Wednesday, September 17, 2014


By Steve Lawler


Several firsts were accomplished in this, the fourth year of the Western Open races. Mother Nature gave us a day from Winnemucca when nearly the entire western US was under clear skies…FINALLY! Of course, with clear skies comes the heat and the southern lofts experienced temperatures running in the low to upper 90’s, depending on the locale. Some of the Northwest coastal lofts (Seattle and Portland) faced a late arriving wet front which pushed some arrivals to 2nd day.

However, as has been mentioned many times, a 360 degree release means varying conditions for the wide variety/locations of competing lofts. Tailwinds one direction are headwinds in the opposite; clear and cool in one locale often means clear and hot in another; happy faces in one club usually results in grumpy pigeon men in another. So it is, so it is.

The type and depth of organizational entries for 2014 (from Winnemucca, especially) was so extensive and diverse that an honest effort is being made this year to recognize “regional” winners, along with the traditional mileage category winners. Figuring out actual names of fanciers flying under loft names, did prove challenging.  But with numerous website searches and some assistance from area flyers, that task is completed!

As has been the norm over the last few years, two races were scheduled: May 25thfrom Winnemucca, “Na-VAD-a” and from Carson City, Nevada on June 14th. A three week spacing has proven to be just about the right amount of time of rest between the races and also allows for natural flyers to get their prized, long distance pairs back down on 10-day eggs after the Winnemucca race.

The Show

Act I - Winnemucca

So, here we go! Sunday, May 25th dawned clear with a slight (6 E/NE) breeze in Winnemucca, NV. As is always the case in Winnemucca on Memorial Day weekend, the motorcycle extravaganza “Run-a-mucca” has been in full swing for a couple of days and VERY few revelers were to be seen at this hour of the predawn as several trucks gathered at the ball field complex parking lot overlooking the cemetery.

Randy Bean at the Carson City release.

The 395 Concourse truck was there with Brian Crossen and site liberator, Leonard Lee. Jon Hans and the central California truck carried the Camellia City Combine birds along with the northern California entries. Dr. Randy Bean was there with the southern Idaho champs. Gene Yoes hauled the Montana delegation all the way from Emigrant! And, Bart Fouts was there with the Eastern Washington/Oregon concourse birds on the Spokane RPC truck. In addition, there were birds from flyers in the Evergreen Concourse (western WA) and the Oregon Trail Combine (greater Portland area) on the Spokane truck joining the fray.

Bart Fouts at the Carson City release.

For the first time, there were entrants from eastern and western Washington, and from eastern and western Oregon, and from northern, southern, and central California, and northern and southern Idaho, and from western Montana. (Don’t see your area recognized? Try joining us in 2015.)

All totaled, 124 lofts shipped 1313 birds as reported on the official AU race sheet. The birds went up at 6am under the direction of the AU’s National Race Secretary, John Hundrup, and the race was on.

In the 100-199 MILE category, which was made up exclusively from the Boise and the western suburbs, 15 lofts and 268 birds competed. This group has been staunch supporters of the Western Opens over the four years and has done very well in the process. Taking the blue ribbon in 2014 was a repeat winner, Doc’s Loft (Dr. Randy Bean) with AU 10 IDA 765 BBC at 1458ypm from 186 miles.

In the 200-299 MILE category, 33 lofts and 446 birds competed. This grouping was comprised of handlers from central Oregon (CORP), a few from the longer eastern Boise (IDA) lofts, northern California (Shasta RPC – Redding & the Siskiyou RPC – Yreka), and central California (Sacramento/Auburn, etc.) That’s pretty much three of the four compass points and indicative of the fierce competition going on in the skies as those 1300+ birds try to tug each other in their respective homeward direction.

It takes a true champion to compete on this stage. (Followers need not apply!) This is where your future breeding stock should come. Constantly buying sprint pigeons and then wondering what went wrong when the wind simply blows in the wrong direction or a hawk chases them around won't work.  Those sprint birds are genetically enhanced to fly in big groups, all heading in the same general direction, with best loft location dictating the “champion.” Really???? Someone has been sold a bill of goods…Get serious about what you’re breeding from for next year’s team. You’ll never look back!

Topping this prestigious division was longtime supporter and pigeonworkaholic, Don Chapin from Redmond, OR with AU 11 CORP 2237 BCC at 292 miles and a speed of 1365 ypm.

In the 300-399 MILE category, 21 lofts sent 190 pigeons. This grouping was comprised of lofts from the Columbia Basin Combine of eastern Washington, from the Camas Prairie club in the Lewiston-Clarkston area of extreme SE WA/NW ID, from the Idaho Falls area, and from a longer loft in central Oregon. These are some of the toughest competitors in the NW. They take no prisoners.

The top dog in this section was top-notch flyer, Paul Meyer from Kennewick, WA and the Tri-Cities club with AU 09 TCW 9850 BCH at 369 miles and a speed of 1374 ypm.

In the 400-499 MILE category, 45 lofts sent 362 birds. This was by far the largest section and flyers came from every direction and always bring an attitude! The Spokane RPC, the Bridger Mountain RPC (western Montana), the northern areas of the Columbia Basin Combine (central eastern WA), the northern sections of the 395 Combine (southern, inland CA) and the boys from the “Washington westside” - the Evergreen Concourse. What collection of kickbutt competitors!

Snagging the prize in this prominent category was the 54-year veteran flyer Ed Ulbright, the perennial Spokane RPC Treasurer. Ed clocked AU 11 SPO 1310 BCwfC at 1366 ypm from 473 miles.


OK boys and girls, anyone see a pattern here?

Let’s review:

100-199m, a 2010 pigeon; 200-299m, a 2011 pigeon; 300-399m, a 2009 pigeon; 400-499m, a 2011 pigeon.

How many 3, 4, and 5-year-old birds can you find on your race sheets? Where did they go? How come they aren’t capable of competing for extended careers?

What traits do these Western Open winners have in common that aren’t shared by most pigeons year after year?


In the final category from 500 MILES & UP, 10 brave lofts sent 47 warriors to the biggest challenge on the West Coast. This grouping consists of an incredibly diverse make-up. Northern lofts from the Evergreen Concourse (Everett area) joined the southernmost lofts from the 395 combine (San Diego area) in this section. Talk about a contrast!

These two areas, at the ultimate ends of the spectrum, have such different climates:  warmth in California and the N/Westerners have a more mild climate.  Go figure! Two extremes, in two opposite locations.  Yet, racing against each other in the same division. How cool is that!

Snagging the top spot was Alan Tawfique sporting the Lulu’s Loft colors. Alan clocked AU 13 JEDD 36910 BCC at 11:05am the next day for a speed of 823 ypm from 567 miles.

Overall Observations

The overall results show that the Western Idaho Invitational boys had a field day taking the top 24 of 28 positions. George Lukasik of the IDAHO RPC (same area) took the other four spots in the top 28. Five different lofts (Randy Bean, John Lonkey, Dick Ensley, Todd Williams, and George Lukasik – Pigeon Village) each clocked a bird while taking the first five spots.

Directly following that WII / IDAHO drop, three of the next four sectional winners quickly claimed their prizes. Paul Meyer of Kennewick, WA was 28th winning the 300-399 category; Ed Ulbright of Green Bluff (SPO), WA took the 400-499 division in 31st; and Don Chapin of Redmond, OR took the 200-299 section in 32nd position.

Features on the Mileage category winners will follow over the next several months.

As was promised in the introduction, here’s a rundown of those regional champs who managed to beat the local/area competition:

  • In the Camellia City Combine –Sacramento, CA (13 lofts & 124 birds) Joe Neves of Neves Family loft took the blue ribbon with AU 13 FSC 1048 BBC from 249 miles at 1315 ypm.
  • In the 395 Concourse – Apple Valley, CA down through San Diego, CA (20 lofts & 132 birds) Sonny Cangiarella of Fly Sonny loft was the winner with AU 13 IEIC 3324 hen at 1178 ypm from 478 miles.
  • In the Shasta RPC – Redding, CA (5 lofts & 44 birds) Dan Welch of Royal Oaks Loft took the top prize with AU 11 RO 360 RCC from 238 miles at 1177 ypm.
  • In the Siskiyou RPC – Yreka, CA (4 lofts & 48 birds) Tom Larson recorded the best time at 1302 ypm from 258 miles.
  • In the Evergreen Combine –Seattle, WA up through, Everett, WA (10 lofts & 44 birds) George Dobre of the Blue Danube Loft was the winner through the rain on the second day at 594 ypm from 496 miles.
  • In the Idaho RPC – Boise, Id area (11 lofts & 160 birds) George Lukasik of Pigeon Village was local winner at 1431 ypm from 198 miles.
  • In the EWOC – eastern WA & eastern Oregon (39 lofts & 422 birds) Paul Meyer took 1stoverall with AU 09 TCW 9850 BCH from 369 miles at 1373 ypm.
  • In the Western Idaho Inv. RPC – Parma, ID (6 lofts & 152 birds) Randy Bean of DOC’s Loft took home the bacon with AU 10 IDA 0765 BBC at 1459 ypm from 185 miles.
  • In the Bridger Mountain RPC –Bozeman, MT (7 lofts & 84 birds) the Smetana family captured the flag with AU 12 BMT 3082 BBC at 1273 ypm from 464 miles.
  • In the Snake River Valley RPC –Idaho Falls, ID (3 lofts & 46 birds) Bruce Nykamp was the only one to clock birds and won with AU 12 NYKA 2212 BBH at 1348 ypm from 351 miles.
  • In the Oregon Trail Combine –Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area - 7 lofts did ship 53 birds. Returns were scattered into wet weather. Adrian Buturoaga of A&B Loft had the first bird home from 386 miles.

Act II – Carson City

The second release from Carson City, NV, three weeks later on June 14th, was a less diverse affair and all but the Northern Tier lofts having been chased from the playing fields by the summer heat. Nine clubs from four northern states Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon) shipped 521 birds from 46 lofts to Carson City, NV for the second leg of the 2014 Western Open doubleheader.

Solo clubs from western Montana (Bridger Mountain RPC), southern Idaho (Western Idaho Invitational, [Boise] Idaho RPC, and Snake River Valley [Idaho Falls] RPC) joined the large and expansive Eastern Washington / Oregon Concourse (Columbia Basin Combine – Yakima RPC, Columbia Basin Flyers RPC [Wenatchee/Moses Lake], and Tri-Cities RPC [Pasco/Richland/Kennewick, WA]; Stateline Combine (Camas Prairie RPC & Spokane RPC); and the Central Oregon Racing Pigeon club (CORP) for this longest race of the season. Many lofts were over 500 miles and a substantial number were over the 600 mile marker.

The birds went up at 6am under clear conditions and 46 degrees with light SE breeze at 3mph. As has been the case from Carson City, no one has taken up the offer/challenge to compete in the 100-199 or 200-299 categories. (Where are all those championship level lofts sitting at 100-299 miles from Carson City in mid-June?)

In the 300-399 MILE category, Dick Ensley from Marsing, ID and the Western Idaho Invitational RPC took top honors with AU 11 WII 1425 BCH from 339 miles at 1380 ypm. This mileage division included the WII club along with the CORP club in central eastern Oregon and they sent 241 birds from 11 lofts.

In the 400-499 MILE category, Paul Meyer of Kennewick, WA and the Tri-Cities RPC took the prize with AU 09 TCW 9850 BCH from 486 miles at 1310 ypm. If you have been paying attention, this the same little hen that took the blue ribbon in the big Eastern WA/OR Combine and the entire 300-399 mile category from Winnemucca three weeks prior! This mileage division shipped 60 birds from 9 lofts coming almost exclusively from the southern section of the Columbia Basin Combine.

In the 500-599 MILE category, Bruce Nykamp of Idaho Falls, ID of the Snake River Valley club clocked AU 12 NYKA 2289 BCH from 510 miles at 1488 ypm. This mileage division additionally included the longer sections of the Columbia Basin Combine (Yakima, Moses Lake, Wenatchee, WA), the southern sections of the Stateline Combine (Lewiston, ID/Clarkston, WA), and a couple of lofts from the Bridger Mountain RPC in western Montana. They shipped 120 birds from 16 lofts.

In the 600 & UP category, the Smetana Loft from Bozeman, MT had two on a drop at 7:23pm from 627 miles!

And just to cap it off, they had another day bird at 7:44pm. They had three more the next morning before 10am.

That performance is from 8 birds shipped. (WHAT? Yup, guessing these birds might even breed some pretty good ones one day soon. Imagine they might even help some of those sprint breeders to produce YB’s that can last a season or two.) This section of serious flyers made-up from the Spokane RPC and longer Bridger Mountain RPC shipped 100 gladiators from 10 top notch lofts.

Features on these little champs and their handlers will be forthcoming.

Curtain call

In the final analysis, the Western Opens continue to grow and organizers continue to invite any and all flyers anywhere from 100-700 miles of Winnemucca & Carson City, Nevada to take up the challenge and simply schedule a combined release on Memorial Weekend Sunday at 6am from Winnemucca and three weeks later from Carson City…. This is the best show in the West. Get involved! We’d love to have you join us.