. The father was a HVR and the mother was Sion. This was the first time I paired them together. As fate would have it the mother died before any other youngsters could be bred. Thank God for this one.
8. How many birds do you fly on your Old and Young Bird team?
My old bird team is 30 to 35 birds. I try to hold my Young Bird team to the same 30 to 35 youngsters.
9. Do you use a system for your Young and Old birds? Dark, widowhood, etc.
I fly the natural system which utilizes both sexs. (cocks & hens) With old birds, the mated pairs have their own nest boxes in the same loft. When they are raced they look to return home as fast as possible with the object in their mind is to see their mate, their eggs or their youngsters.
After the races for old birds are finished, all the nests are closed and the cocks and hens remain together. They go through their natural moult. The birds are content and happy with no undue stress put on them. When the breeding/racing season comes around again, the nests are opened. (Usually March) A nesting bowl with natural pine needles is placed in each nest, which allows the mating process to begin again.
I do not fly widowhood and the sexes are never separated.
10. How do you feel about people using different systems that compete with you?
Everyone uses different systems to motivate their birds. I commend those flyers that strive to be competitive and look forward to the challenge of competing against them.
11. Explain how you would prepare a team of birds shipping to a 300 mile Future race. Please do a Sunday-to-Sunday preparation schedule.
I train normally once or twice a week usually on a Tuesday or Thursday. (Weather permitting) They are trained 30 to 40 miles out and usually released between 8 and 9 AM. Monday, Wednesday and Friday they are loft flown at 7 AM for about half an hour. They are then fed and weather permitting the team is given open loft the rest of the day until 5 PM when they are again fed (light feeding). The birds are so content and love the freedom to be out in the open. Many fanciers do not believe in open loft. I live in the country on 5 acres. I do not have any neighbor problems and the birds exercise all day long. After all this the birds are in excellent condition and ready for the race that week.
Our short distance races (100-300) are usually shipped on a Saturday for a Sunday race and our long distance races (400-600) are shipped on a Wednesday or Thursday for a Friday or Saturday race.
12. Explain how you would prepare a team of birds shipping to a 400 mile O.B. race. Please do a Sunday-to-Sunday preparation schedule.
Same as above.
13. Do you cut flights, pull tail feathers? Do you have your birds finished with body molt when races start or are you natural flyers? If so when do you start to breed?
under the natural system I feel nature should take its own course, therefore
I do not cut flights or pull tail feathers. Birds molt at different stages,
some fast, some slow. Flying natural this is to be expected. I usually
breed depending on the weather (winter) around the middle of March.
14. Describe your loft - Is there airflow in the lots? Fans, etc?
My loft is 24’-0 long and 14’-0 wide with a large feed room, crate storage and walk around hallway. Three sections house the birds. Breeding section of 8’x 8’, Old Bird section is 8’ x 8’ and a Young Bird section is 5’ x 8’. Open fly pens attached to each area allow airflow throughout the entire loft. The loft faces south, which allows sunlight to warm the entire loft in the winter time.
15. Describe how you feed. Hopper, or individual seed? In the next box or on the floor? After flight around the loft or is it when they return from training? Is there a set time in the morning or at evening? Which mixture do you use?
In each sectional compartment the birds are fed in hoppers. The compartments are made from Belgium oak slotted floors that allow all droppings to fall into trays located beneath the grates. This allows for maintaining better health. Any excess feed spilled falls into the trays so no bird ingests any dirty feed. I feed light to heavy beginning of the week supplemented with a good racing condition feed with lots of popcorn, which I add extra of. The birds are fed early in the morning after they exercise or come home from a training toss.
16. How do you train your birds, single toss, in a flock or on the training truck? Do you time your birds from training and if so give us an example? How often do you train and at what distances, or do you just loft fly and for how long?
I am primarily a long distance pigeon flyer; therefore my training methods are quite different from most flyers. My Old Bird team is 30 birds. They are loft flown and have open loft most of the day. They are flock trained twice a week 30 to 40 miles.
17. Do you have any regular training schedule to take the birds down the road or do you loft fly regularly? Explain what you do. Explain the reasons why you do certain things.
Same as above.
18. Do you believe in bird entry limits? Do you believe in clocking limits? How do you select your breeding pairs? Have you any advice for new flyers? Have you any advice for advanced flyers?
I believe in bird entry limits. My idea of a proposed limit is 15 birds per loft. This will force fanciers to be more selective in picking birds for that particular race and more competition.
Clocking should be 2 or 3 pigeons.
My breeders are proven stock birds, mated together the same each year. I try only breeding from 10 pair.
For new flyers, buy birds from the best flyers in your area.
19. Compose a list of awards you have received in Club, Combine and National Awards of any kind.
20. If you had the opportunity to change something in the pigeon game, what would it be?
Try to encourage younger flyers and share advice with them. Commend fellow club flyers when they win. Try to promote camaraderie within the Club and avoid any jealousy that goes on.
The IF has provided all flyers and me with pertinent information about the sport of pigeon racing. As an organization, it is there to help, assist and inform. It has excellent leadership that we all can be proud of.
I would like to thank Tom Benner for his computer assistance in formatting this interview. Tom is the Race Recording Secretary for the Mingo Homing Club. He is a great pigeon flyer and a good friend.