Thursday, March 6, 2014


Winds of Change Bring Different Results 
from Carson City
by Steve Lawler

As late spring temperatures climb, the number of clubs still racing in mid-June drops considerably, especially in the more southerly states. Conversely, the northern state fight late snow storms all spring long and finally are enjoying prime racing weather in May and June.

These two natural conditions are substantial inhibitors when organizing a 360 degree release for the second time in the same season. - The Memorial Weekend Sunday release from Winnemucca fits nicely for any-and-all groups, who make the smallest effort to compete. The weather is normally good; not too hot (usually) and the rogue snows are gone (usually) as NOTHING is for sure in pigeon racing!

Coordinating mass releases becomes more and more difficult as mid/late June arrives. While the northern groups push their birds out to the longer distances with early morning releases most often providing for cool enough temperatures to get the birds home in good shape; not so, however, down south as the southern boys have all but shut 'em down.

So, finding dates and locations for the annual second Western Open have been challenging. A couple of Nevada stations have been used in an attempt to appeal to more clubs to join this exciting Old Bird event.

The 2013 edition found 50 lofts shipping 627 birds from the famous silver town of Carson City, Nevada (that's "Na - vad- ah" as in "bad," not "vod" as in "odd," for our eastern friends, especially TV sports announcers.) It was clear at release with a slight NE breeze and 52 degrees. This breeze picked up considerably over the course before finally turning slightly from the NW by evening.

Arrival temperatures (for the early returners) were in the 90's with locales pushing 100 degrees in many places along the flight line. It was a challenging day(s) for most birds and handlers alike.

The Central Oregon Racing Pigeon Club (CORP) of the Highway 97 corridor, ranging from Madras to La Pine, Oregon (that's "Or-a-gun," NOT "Our-a-gon" - see above for offending personnel), had a field day as they took 19 of the first 20 places with the winning speed at 1569 ypm. The only loft breaking up the top 20 CORP sweep was relatively new flyer, Manny Torrez, of Granger, Washington, who took 8th place overall while flying a distance of 495.466 miles (the first 6 places were in the 355-361 mile distance range; 7th place flew from 391m). Seems that this young fellow has this "open" racing thing figured out. See his interview responses the way, there's no "r" in WASHington.

With the western states pronunciation lessons completed, here's a quick overview before sending you off to the question-generated interview responses from the various category winners:

100-199 & 200-299 mile categories
There were no lofts flying under 329 miles. Imagine how many hundreds of lofts have measurements ranging from 100-299 miles who could be participating in this fun activity from Caron City? You don't even have to have your club's or combine's "permission." Three AU lofts (or more) shipping together can hook-up with one of the rigs heading that direction; or, you could drive the Boss (your WIFE!) to Carson City/Reno for a mini-vacation and release with the big numbers coming from all different locations. From under 300 miles, they should be home by lunchtime!

300-399 mile category
In the 300-399 mile category, that veteran NW pigeonman, Bob Brumagin, took the whole enchilada with AU-11-CORP-1715 Velvet HVR cock - Mr. Carson City. Bob provides some terrific insights and opinions (imagine that!) in his answers. Please especially note his recommendation that open flyers recognize that only local results should be compared.

400-499 mile category
Manny Torrez was over an hour ahead of the next loft in this 400-499 mile section with AU-12-YAK-350 BCC -DJ's 350. Manny's cock bird is from Janssen/Koopman lines - yes, that is sprint blood dominating from 495 miles (1383 ypm). Manny does a nice job thanking partner, Donny Mengarelli, and his mentors, John Ballard, and Dr. Dennis Martinen in his write-up below.

500-599 mile category
Idaho Falls, Idaho stalwart, Bruce Nykamp, had another nice race while taking the 500-599 category. Bruce is at the top in every Western Open we've flown. His article was in the October 1, 2013 RP Digest. The sectional winner is AU-11-NYKA-77 BCC, who led the only eight day-birds in this tough-as-nails category.

600 miles & Up category
With only eight day-of-toss (DOT) birds in the 500 mile category, those flying over 600 miles were in for a long night after a long, stressful, and unrewarding day. Twelve birds made the sheet on the second day with Dusan Smetana's Montana Loft grabbing the honors with AU-11-BMT-53 BCH.
This blue check hen. Western Open Hen, is sired by a cock from Jim Hewitt, gr-grandson of The Wouters Cock Belg 85 2139091 (John McGee, England); the sire was an October late hatch and did well as 8-month old on 500 mile old bird race. Dam: Slovakian pigeon, very good racer and super breeder.
Dusan also won his section in 2012 and his article reflects that win, plus he provides a commentary dealing with his overall racing philosophy. He overviews his thoughts on the Western Open concept and also presents a compelling statement inviting others to get out of their "comfort zone" and do some real flying where the birds have to be smarter than just following the lead pigeons back home.

Sooooooooo, please enjoy reading some pretty darn good answers!
Bob Brumagin: Western Open - 
Carson City Overall Winner

Getting Started
I got started in pigeons in 1945 when I was 5 years old. My dad had remarried and he and my step mother needed some time alone to get used to each other. So, I was put in a foster home out on a farm in Pennsylvania where an old couple took care of me.

There was an old silo on this farm and some pigeons lived in it. I was fascinated by the way they flew and often lay awake nights thinking of how to catch them. I never needed much sleep; even at 5 years old, four or five hours was plenty.

One night I got this idea: I got up and sneaked out of the house, got a yard sprinkler and some bailing wire and several hoses, climbed up to the top of the silo in the middle of the night in the dark, wired the sprinkler in the hole at the top of the silo where the birds came in and out, and went back in and back in bed. Next morning got up and hurriedly ate my breakfast and ran out and turned the water on. Three pigeons fell to the bottom of the silo. I opened the bottom door of the silo and caught them.

Now, where to put them?

My dad had given me a doe rabbit and a cage for her. That weekend he had brought his prize buck down and left it for me to breed my doe. Well, I let them out. I had to have a place for my pigeons!
I have had pigeons ever since. Even while in the service, I had them at home.

When got stationed at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, CA and assigned to a flight crew, I would go home to LA area and bring a couple birds back with me to Alameda (San Francisco, east bay area) I'd then take them up in the plane the next day and put them in a paper bag and throw them out the hatch (door) and watch them fly away.

I'd go home the next weekend to see if they returned (no training) and most of them made it: from NAS Alameda home to out by Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. (nearly 400 miles!)

I have no certain strain of pigeons that I keep; I have them all, including most of the "flavor of the week" ones. Different birds fly on different days in different kinds of weather and at different distances.

I feed them very well and my old birds have a full hopper of feed in front of them at all times.

Training old birds
I try to get several tosses (the more the merrier) under 60 miles. After the first race, NO TRAINING. THIS BIRD (the Open winner) DID NOT GET ANY SPECIAL TRAINING, OR ANY TRAINING AT ALL!

Supplements & Medications
I do not medicate; if it ain’t broke, don't try to fix it. I do use Winsmore a couple of times a week on the flyers.

The Winner
The winner is a velvet Van Riel cock, out of a Beasley cock, bred by Ned Beasley himself. The mother is also a Beasley hen bred by my friend, Rollo Johnson from the Seattle area, out of two birds directly from Ned. I flew the mother hen, and her nest mate sister, in young birds with both winning a race.

This bird, AU-2011-CORP-1715 won the 200 mile (197 miles) 6 days before. He was sent back on a very short week to this race (361 miles) only to be the overall winner with a speed of  1569.832 YPM.

Additionally, the only bird ever raised out of 1715 was equal first (2nd trap) in a two-bird drop from Winnemucca (281.496 miles - 2nd by 4 seconds)  24 minutes ahead of the next loft in our club Futurity this young bird season.
"Mr. Carson City" is now the bird's name.

The Competition
I fly in Central Oregon (Prineville) in the Central Oregon RPC. We have 4 races a weekend. There's a 5-bird limit from 100 miles, and an Open (no limit) B race from 100 miles every weekend. And there's an "A" race, with a 12-bird limit, in old birds from the station 50 miles farther each week end, and a "B" race, no limit, from the same station.

In old birds, we compete with the flyers in eastern Washington, who pick up our birds on the way to the release stations. They are about 150 miles +/- longer than us, depending on the station. I'm usually the shortest air mile and Jeff Life, up in Wenatchee, Washington being the longest and about 200 miles longer than me.

In most races, the two of us are only a bird or two apart as this a very competitive organization despite being spread out over three states (OR, WA, ID).

This (Western Open) is a very good race. And, while several organizations won’t fly it because of the 360 degree release, I want racing pigeons that fly by themselves. I don’t want followers, so this is great test of your birds.

Yes, winds can make one area favored on that particular day. But, before you worry about location, you have to beat the lofts in your own area, who have also flown that day under the same conditions. So, before you start comparing and complaining about overall results, you need to answer the question:
How did you do against the local competition???

Bob Brumagin
American Lofts
304 N E Brennan Lane
Prineville, Oregon 97754
541-480-7593 cell

Manuel Torrez: Western Open - 
Carson City - 400-499 Winner

When and how I got started:  I started in 2011 when Donny Mengarelli, my current racing partner, brought me 6 pigeons for my birthday. Donny had met long-time pigeon flier/racer John Ballard and we went to him for help in beginning our new hobby. John introduced us to the Yakima Racing Pigeon Club and we started competing. Club member Dennis Martinen has also been a great mentor for us. Without those two well-accomplished fliers, we would never have had a chance to have such a successful bird as 350.

Strains I prefer and why:  I prefer winning strains, who wants losing birds?!  (I am really too new in the game to know what I really prefer, but the main strains that I am currently breeding are Houbens, Mattens, and Koopman/Janssens. These are the strains that John and Dennis got me started with.

Feeding methods:  I believe in keeping it simple; feeding good feed and making sure that they have plenty of clean water!

Training and preparing for the races:  My training varies around my work schedule, which usually means more short training tosses and lots of loft flying. When I have the chance, I do take them on longer training tosses to prepare for the longer races. 

Supplements, additives and medications:  I use the basic medications to keep my birds healthy and I do not use additives or supplements.

What's the winner is out of?  The winner is out of the cock YAK 318 (which is a Koopman) and the dam is YAK 588 (which is a Janssen). The cock goes back to NL08-209042 and the Protégé 28.  The dam goes back to GFL-755/01 and NL-1093499/99.

Other good results:  This bird placed very well within our club and the combine races.

New family/old dependable?  This was a new family for me.  It was a first time mating this pair with the help of John Ballard and Dennis Martinen (where the brood stock originated). 

Name of the bird:  The #350 bird is also known as DJ’s 350.

Normal competition:  I belong to the Yakima Valley Racing Pigeon Club and compete against the other members as well as Eastern Washington/Oregon Combine (EWOC).  I have also started (lightly) in some one-loft races.


Western Open Winner 2012 
from Lovelock, NV 500-599 miles

Western Open Winner 2013 - 
Carson City, NV – 627 miles

by the Smetana family.

“When you’re sitting in a chair on cold winter days and reminiscing about accomplishments, the ones that were the hardest to achieve are the first to come to mind.  Flying the Western Open races for me is one of these.
In 2012 we were racing from Mesquite, NV to Bozeman, MT on our southern course, a distance of 633 miles.  It was a beautiful day in the middle of May.  As in the past, I was waiting for the pigeons in the race, but no one in our club history had ever gotten any day birds from that distance.  As it got dark I went to close the pigeon loft, tired from looking at an empty sky and starting at every starling, dove or common pigeon that passed through. Six minutes after nine o’clock with my hand on the sputnik I saw a silent shadow pass over the landing board.  The hair stood up on my arms as I saw my first day bird from that distance. This hen had flown 14 hours and 6 minutes (1316 ypm) during a time of year when we at this altitude are still a month away from the longest day of the year.  As I was trying to determine the number of the pigeon, get the sputnik open and re-connect the clock, another shadow passed over me — a second day bird hen.  Now my heart really was pumping. 

For those who have never experienced 600-mile day birds, it's a unique feeling that you will never forget in your life. Some of us live simply for this day all year long.
Both birds were three year-old hens, slightly related to each other that had flown at 1316 ypm over a grueling mountain course. Both birds had good racing records, and AU 2009 BMT 009 had won a 300 mile young bird race. 

As I tried to finish the old bird season with a good record, there was still one more race to look forward to, this time for us from the western direction, the Western Open from Lovelock, NV, 523 miles for our birds.  This is the race that I am always looking forward to as it is a unique tool for selection in any pigeon fancier’s breeding toolbox.  Pigeons that are released in star directions and heading north, south, east and west are given an extra challenge to their homing calculations.

For the Western Open I selected 48 birds including the #009 hen — all of the old birds that I had because one of my requirements is that all of the pigeons in my loft must fly WO races from 500 miles.  I fly double widowhood and this allows me to send my whole loft out, week after week.  As our birds are not medicated their recovery rate and vitality are tremendous.  Our management is quite simple with supplements of apple cider vinegar, garlic, brewer’s yeast, yogurt and wheat germ oil.  I believe in the power of good birds and especially hens for racing and breeding.  In my opinion, the most gratifying pigeon breeding and racing is simple and elegant. 

The race was on June 9th, 2012 when the weather is finally reliably stable in Montana and we (usually) no longer have to wait through rain, sleet and snow for returning birds.  Flying through the Rocky Mountains presents its own challenges in navigating through canyons, valleys and passes as the BMT club range is 70 miles wide and 75 miles deep.  Our club flies the UPR system so we have to nominate our pigeons before the races. The #009 hen was my first pick. 

Around 5:15 pm with eleven hours and forty-five minutes (1306 ypm) on the wing I saw a single bird coming in and to my delight it was the 009 blue bar hen.  One minute later two more birds showed up and by the end of the day we clocked 24 day birds.  This was by far the best 500 mile performance I had ever gotten.

This was the last race for the #009 hen as she was moved into the breeding loft in hopes that her progeny will carry on her legacy.  #009’s sire was from Brian Perin down the line from Andy Systma’s “Iron Mike” and her dam is from Slovakian pigeons.

I think the biggest part of these good long-distance results occur as I fly more and more of the 500- and 600-mile Western Open races with every single one of my old birds.  It is the primary directive for my breeding program, testing our birds in the biggest and best competition in the West, testing the progeny, collecting data on our best pigeons, and letting them truly show us what they are.  That's the magic, something that only the Western Open can offer.

The race is not “fair” as the variations in wind, terrain and distance will affect who is the overall winner. The intelligent fancier knows how to read race reports and not fall for the winning bird only. To me the team performance counts hugely — how many birds you place in the top 10 or 20% and how compressed the team is on arrival.

[Carson City 600 mile winner 2013]
[Dusan and his charges were hard at it again in 2013 as he took the 600 mile and over category against some very fine NW distance flyers. His AU 11 BMT 53 BCH did what very few birds accomplished and hit the finish line at 8:12 am from 627 miles. 53 was champion bird in BMT club 2013, despite being held back on several races because of the loss of her first mate, while flying double widowhood.
Besides her sectional win from Carson City, 53 (The Western Open Hen) was 5th place in the 500m catgory from the Winnemucca Western Open race three weeks earlier.      - S. Lawler]

“I really appreciate all of the support that has been given to growing the Western Open races and my hope is for continued growth into four or even six Western Open races each year.  We need to muster our clubs and combines into more common releases together out of the multitude of separate releases all over the west.  
I would especially like to acknowledge the support of sponsors Gene Yoes of the Racing Pigeon Digest, and Jim Jenner with Paccom Films.

Please consider joining us in 2014 with two races from Winnemucca on Sunday, May 25th and Carson City on Saturday, June 14th…… More info visit -