Life With Pigeons By Jack Welling Chapter 2: Success

Editor’s Note: Every one in this club knows Jack Welling – he was Secretary/Treasurer for years – and has had a VERY successful career flying pigeons outside the Gurnay USA Club. One of his daughters asked him to write up his experiences with racing pigeons, and we’re honored to include the start of this small book, in the Newsletter! 

 -- Ya Gotta Work For It Now back to the training and other elements needed to be successful. Once the birds have been ‘circle-trained’ around the loft from all directions at the ten-mile point, it is time to start directional training along the line of flight, or the direction the races are flown from. In our area that would be southwest from our current loft location. At this time, I have some thirty different locations measured from my loft to various release points out to six hundred (600) miles. Some old-bird races can be flown from that distance and some clubs have been known to push it out to one thousand miles. I, personally, have never raced past the six-hundred-mile station. Generally, the old-birds are raced in the spring and the youngsters in the fall. This is done to take advantage of the birds’ natural instincts, weather and the physical condition of the birds. As a handler, it is our job to bring all of these elements to a peak to match the race schedule. Easier said than done! Let me explain some of the terms. The old-bird team consists of birds older than the current year while the young birds are just that. To compete as a young-bird, it must have been banded in the current year and usually done early in the year. They are born early and tested the same year so that only the best will be kept; other-wise a person would be overcrowded. They are prolific breeders and can hatch several nests each year, if allowed, and they are NOT all good. Some will be lost in training, some in the races, and some to predators. Any left after racing are usually good prospects for the future, depending on the plans of the fancier. Once a person has joined a club, the membership gathers at a point to send the birds off as a group. As stated before, the birds are banded with a permanent band at birth and a soft rubber “countermark”, with a number placed on the opposite leg. Both numbers are written on an enter sheet as the birds are put into the shipping crates. They are mixed with birds from other lofts so they aren’t able to group together before being released. Special timers are set. Later in the evening, the birds are picked up by a specially made transporter and taken to the release point, to be let loose the next morning, to fly back home. When they reach home, they enter the loft, the soft rubber countermark is removed from its leg and put into the special timer and “clocked”. The fanciers, then, meet again and the speed of each bird timed in is calculated. The speeds are then listed by their speeds and the race winner is determined. My first, new timer was a wind-up model and cost me $57.00. Now, they are mostly electric and can cost over $1000 for a new one. At the end of the season, the total distance flown and the total time on the wing is figured and an average speed for the season is calculated with the fastest average speed being declared the season’s champion. Usually, once the racing is finished for the year, the sexes are separated and the birds allowed to rest for a few months. The process starts over again in the spring. Each fancier has their own system to get the most out of their birds. Some are happy to do, each year, what has worked for them in the past. Others keep tweaking their program, looking for the “magic formula” for success as determined by their racing results. In a nutshell, that is a brief description of ‘Pigeon Racing’. The little details have been left out as each person determines, and does, what they consider is important to their program. You will notice that, through-out this writing, I refer to those that have had an influence on my participation as friends, rather than by name. This was done purposely because so many people have passed on so much to me that I don’t want to start naming names for fear that I may leave someone out unintentionally