News and Updates

Race 4 (Final Race) was flown yesterday and was more difficult than we hoped.  As of now (end of Day 2) there are 65% of the birds home.  Hopefully we get a few more back tomorrow.  Not a terrible race but I was hoping for better on the last one.  I will post a full Race Recap in the next couple of days.  A handful of birds really excelled though including one pigeon that really outperformed the rest throughout the entire series.


Congratulations to R & D Racing (Dale Zehr & Rick Broere) for winning 1st Place @ 1308 YPM with their #1833.  This pigeon was also on the first drop in Race 3 and did well in Race 1 as well.  Being out overnight in Race 2 hurt it's chanced in Average speed.  Also on the first drop was Birdhigh Ranch with #9206 that finished in 9th Overall Average Speed.  Finally the last bird on the first drop was #2149 for Fleet Washington and this was the dominant pigeon of the series winning 1st Overall Ace Pigeon by 38+ Minutes.  #2149 was also on the first drop in Race 3 and did very well in both Race 1 and Race 2.  In a difficult series with a lot of adversity, there was only 1 pigeon that excelled in all 4 races with no mistakes and that was #2149.  Congratulations to Fleet Washingon for breeding an outstanding pigeon.  Cloux Loft (Charlie Loucks) won 1st Nominated Point Bird by a narrow margin over APC Loft in 2nd & 3rd.


Click Here for the Full Prize Payout (in Alphabetical Order by Breeder) for the 4 Race Series


If you won more than $600 after shipping then please email a completed W-9.  We will begin shipping out the birds next Monday and should ship most of them out next week.  Jon will start sorting out the birds tomorrow.  Please let us know whether you want them shipped back or not.  Those that won prizes I can deduct from your winnings.  Best way to let us know is by Email that way it's more organized and I have a record of who it's from.  If you didn't win money but still want your birds back email me and I can get you a shipping quote.  It costs a little more to ship to the midwest and East coast than it does west coast.


Again I will post a full race recap in a couple days.


- Matt


Here is video of release.  Skies are very hazy headed back towards Bakersfield but bluer with better air towards east Foothills.





I arrived at the release spot at 6:10 AM.  Release point is off Ridge Route at an overlook viewing Quail Lake.  Elevation here is about 3700' and you can see a lower spot in the mountains to the north that hopefully the birds use.  


Temperature is a little warm on this side of the mountains about 60 already but it will cool as birds get to the south side of mountains.  Clear and very light north wind at the release point.  There will be some wind in the mountains themselves just to the north then about 200 Miles of very light winds followed by a light headwind the last 100 miles or so.  Much of the course will be calm to less than 5 MPH.  Temperatures should reach about 68-73 through much of the course.


Just a little patchy fog up and down the valley that should burn off before birds reach it.  The birds should be able to take whatever path they like.  Fog will not be an issue this race.


Birds have been watered since 6:20 but not many actually drinking which is typical.


Good luck in the race today and I'll upload the release video on way back.



The final race will be flown tomorrow 11/29 from either 305 or 308 Miles.  I have a couple different spots picked out.  One is at 3700' in the mountains S of Quail Lake / SE of Gorman.  The other is 10 Miles east in Neenach at about 3000' elevation.  Both locations will require the birds to climb up and over a large mountain range in the 5000-6000' range about 10 Miles out.  It's not the furthest final at only 305 to 308 Miles but more challenging then most as they have the big mountain range to come over and they will have no help in terms of wind.  


The spot S of Quail Lake would take the birds more up through the valley once they reach Bakersfield and eventually into the lower foothills.  If there is not much fog in the valley and I can get the trailer in there the Quail Lake location is where I will go.  If there is a fair amount of fog in the valley, I will go to Neenach instead which would take the birds more up through the foothills and lower mountains the entire way.  Neither location should take the birds on an extended trip into the mountains if they stay online but again they will have to climb over some big mountains right off the bat.


Weather tomorrow is supposed to be sunny the entire course with mild temperatures overnight and highs reaching about 70 along most of the course (including at the loft).  It should be just a little warm in the bright sun but pleasant.  Winds are supposed to be really light if any for the first 200 Miles and then a light headwind the last 100 Miles or so.  I think we'll see speeds in the 1325 to 1425 range with upper 1300's being most likely.


For those attending, lunch will be served around 12:45 and then start seriously watching for birds from 1:15 on.


I will update points and prizes late in the afternoon or early evening during the race tomorrow.  Remember the largest prize in the race is for 1st Overall Ace Pigeon and Ace Pigeon (Average Speed) pays 11 positons, so besides the actual capitol prizes there will be a lot of action into the afternoon on how they shuffle out for those Top-11 Ace Pigeon prizes.


Good luck tomorrow and thanks for participating,




Address to Loft:

6120 Chrysler Circle

Garden Valley, CA 95633


Google Maps directions is accurate


Race 3 was flown a few days ago and went fairly well with good returns.  The early returns were more strung out than I would have preferred.  This I believe a result of all the fog in the valley and low foothills affecting the course we have to fly.  We've had to adjust further east and the birds are flying a continuous mountain course in the 1500'-3000+' elevations. 

Fog was less of an issue for Race 3 as compared to Race 2 but it still played a role in where I had to release from.  It's also likely the birds flew over/around a good sized fog bank about 15-30 miles out from release.  I left the loft about 1:40 AM.  Driving down HWY 99 I really didn't see much fog for the first 150 miles or so.  Things changed once I was a few miles south of Fresno when the fog really picked up.  Once I got to Selma the fog was heavy and visibility poor (I was down to 40-45 MPH on the freeway for multiple stretches).  Fog was also heavy in Wasco which meant no chance of releasing there.  I arrived in Delano and knew I had to go east towards Woody to get out of the fog.  Once I got about 7 to 10 Miles east of Delano going up the foothills I could see the fog starting to thin.  Once I was about 5 or 6 Miles from the release point the skies were now clear with only some haze.  I pulled up at the release point at 6:40 and watered the birds over the next 45 minutes.  The release point (237 Miles) is 4-5 miles NW of a small town called Woody at an elevation of around 1550-1600'.  Technically it's low mountains but around Woody it really just appears to be rolling hills, not much steepness to the terrain or tree cover.
I released the birds at 7:30 under clear/hazy cool skies.  The birds did well only circling for a couple minutes before gathering and heading north.  As is typical of this course, the birds would have almost no wind the entire way home.  There was a pretty good sized fog bank in their path about 15-30 Miles N/NW of the release point near Porterville.  I would imagine most if not all of the birds flew right over it though or just went it around a little further east.  From then on I don't think the birds would see much fog the rest of the way provided they flew online and hugged the lower mountains.  Driving home I did hit some heavy fog again in Delano on the way back out and up through Tulare.  By the time I got to Fresno the sun was out and from then on the fog was only in small stretches for a couple miles at a time.  Birds would likely be far east of the freeway anyway.
On the way home I only stopped once for gas and figured the birds would be in right around 12:30 and it would be real close whether I could beat them home.  Turns out we nearly tied and I only beat them home by 45 seconds.  I pulled up and took about 5 steps out of the truck when a drop of 6 flew over at 12:27.  These 6 came right down and clocked in for a speed of 1403 YPM.  Congratulations to Banat Loft (Bo Banat) and his 2152 Blue Check Hen.  This hen also won 2nd Place (EQ 1st) on Race 1 and was actual 1st Place on the 105 Mile Activation toss.  She has been on quite the roll trapping 1st or 2nd on almost all of the long tosses and races (except Race 2).  Interesting back story on this bird in that she was gone for over a week from the smash 30 Mile toss.  She came back in pretty rough shape skinny and had definitely been in the wild the whole time.  Her first couple training tosses she was pretty late but from the second 55 Mile toss on, she's been at the top of nearly every toss except Race 2.  Also on this first drop sharing first drop prizes were R & D Racing, Fleet Washington, Christopher Loft, G.S.P Loft, and K Fly Loft.  Congratulations to all of them.
Fleet Washinton's #2149 was on the first drop and is now leading Overall Ace Pigeon (Average Speed) with a 7 minute lead going into the final.  This pigeon also has an interesting backstory in that it was lost for 3 weeks from the small fly-away we had in the heavy smoke back in early August.  It has been doing great ever since.  The current 2nd Overall Ace Pigeon for Denis Eastwood was also lost in the heavy smoke flyaway but returned the next morning.  There seems to be a recurring theme of that when a good pigeon is "lost" and gets into real trouble having to find it's way back days or even weeks later........they're almost never late again.
After the first drop the next few drops were small (2 to 4 birds) with several minute gaps in between.  Most of the birds looked good, especially the early ones but we did notice several skittish birds.  You'd get a drop of a few birds that acted normal and then the very next drop would be skittish and staring out towards the sky.  It's likely several birds or groups saw falcons along the way as that's one of the big drawbacks in them having to fly a sustained path in the mountains in the 2000-3000' elevation range.
We never really did get a big drop (I think 14 was the biggest).  I kept expecting one but it just didn't happen.  The returns were consistent though just a constant flow of small drops and singles from a couple consistent directions.  Most of the birds were arriving from the SE/ESE or the NW.  The SE direction makes sense, the NW doesn't.  It was strange how many arrived from the NW all day long and even the next morning.  My thought was a big group or two travelled way too far east up in the heavy terrain and then just swung around to the north trying to find their way back.  
The other drawback to having to release in these lower mountains is the path home takes them through mountains the entire time and that kind of continued flying in the mountains around the same elevation isn't typical or ideal.  The east course we used to fly had much higher mountains but a clear goal for the birds in that they'd climb up and over them and descend down to lower elevations.  It was a natural progression of up and then down crossing over the peaks and canyons.  This course right now (because of the fog) they have to fly with the mountains and possibly up through the canyons.  Unless they're staying really high, that's a lot of decisions they constantly have to make.    Some birds are obviously handling it really well scoring each race and others are getting it wrong.  With the smaller drops and larger gaps it's obvious the birds are breaking up more than usual and heading different routes.  Whereas in Race 1 and last year we'd get these massive drops. Good and bad to both scenarios.  Obviously as a handler I will always prefer the huge drops but when you get 30-60 on a drop, no way they are all good birds and a lot of followers were just along for the ride 
Early on I thought we were going to be down a lot of birds overnight but returns were steady all the way through late afternoon.  We ended up with 79% home on the day which is pretty respectable and close to what I consider a normal "good race".  Keep in mind this was also a 70 Mile jump from the last race.  Had I been able to release closer to the valley in better terrain I think we likely get close to 90% on the day.  As mentioned on the last Race 2 Recap, this group of pigeons is now very resilient.
Second day returns were also very good with several birds arriving early and often the next morning.  In total 93% (151 of 162 sent) pigeons made it from Race 3.  We started the series with 181 Birds and after 3 Races there are 151 (83%) still here competing for the final race.  This is a great percentage and that has been one of our trends every year for well over a decade.  We don't fly smashes and have a very high percentage of the birds that start Race 1 still there for the final.  That said I'm well aware that we've had a lot of rough training tosses over the years.  The 30 Mile toss this year was the worst toss we've ever had.  However I'd much rather lose my bird in training (only being out the perch fee) then pay the more expensive entry fee only to lose the bird right off the bat in Race 1.  The trend of many other races has been to get decent training results, collect the entry fees, and then have nothing but smashes and garbage races from then on out.  My view has always been the actual races need to be good because that's where the pigeons prove themselves in an athletic contest.  I don't look at smashes with massive losses as "races".  They're essentially survival contests.
Last two mornings we have loft flown the birds and they will loft fly again Thursday with a 30 Mile toss on Friday.  They only flew about an hour this morning but as I start to feed the birds up for the final race that will increase over the next couple days.  There have been a handful of tired birds that were late on the last two races kind of dragging them down.
Final Race (307 to 308 Miles) from Neenach, CA will be flown this Monday 11/29.  Please email or text Matt (530) 919-0097 if you plan on attending as we are trying to get a head count for the caterer.
We originally thought about racing Sunday but logistics and all of the holiday travel along with a couple other reasons pushed it back to Monday.  One of those reasons being the neighbor behind us has been burning a lot on the weekend including wet leaves and we had lots of smoke drifting over onto the property during the race this past Sunday.  It may have actually been part of the reason some birds were so skittish on arrival.  The air quality was bad along the entire valley and in the foothills this past weekend from all the burn piles going on so I'm hoping for better air quality on a Monday.  Also there have been a good 20-30 birds that were really late on Race 2 that struggled again on Race 3.  One extra day of recovery will really help those birds get back on track and I think we'll see a few of them rebound on the final.
As of right now Sunday and Monday (day of race) look nearly identical with temperatures right around 70, mostly sunny skies, and almost zero wind.  I do expect there to be some fog along HWY 99 again but provided it doesn't get too close to the foothills I think it will be even less of an issue this race.
Any last minute changes we'll let you know but as of now the forecast looks really stable for the next several days.  Again if you plan on attending please let us know.   I will update again one more time probably Sunday in advance of the final race on Monday.
- Matt     

Race 2 was a rollercoaster going from a struggle over several days (and morning of) just to get a race off.  Once we did get a race off from the mountains, things looked bleak after the first few drops with poor returns on the day.  However an incredible number of second and even third day returns showed the resilience of this group of pigeons.  In the end returns were good and it ended up being a decent race that prepared the birds well for the next one.
California has had a tremendous amount of fog over the past week.  The entire valley of 250+ Miles from north to south has been socked in every morning and into the early afternoon (sometimes all day) and all the way up to elevations of around 1000'.  Locations that don't usually have much fog (especially in November) like Folsom, El Dorado Hills, and Ione have been socked in most of the day for a week straight now.  It starts as low fog/mist in the morning and then eventually turns to low overcast/stratus.  Neither is conducive for releasing pigeons in.  Fortunately at the loft itself at 1750' we have only had 1 day of fog.  The mountains have all been nice and sunny as well.
Originally I wanted to race last Thursday but the fog situation didn't look good (Friday allegedly looked better), so we delayed a day and I had to make a tough decision Friday at 2:30 AM.  The satellite looked pretty ugly especially in the lower foothills so I decided to postpone again as the forecast models and the weathermen said that Saturday and especially Sunday would be better.  As it turns out Friday was bad but ended up being better than the next two days so in retrospect I wish we had gone Friday.  Saturday ended up being really bad but again allegedly Sunday was forecast to be better.  By Saturday evening's forecast updates they now showed Sunday and Monday deteriorating and the same as Saturday.  After feeding the birds up twice and having to cancel we finally just had to say the hell with it, we're racing from somewhere on Sunday.  Can't keep waiting for better weather when it's just not happening.  The fallback plan was to release from the mountains if necessary.
We got up at 2:15 AM Sunday and the satellite looked ugly again but I decided to go ahead and go as Monday didn't look any better.  Driving down the fog actually wasn't too bad in Sacramento and Stockton but as soon as I started getting towards Fresno and especially Selma it turned into mist.  Finally made my way to Visalia (190 Miles) and it was socked in so bad at 7:30 that I saw no hope of getting a release off there (it never did break up).  Headed over to Woodville (197 Miles) which is much further east and at the lower edge of the foothills and I could finally see the fog starting to lighten up but it was still low mist.  After waiting there 15-20 minutes and seeing the fog actually continue to build well after the sun had been up that was a no go as well.  I then headed back to Seville and Orange Cove (180 Miles) both in the low foothills and both were socked in with no hope of clearing.  At that point it was well past 8:30 and I decided I'm going to have to go to the mountains north of Orange Cove and 25 Miles East of Fresno.  Driving the backway up the mountain into Squaw Valley it was interesting as soon as I got to about 1000' I emerged from the fog deck and it was mostly sunny.  Looking over the valley from the mountains was pretty eery as it was just a massive blanket of fog as far as you could see.  I drove to the east another 5 Miles further going uphill and to get the birds around the side of a large mountain that would have been too steep to climb. Finally I arrived at Bear Mountain (170 Miles) behind Bear Mountain Pizza off HWY 188 in a little valley at 1650' that had enough of a run that the birds could get up and out of there.  Once you go further east from there the terrain starts to climb rapidly and become very rugged.
Conditions at Bear Mountain were beautiful blue skies, calm winds, and warm for before 10 AM in the morning.  My phone said 65 degrees but I think that was an hour behind, it felt more like 70 with the inversion layer.  I let the birds sit 35-40 minutes and watered them (although they didn't drink much).  I released the birds at 9: 50 AM.  At first I thought they were struggling as they were heading south down the mountain towards the fog but it looked like they were mostly just trying to pickup a couple birds that were falling behind.  After a couple minutes they got it together, elevated,  and headed around the east side of the mountain that was in front of me.  Driving back down the mountains heading towards Fresno I hit dense fog again within just a few miles of release and all the way back to Fresno.  Fortunately the path the birds needed to take home would keep them well out of the fog but it would take them through multiple mountain ranges in the 2000-4000' range....often for extended periods of time.  It's likely for many of the birds these mountains were the tallest they've flown through so far.  I'd imagine some birds drifted further east into some even taller ones.  Driving home along HWY 99 I was in fog or low stratus the entire time all the way to Sacramento.  It wasn't until I reached Folsom along HWY 50 on the way home that the fog finally lifted with the sun out.  Again fortunately the birds shouldn't have to take the same path home that I drove (further west in the fog).  Back at the loft itself the weather was mostly sunny with temperatures in the low 70's.
Jon called just after 1:30 (when I was about 10 minutes from the loft) that a group of 9 birds had just come in followed by another drop of 15.  I thought ok this was a pretty good time and this was about when they should arrive if they were doing well.  Early returns didn't go so well after those two drops but more on that later.  The first drop of birds clocked in at 1342 YPM with Genesis Syndicate Loft (Gordon Meng) and his #225 Winning 1st Place.  Congratulations to Gordon who is no stranger to the winner's circle here as he has previously won multiple actual 1sts and Equal 1sts over the years.  This pigeon 225-GENS is also now leading the Overall Average Speed standings.  Gordon had two birds on the first drop.  Also of note was APC Loft with two birds on the first drop in 3rd & 4th.  Congratulations to all 7 breeders who had birds on the first drop.  The second drop of 15 birds arrived just 4 minutes later.    I arrived home just in time to see the next two drops but they were smaller, just 3 and then 4 birds.  I did notice on those two drops and Jon reported that some of the birds on the first two drops were pretty tired with some hanging wings.  I also noticed some really skittish birds on a couple of the drops.  It wasn't hot out by any means but with a bright sun, warm inversion, a late release after driving the birds around all morning in bumpy backcountry roads, and birds that were likely a little heavy from two days of made sense that they would look more tired than just a typical race.  After the first few drops the gap between more birds arriving really started to lengthen and I was seeing birds arrive from all different directions.  Several arrived from the east and even northeast which isn't good.  Falcons are always an issue in the mountains and it's likely the pigeons that drifted too far into the taller mountains would have seen one along the way.
Returns really slowed down throughout the later afternoon and it appeared we were in for a pretty rough race as far as returns go.  Based on the circumstances I don't think we had another choice and I wasn't all that surprised that the birds weren't coming well.  We didn't plan on racing from that deep in the mountains.  However it was still dissapointing that they were not coming better.  Very late into the day we had a nice little 5 bird drop and then we had one bird arrive when it was nearly dark.  Surprisingly yet another one arrived well after dark that must have used the moonlight and loft lights.  We ended the day with just 37% of the birds home.  No other way to put it, poor returns for the day and not a very good race.
At that point with only 37% home on the day we just hoped we'd get up to 50-60% the next day and maybe 65% if we were really fortunate.  The days of getting most of the birds back the next day have long gone by.  Thankfully this group of pigeons is proving to be tough.  They don't quit.  Right away the next morning the birds were coming early and often.  We had multiple birds arriving right as the sun was coming over the hill and before 8 AM we had already clocked in 16 second day birds.  A whole bunch of birds arrived between 8:00 and 10:00 as well often arriving in groups of 3 and once or twice we had 4 or 5 bird drops.  Every time there would be a ten to fifteen minute lull we thought they were winding down .......and then they'd start coming in waves again.  A friend who is one of the breeders in the loft text me and said I think you guys are going to get back to 150.  I told him I didn't think so and I'd be happy with just getting to 140 again.  He was right.  We ended up blowing past 140 by early afternoon and the birds just kept coming all day long.  We've never experienced second day returns quite like this with such a high percentage of the birds still out just coming all day long on the second day.  Most of the birds coming in the morning looked pretty fresh with some of the cocks even cooing when they landed.  As mentioned I do think the birds were a little heavy from being fed high energy mixes twice in days prior and then having to cancel.  The benefit though since it was a difficult race was that the birds had plenty of fuel left in the tank and nothing came in skinny or wiped out.  The birds arriving in the afternoon definitely looked tired but again nothing wiped out.  
We ended the second day with 153 birds home which is more than we could have possibly asked for.  At that point we figured we'd get another 2-4 on Day 3 and again were pleasantly surprised to get 7 More on Day 3.  In total 161 of 181 Birds (89%) were home by end of Day 3.  89% is almost a typical race and outstanding considering the circumstances and how day 1 went.  It wasn't a good race by any means especially with many birds getting knocked out of Average Speed contention but the end results weren't bad at all.  It did get all of the birds more wing time.  Many of them attained additional experience in having to get home on their own.  Obviously the birds were healthy but I attribute so many of them making it back to the fact they already were "lost" once before.  They have already faced adversity on the smash 30 Mile toss.  Once a pigeon is "lost" and has to find it's way home on it's own without the benefit of the flock,  it really toughens them up for the future.
The one drawback to this kind of race is it really exposes the bad side of using average speed to determine ace pigeon.  A lot of good pigeons were knocked out of contention.  It's why I believe a modified points system (like we use for Nominated Point Bird) and like every other professional racing league (in other forms of racing) uses is the way to go.  Once a bird is an hour or two late what difference does it make?  In NASCAR, Indycar, and Formula 1 a driver isn't knocked out of the season standings if they crash or blow an engine in Week 2.  That said a lot of birds still are in contention for Overall Ace Pigeon and I think anything within an hour still has a chance to finish inside the Top-10.  Realistically about 30 birds probably have a shot at 1st Overall still.
Monday and Tuesday morning ended up being just as foggy along the entire course, so the decision to race Sunday ended up being the correct one.  Wednesday morning was really bizarre as dense fog came all the way up the hills into Garden Valley, Placerville and Auburn.  We had dense fog all morning up to the 2000' elevation.  That is really rare for the fog to come this far up in an overall dry weather pattern.  The fog finally burned off at Noon and Jon was able to get the birds out for a 35 minute loft flight.  This morning was much better in that the fog stayed about 25 Miles away so we were able to loft fly early.  The birds loft flew great with many flying over 2 hours.  Another lost bird from Race 2 also came back in pretty good shape.  All of our favorite training spots had fog this morning but it doesn't matter since the birds exercised a long time around the loft.  Tomorrow (Friday) is supposed to be showers but hopefully we can get the birds out to loft fly in the morning if it's not raining much.
There is a good possibility that this could be a record month for fog in the valley.  Sacramento averages 4.5 days of dense fog in November and we're already above that this month with 12 days to go.  Seemingly every day they forecast better fog conditions "in a couple of days" and then it just doesn't happen.  Last night they issued a Dense Fog advisory for the central valley and predicted today (Thursday) was going to be one of the worst days and yet this morning it was broken up in some areas and burned off earlier.  Go figure, it's almost impossible to predict fog.  We are stuck in a bad pattern though and it's going to continue to be an issue every day from here on out.
As of right now Sunday  11/21 looks like the most likely day for Race 3.  It will be somewhere in the 230 to 240 Mile range.  Monday looks ok but not as good as Sunday.  Both days show fog but supposedly not as much.  If fog isn't much of an issue I'd like to go to Wasco (237 Miles) inbetween I-5 and HWY 99.  Most likely I'll end up having to release from Woody (237 to 240 Miles) which is about 15-20 Miles east of HWY 99 in the foothills.  Woody has not had much fog most days and sits in a good spot in that it's still in the lower foothills and gives the bird a good angle to come up through the lower mountains (out of the fog).  They'd be flying more in the 1500-2500' range and not in the 3000'+ like last week.  I think regardless we'll get a much better race this week.  16% of the total prize pool is allocated to Race 3.  Race 3 also pays two positions in one of the optional $50 Categories.
Based on 181 Entries (All the Birds that Flew Race 1)  
Race 2 release video is posted at the bottom of this post.  Sorry it's so long once I got going this turned into a long update.  Will update again shortly in advance of Race 3.  Good luck to everyone in the upcoming last two races.
- Matt

Race 2 will be released this morning from Bear Mountain/Squaw Valley up in the lower mountains east of Fresno.

It has been an incredibly frustrating 4-5 days dealing with the fog.  This morning I've spent 3 hours driving around all over the valley and lower Foothills and just like with the past few days it's all fogged in and not burning off.


It's pretty amazing actually spots in the lower Foothills right on the edge of the fog are continuing to build fog 2 hours after the sun has been out. Places that aren't normally foggy like Folsom and Ione are staying fogged up most of the day.


I can't keep feeding the birds up heavy for a race only for the forecast of "patchy fog" to deteriorate to "dense fog" the day before the race.  


So we're out of options as the fog situation is only going to get worse if it rains again.  I can't imagine it being any worse than it is now.


This location up in the mountains isn't ideal but if the birds get up high and take a straight line home, they'll not only be above the fog but also we east of it.  Only concern is they drift to far left or right (into taller mountains) but that's up to them to decide.  If they do what they're supposed to do it should be a good race.  If not we apologize in advance.  I don't like taking this much risk to get a race off but we really are out of options.  Delaying further only complicates the series even more.


Good luck and let's hope for the best.







As of right now 7 PM Thursday night, things do not look promising for getting a race off tomorrow.  I am going to get up at 2:30 AM and check the satellite imagery.  If I see signifigant improvement from what it looked like at the same time the night before, I will attempt to go and hope for the best (still may have to bring the birds back home).  If it's already all socked in especially east of HWY 99 then there is no point even attempting to go.    


Fortunately we did not attempt to race today Thursday as it was ugly all morning until early afternoon along 90% of the course especially at all possible release points.  It was actually a combination of low overcast clouds and fog that burned off so late in most spots along the low foothills that I never would have been able to get a release off.  Even Ione (30 Miles) and Cameron Park (10 Miles) were socked in with low overcast all morning until about Noon.  Both of those locations were forecast to be mostly sunny in the morning yet they were dark and dreary.


Most of the internet forecasts like and Accuweather are completely worthless when it comes to forecasting fog and low overcast, very rarely do they pick it up in advance until it's actually happening.  A couple of the alternate weather models on are pretty accurate but even they get it wrong a fair amount of the time.


If I am able to get a race off tomorrow expect a later release and from a destination closer to the foothills east of Visalia.  If we can't get a race off tomorrow then we will train short (assuming the training spots are not socked in) and then try to go again Sunday or Monday. 



- Matt  


Race 1 was outstanding with 99% returns.  Ever since the smash 30 Mile toss this group of birds has been in a great rhythm with 99% to 100% returns on every single toss/race since.

I released the birds at 8:00 AM in Biola under scattered clouds, a little bit of haze, and almost no wind.  The birds took off great and were out of sight in less than 3 minutes headed NNE.  I was fortunate to be able to release from Biola as that was my preferred location (west of HWY 99) to give the birds more of a run at the foothills and lower mountains.  Clovis was my alternate release point (if foggy.  Clovis itself is a nice spot to release from but it's so much further east that it puts the birds into the foothills right away and takes them up through the 2000-2500' elevation range pretty early.  Not much room for error if they drift enough 10 miles east they are now 4000' and into some serious mountain terrain.   
Fog wasn't much of an issue driving down as anytime I drove through fog I could still see through/above it.  Driving back there was a decent amount of fog in Chowchilla for 10 Miles that the birds would have definitely encountered.  However it was low and I could see blue above it, obviously the birds went right over it without issue.  The rest of the drive home was technically partly cloudy you could say but thin high clouds that just slightly dimmed the sun.  Very little wind on the drive home, just about every flag I saw was laying down.  The forecast for Friday had deteriorated Thursday and even Friday morning when I checked it before I left.........predicting mostly cloudy skies in the morning and then overcast skies in the afternoon.  I'm pretty good at reading satellite images and storm fronts and didn't think that was going to be true.  The cloud cover that was still heading inbounds off the coast at 4 AM when I left was the front leading edge of Saturday's storm and this front edge was nothing more than thin cirrus clouds.  It didn't actually cloud up with darker skies until very late in the afternoon.  "Mostly cloudy" can mean different things in these online forecasts, in this case it didn't amount to much of anything.  I think it makes for a better race when there are some wispy clouds in the skies and slight dimming of the sun to take some of the sun off the birds.
Back at the loft Jon was waiting for birds and a drop of 15 flew over right on line just past 11:04.  14 of them promptly clocked in for a speed of 1400 YPM.  One stayed up on the roof skittish and didn't go in until the next drop.  Congratulations to Erwin Loft winning 1st Place with his 7027-BON.  Also of note in 2nd Place was 2152-AA of Banat Loft that has been dominating the Top-2 clocking positions on all of the long training tosses and activation.  Time will tell if this bird has endurance too but right now this bird keeps coming at the front every time and runs for the antenna.  14 different breeders had birds on the first drop.  Congratulations to all.  Mark Mourton (PNWC) had the only nominated point bird on the first drop and this pigeon has already given itself a nice lead in the point standings.
A few minutes after the first drop things got pretty chaotic as a massive drop of birds arrived.  Once they landed many of them sat frozen really skittish staring into the sky.  Most of them trapped in although it took Jon 2-3 minutes to get those in.  About 15-20 still hadn't gone in and some even took off (they were nervous) when another very large drop flew over.  So Jon had to go ahead and mark the second drop with the drop marker.  Some of the skittish birds from the second drop ended up trapping in with the 3rd drop.  It took a few minutes to get in all of the birds on the third drop too and I suspect that the skittish slower trapping ones in the 3rd drop were probably the same ones from before.    
About 140 birds (77%) of the 181 Birds shipped were in by the end of the third drop within just 11 minutes.  Really amazing returns, the birds were really bunched up.  Only drawback to getting such massive drops all so quickly is that the nominated point system doesn't really work as well under that scenario.  Hard to design a point system (or average speed) that works for every kind of race.  Several birds that were just 10 to 13 minutes out received very little to no points.  It is what it is though and technically by clocking position they were late.  Some of these birds can still catch up if they finish first/second drop on all of the remaining races and get some help.
The 4th drop was smaller and from then on it was mostly 1's and 2's coming home as there just were not many left to come home.  162 (89%) of 181 shipped were home within the first 31 Minutes and I think realistically anything within 30 Minutes still has a shot at Average Speed (Overall Ace Pigeon). A few more came later in the afternoon and 3 more the next day in heavy overcast and some showers on Saturday.  In total 179 of 181 (98.9%) made it home from Race 1.  We even had one bird from Geronimo Loft come back the day after the activation toss 6 days prior.  This bird had been lost at the smash 30 Mile toss 5+ weeks ago and missed all of training from that point.  It went to the 38 Mile toss two days before the race and did fine, so the owner took a long shot gamble on it by paying the entry (his only bird) and the bird made it just 24 minutes after the first drop.  Pretty amazing.  We also had 6 other birds that had just come home 2-6 days before the activation toss and every single one of them made it from Race 1.  One of them 1002-TOP was even on the first drop.  We've been fortunate that all the birds returning week's later from the 30 Mile toss have been sticking to the loft like glue.  That kind of hard luck experience does tend to pay off later, the birds become much harder to lose.
On the day of the race and the next day we had two more birds return from previous tosses.  Both are currently marked 'Hold' status for this week.  One is yet another 6 week late return from the bad 30 Mile toss.  The other was the only bird to get lost from the two 72 Mile tosses (it had been doing well).  We are going to send these two 'Hold' birds to the next race (assuming they come home from training this week) and the owners have agreed to pay the entry fees if the birds make it.  Those funds would then be added onto additional prizes for the final.  Normally I think most of us would consider it a longshot for a bird that has been missing for weeks to make it from 200 Miles but the way things have been going with every other lost bird that returned, I'd venture at least one of these two makes it.
All 181 birds that competed in Race 1 had their entry fees paid.  I will update this year's prize payout later in the week once I know all checks have cleared.  We did have to sell one bird to a new owner that the breeder could not afford to activate but that was it.  Thank you to all of the breeders for paying your funds on time before the race series began.  A few breeders have already noticed how quickly we had all of the birds paid and that we had 100% paid for the first race (both rarities within the OLR world).  It has been a focus of ours over the years that we have been consistent with.  Making sure 100% of the birds that start the series are paid.  
That has become a big pet peeve of mine (and some other breeders) in that there are too many OLR's that are flying their first (and often even their second or third) races with 10-20 sometimes even 40+ unpaid birds.  It's ridiculous.  Birds have not had their entry fees paid should either be sold to new owners or disqualified.......simple as that.
If the weather cooperates we will go on a 30 Mile toss from Ione on Monday morning.  Sunday morning most of our training spots were socked in with fog (it was nice at the loft and the birds loft flew well).  Monday night a pretty big storm is coming in and we're supposed to get heavy rain overnight and Tuesday A.M.  Likely the birds will be kept in Tuesday and hopefully it clears enough to loft fly Wednesday.  Race 2 from 190-200 Miles will be flown sometime between Thursday and Saturday.  As of now I'm aiming for Friday.  Fog will be a big concern again if this storm drops significant rainfall from Fresno south.  More rain down there equates to foggy mornings later in the week.  We need the rain but this week I'm hoping for less of it.  
The birds have been loft flying great the last several weeks and are in tremendous shape.  I handled a few at random this morning and they were all blown up like balloons with outstanding muscle.  All 3 felt like they were ready for a race already.  
For these Gold Country Challenge races I always prepare the birds as if I was trying to win a club/combine race with them.  That means custom individual feed mixes (mixed by hand) that vary from day to day and multiple feed/water supplements to build them up throughout the week.  Goal is to get the birds to fly hard/fast, tire less easily, and rebound quicker.  Sure most would still come home if I fed them a generic mix straight from a bag and little in the way of supplements..........but they'd be slower, smaller drops, and less accurate results of individual pigeons from race to race.
As mentioned, Race 2 will probably be on Friday.  Possible race stations include Kettleman City, Tulare, Visalia (and points in-between)
Will update again later in the week after the storm in preparation for Race 2. 
- Matt
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