INTERVIEW REPORT FOR CHAMPION FLYERS
—BY PAUL WALSH—
Richard Clark -Top Gun Loft - Leland, NC
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF?
Not much has changed since the year 2000 interview
except me getting older. I still find the sport to be
interesting and challenging. Every year I find that
something I thought was the only way of doing
something is certainly not the only way. As my wife
says “There’s more than one way to get there.” I try
listen to the new flyers as they always have a lot of
questions. It's through these questions that my own
thoughts are questioned. These questions help them
and me to continue to improve. Listening to the
answers given by the other established flyers also leads
to more personal thought generation and
2. DO YOU THINK YOUR POSITION IS A GOOD
ONE AS FAR AS COMBINE RACES ARE
I'm located in the middle and a little more to the far
end. Our concourse is continually growing with new
members joining in all areas.My location, in my
opinion, is not an advantage. There doesn't seem to be
any one area that dominates.We have an extremely
competitive concourse with many great flyers.
3. DO YOU HAVE AN ORIGINAL FAMILY OF
Years ago I purchased top quality birds from Alex
Bieche, Rick Mardis, Horst Hackemer, and Frank
McLaughlin. Over the years I mated them by
performance and not by strain name or where they
came from. The birds from these breeders have done
well up to the 500 mile station. Last year our
concourse added a 600-mile race station. For this one
race station I have added a couple of long distance
strains to my breeding loft for next years breeding. It
will be interesting to see how they perform.
4.WHAT TYPE OF BIRD DO YOU FLY?
I'm asked frequently what type of bird I fly.What
strain? I don't like strain names. I like performance at
certain distances. Some of my birds will do well up to
300 miles. Some up to 500 miles. I do believe that it
takes two different families to compete at the short
and long races.With the addition of the distance birds
mentioned in question 3, I now have three families of
birds. In each family, some birds are larger and some
are smaller. I don’t have a set physical type. I’m more
concerned with performance than size, wing shape or
any other measurement.
5. CAN YOU GIVE US A LITTLE HISTORY ON
YOUR CHAMPION LOFT?
In 2000 my loft won the I.F Old Bird Champion
Loft Award. I did not fly the 2000 Young Bird season
or the 2001 Old Bird season. In 2002 my loft placed
6th in the I.F. Old Bird Champion Loft Awards and
7th in the I.F. Young Bird Champion Loft Awards. In
2003 I placed 3rd in Old Birds and 9th in Young Birds.
It's an honor to place 2nd in 2004 Old Birds this year
in the 25-75 Loft category and 4th in the 5-25
6. HOW BIG IS YOUR OLD BIRD TEAM? HOW BIG
IS YOUR YOUNG BIRD TEAM?
Our concourse historically has had a 25 bird
shipping limit in old birds. In young birds we have an
A, B and C race with a 10 bird shipping limit. I always
overbreed, expecting to lose birds, but I rarely do lose
7. DO YOU USE A SYSTEM?
I don't have a system. Some may call what I do the
natural system and that’s probably correct. I tried the
light and dark systems but they didn't do anything
special for me. I raise early in the year and systems
don't seem to be worth the trouble. I treat the young
birds the same way I treat the old birds. I support the
use of systems for others that feel it helps them. I like
to look at what others are doing when they race well.
If they do something that I like, I will try it also.
During the time of year when the hawks are not a
problem, I give the birds open loft all day. Every day
is good I give the birds a training flight.
After the initial short training tosses, they get either a
28 mile or 45 mile toss. I rarely go past the 45
8. DO YOU CUT FLIGHTS, PULL TAIL FEATHERS,
DO YOU HAVE YOUR BIRDS FINISHED WITH
THE BODY MOLT WHEN RACES START? IF SO
WHEN DO YOU START TO BREED?
I have, over the last couple of years, cut the outer
two flights on all of the young birds. I do this to all of
them when the last youngster is weaned. Two weeks
later I pull the cut flights. This assures that all of the
youngsters will have a full wing for the races. I put my
breeders together the first week of December. I'm
through breeding by the middle of March. This gives
the youngsters enough time to complete the molt
before the races begin in September. I have never
pulled the tail feathers.
9. DO YOU FLY TO THE PERCH? DO YOU FLY
WIDOWHOOD? SEPARATE THE SEXES?
EXPLAIN YOUR METHOD IN OLD BIRDS AND
I fly to the perch or nest box area. I don't fly
widowhood. I never separate the sexes. After the
breeding season, I take out the nest box floors and all
nesting material. The breeders stay together and keep
claim to their nesting spots or perches. After a couple
of weeks the hens stop laying eggs. All of the breeders
are content and happy with no undue stress put on
them.When breeding time comes, I put back in the
nest floors, nest bowls with nest pads, and soon there
are eggs everywhere. I do use special individual
breeding sections for when I want to regulate who is
with whom. For the others, I separate the families in
individual sections and let them choose their
10. DESCRIBE YOUR LOFT. IS THERE AIRFLOW
IN THE LOFT? DO YOU USE FANS?
My breeder loft is a twelve foot by forty foot mobile
home that I converted into a loft. I cut the floors and
walls out and replace the floors with expanded metal. I
built walls out of wood and wire to separate the
compartments. It works well. For the racing loft I built
an eight foot by fifty six foot open style loft with wood
walls though out for wind protection and airflow
control. It is completely open on the front, partially
closed on the back and completely closed on the ends.
There are five separate sections to this loft that can be
closed if needed, but left open most of the time so the
birds can use the whole loft to find their special place.
11. DESCRIBE HOW YOU FEED? WHICH
MIXTURE DO YOU USE?
I use a standard commercial feed from Purgrain.
During breeding season and young bird development,
I use a 16% mix. After that I use their 13% mix. On
the longer races I will add peanuts and safflower to
12. HOW DO YOU TRAIN YOUR BIRDS?
For young birds I start about two months before the
races begin with short tosses. The first toss will be a
one mile, then two, four, eight, twenty, twenty eight
and then forty five miles. Only after they come home
in good time from one station do I move to the next.
If they have a problem at one station I drop back to
the shorter station and continue. Rarely do I go past
the forty five mile station. In old birds, it’s the same,
but I start out at the four mile station. I don’t single
toss. I would if I had the time, but only after they were
well trained from the last station.
13. IS THERE A HEALTH PROGRAM THAT
Several years ago I followed a program published by
one of the major breeders in this country. I believe
that over time I destroyed my birds from over
medication. Some were dying with no indication of
illness. I think it was a long term effect from the
continual use of medications. Now I medicate only
when needed as far as the breeders are concerned. For
the racers, I do give a MutiMix preventive medication
during the race season every other week for two days.
14. HOW OFTEN DO YOU RACE YOUR BIRDS?
Young birds go to every race during the season. In
old birds I send the family best suited to the race
entered. Speed birds go to the short races, distance
birds go to the longer races. I will send a couple of
distance birds to the short races in case of a bad race.
If the weather looks like a fast long race I will send a
couple speed birds to that.
15. DO YOU BELIEVE IN BIRD ENTRY LIMITS?
I like entry limits. They should be set at a number
large enough to keep the large team flyers happy, but
small enough to keep the small team flyers
competitive. I know this is difficult, but we need to try
not to lose members by limits. I personally would like
a fifty bird shipping limit with only one release in old
birds. For young birds, I would like three races, an A, B
and C release with a twenty bird shipping limit in
each. These numbers would allow the flyer that raises
one hundred birds or more to fly most of them and
allow the flyer that raise fifty or less to still be
competitive. I do not like clocking limits. That allows a
bird to get a higher score than it deserves by not
allowing birds that had a better return to be counted.
To me this is a faulty race report. All birds should get
the position they earn.
16. IS THERE A FLYER OR BREEDER THAT
HAS HELPED YOU BECOME A BETTER
Several. Alex Bieche has been a true friend from the
beginning. He has always been available with answers
and suggestions to help me. Jim Brown in Oklahoma
with his unique style and willingness to help me and
others; Frank McLauglin, Rick Mardis, Jim Portenga
and Horst Hackemer for their support. And, all of the
local flyers without whom there would not be a club,
combine or concourse.
17. COMPOSE A LIST OF AWARDS YOU HAVE
RECEIVED AT THE CLUB, COMBINE,
CONCOURSE AND NATIONAL LEVELS.
Numerous club, combine and concourse awards
over the years.
On the National level:
2000 I.F. Old Bird Champion Loft 15-50 loft category,
2000 Old Bird All American Award Low Middle
2000 I.F. Hall Of Fame Old Birds for 3 different
2002 6th Place I.F Old Bird Champion Loft 25-75 loft
2002 7th Place I.F Young Bird Champion Loft 5-25 loft
2002-2003 A.U. President’s Cup Award,
2003 3rd Place I.F Old Bird Champion Loft 5-25 loft
2003 I.F. 9th Place Young Bird Champion Loft 5-25
2003 Lou McElroy Futurity Winning Handler Award,
2004 I.F. 2nd Place Old Bird Champion Loft 26-75 loft
and numerous Racing Pigeon Digest Awards over the
18. IF YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO
CHANGE SOMETHING IN THE PIGEON GAME,
WHAT WOULD IT BE?
What it costs to be in this sport.We all know that
we need to continue to increase membership for the
hobby to survive. The fact that the costs of all aspects
of keeping and racing birds is increasing makes it
difficult for people to get started in this sport. It is
expensive already, to say the least.We all need to look
for ways to make this sport more available to other
potential flyers. The bird merchants, supplies
merchants, and everyone else involved should look for
ways to help others get started and ways to keep them
in racing Homing Pigeons.
19. ARE THERE ANY ARTICLES, BOOKS OR
VIDEOS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
There are many good books and videos available
through the pigeon supply merchants. I personally
have enjoyed the articles by Basil Gossman from
and articles sent to me from my friend Jim Brown:
www.okiejim.com/, from an unknown author using
the pen name KISS.