News and Updates

Smoke, fires, and heat have been the story of California over the past month.  As such it delayed the start of our training a little.  Over the last few days another huge surge in large wildfires all over Northern/Central California has delayed training and even loft flying.  We are not sure what the next week will bring as the smoke conditions are very unpredictable from day to day  It's still very early in training, so luckily it's pretty easy to start up from where we left off once the skies get better.

Sacramento actually had a fairly mild summer in June and July but temperatures soared in August.  There was a period in Mid August with a week straight of temperatures well above 100 and a few days of record highs.  Sacramento was routinely hitting 108-111 degrees during this time.  We generally top out around 5-6 degrees cooler here on the SW end of Garden Valley.  However we have much warmer mornings because of the inversion layer.  Several mornings have been 80 degrees here at the loft at sunrise.  Around the time of the extreme heat in Mid August several fires started popping up around Northern California.  We even had a local fire on the next street over down on the SW End of Johntown Creek that got within 0.4 Miles of the house/loft.  That was a little scary for a couple of hours as an evacuation looked like a possibility.  Fortunately that fire was held to about 15 acres.  The local firefighters did a great job keeping it from making a run up the hill or down the canyon.
Some lightning caused huge fires to the W and SW in the mountains of the Bay area.  This pushed in smoke later in August that made the start of training a little intermittent.  It also kept us from being able to advance to the south as on the smoky mornings the canyon to the S and SW of the loft really fills up with smoke that doesn't move out easily.  The first few tosses this year we took the birds north 1.5 Miles which is a straight shot for them with level terrain just to get them used to being trained and not having to climb anything or fly in any canyons.  Going south here in the beginning is pretty tricky for inexperienced birds as there is a canyon they have to cross, fly over water in the south fork of the American River, and then climb over a couple mountains.  All of that in just 3 miles makes for a difficult short toss.  We were finally able to train 3 Miles south on 9/2.  One of the groups took off heading due south (the wrong way) out of sight with no circling and Jon thought we may never see them again.  Fortunately after about an hour most of them came in and joined the rest of the birds that were still flying here at the loft.  4 Birds were out from this toss and 3 have since returned.
On the second toss from 3 Miles a cooper hawk actually went after (and missed) the last 30-40 Birds as they were leaving the trailer and that group of birds tookoff headed due west.  The rest of the birds got home without them and throughout the morning and day, most of those came in.  We ended up being out 9 overnight and amazingly over the second and third day, all 9 of them came back.  Good experience for those birds.  
On 9/4 we advanced to 6.5 Miles in Placerville and the birds did good.  This was the day before the Saturday of Dove season and also the day before 3 more days of record heat.  Sacramento hit 105-110 on 9/5 thru 9/7.  It was an easy decision not to train those days due to the extreme heat, opening dove weekend, and lingering smoke.  Unfortunately over this same weekend, several new wildfires exploded on the west coast and the whole state is an inferno now blanketed with smoke.  Yesterday 9/8 was the worst smoke we have seen in a few years.  
We have a new fire called the Fork Fire burning just west of Loon Lake (our old 30 Mile training spot on the east course) .  The two biggest smoke makers are the Bear Fire (which had massive growth yesterday) about 75 Miles due North and the Creek Fire about 120 Miles due South.  Unfortunately no matter which direction the winds blow we are going to get smoke now.  On the satellite imagery when put in motion you can see large blankets of smoke being bounced around as winds shift. We're used to loft flying the birds in a light smoke but when it's so thick that the sun is red or even blocked out, it's not safe to let the birds out.  
A couple of the Northern California combines and west coast OLR's made the mistake of flying Sunday in the extreme heat and smoke and had terrible races and returns.  High temperatures are bad enough but when you combine them with smoke they really do a number on the birds.  Heavy smoke does long term damage to the birds when they are forced to race in it.  Remember we are asking them to race hundreds of miles later in the fall, they need their lungs and air sacs to be in good shape when that time comes.
Over the next several days loft flights/training will be determined on a morning by morning basis.  We really don't know what to expect until you look at the window.  Weather forecast does show cooling with low 90's and upper 80's in the coming days.  At the very least this should help keep any new fires from exploding at the growth the current ones have.  
Many of the birds are through the body moult now and several are currently in a heavy head/body moult.  This extra time should help those complete the body moult before we even get to the longer tosses.  We are fortunate with these couple weeks of delay that we switched to the south course this year.  Generally Southern California is more conducive to good weather in November than the east course.  As it stands now I think we'll probably end up starting the series in late October and around the 3rd week of November.
Will update again as we get further along in training and/or there are any major changes with the smoke/weather.  Good luck in the other race series that are starting to begin around the country.  
Also a big thank you to all of the firefighters that are working tirelessly being stretched to their limit across all the Western states right now.
- Matt 

July 1st is here and in around 7 weeks or so training will begin for the 2020 Gold Country Challenge series.  Last week was really hot with about 6 days in row near or at 100 degrees.  This week has been the more typical low 90's for this time of year.  Last week was also the cutoff for replacements and we are currently in the mid 400's for birds entered (another inventory will be posted soon).  Jon has been working the last 10 days or so getting the June replacements mixed into the main group.  The birds have been getting open loft during the afternoons and we'll be switching to mornings here soon since all the birds are now together.  We'll also start posting some loft flights on Wincompanion each week since all the replacements are now settled and mixed in.  

Overall health of the birds is currently very good and most of the birds have looked super the entire time.  Only about 3 sick birds in the last two weeks.  Those were too late to replace.  There was a 3-4 week stretch (that started a couple weeks later this year) with some sick birds with the usual Circovirus symptoms, along with a more aggressive Herpesvirus.  In total we lost 27 birds (5%) to sickness.  That is actually still a low percentage for a one loft race.  The last couple years were a little lower than that but we've also had worse up around 8-10% too.  I believe the complications from the Herpesvirus did most of the 27 sick birds in, as almost none of the birds that showed actual pronounced symptoms of Herpesvirus actually recovered.  We do have a few supplements that seem to help keep 90+% of the birds looking good the entire time.
As is always the case the strong (majority of the birds) survive.  It's just a part of one-loft racing once you take in more than a couple hundred birds.  Inevitable that young bird sickness will develop in the main loft.  Despite quarantining the birds for 7-10 days on arrival, sectioning them in groups in the loft, and all of the preventive treatments.......a few asymptomatic carriers always slip through and infect the main loft.  The birds have already had a 8-9 day respiratory treatment in May as a few birds were showing one eyed colds back then and they've also been treated for canker/trichomoniasis for 5 days.  They will receive those treatments again before training begins.
During most years young bird sickness tends to start in late April and fizzle out by early June.  As mentioned this year it started a little later (Early May) and lasted into Mid June.  As a result that meant holding off mixing of all the sections for a couple weeks longer and taking in replacements a couple weeks longer.  So we're probably 2 weeks behind schedule from the last two years, however the last two years we also started training about a week earlier than planned.  Most likely we'll end up starting training the 3rd week of August this year.  In the 2-3 weeks leading up to the beginning of training Jon gets the birds used to being loaded into the hauler.  He also takes them down the street and releases them to get them used to the process.
10th flight has been pulled a few weeks ago on a good portion of the birds and is already growing back in.  The younger birds who had not yet reached their 3rd flight, were marked with snap rings and as they get older over the next few weeks they will have their 10th flight pulled.  Lights were shut off the second week in June.  Body moult is currently all over the place.  It seems to vary not only by age but also by the family of birds.  Some pigeons just moult much faster than others.  Many are already done, some are in a heavy body moult, and some have hardly done anything but will moult heavy in August.  In case anyone is wondering we don't pull the 9th flight.  Two reasons for this, A.) our races don't start until October and the vast majority of the birds finish their 9th flight before the races begin.  B.) I've never found any performance difference whatsoever in 20+ years of racing at a high level. 
Jon built a large 30'+ long temporary outdoor aviary Mid spring this year which really helped with settling.  They were able to fly back and forth from outdoor perches to the landing board which makes it much easier when you let them out as they already know what it looks like to be away and facing the loft.  The birds also love spending the morning  in the cooler sun (or afternoon shade).  This is in addition to the large rear aviary we have and the regular landing board day cages.  Unfortunately as much as the birds love it, we will be taking down the temporary aviary this weekend.  This will give the pigeons full access to both landing board sections during loft flights in advance of training.
I will be updating more frequently as we get closer to training.  As anybody knows that has been in the race before, as we get into the longer training tosses and actual races, I post extensive updates and race recaps.  Admittedly I should have posted an update or two over the past couple months but there is generally just not a whole lot of good and/or informative news to share at this time of year.  Basically it's just receiving birds, settling birds, and dealing with sick birds.  We've always focused more on actions in the fall in producing good racing. For a decade plus we've proven to do that better than most of the races with 12+ years and not a single smash race.  
As most of you know by now we have switched to a south (SSE) course this year that myself and a handful of other local guys have been racing since 2017 and 2018.  The training anytime of year is much better and racing in the spring is much better.  It's basically now a valley to foothill/lower mountain course instead of a high desert to high sierras to foothills course.  The biggest difference should be in the training with much less falcons and/or large canyons for the birds to get in trouble in.  Most of my tosses on this course are in the 1000-2000' elevation range whereas on the east course by the time we're at 10 Miles the birds have already surpassed 4000' and they were at 6500' at just 30 Miles and 8500' at 60 Miles.  It was a brutal course for training as it was but the peregrine falcon population that increased substantially over the last decade, really complicated things and led to an increased number of bad tosses.  On the new course bad tosses are now pretty rare (fingers crossed the same luck for the GCC Birds).  I think the actual races will be about the same and probably even a tougher final as the south course has more headwinds on the longer races.
Will update again most likely later this month as we advance to within a few weeks of the start of training.  - Matt

The 2019 Gold Country Challenge season has come to a close and with it a nice final race that was attended by about 40 people.  We flew the final race a week ago Sunday November 10th from Deeth, NV (334 Miles).

Jon released the birds at 7:12 AM under cold mostly cloudy skies (with some sun) and calm wind.  The sky was about 80% clouds at release but the sun was trying to peak out around 7:00, so he waited another 12 minutes and the sun came out for about 5 minutes and he was able to release the birds with a decent amount of sun on them.  The birds had no problem and left the area pretty quickly heading SSW where the skies were looking better.  The sun went away about 5-10 minutes after release but by that point the birds were already out of sight and had what they needed to get their bearings right.  The birds would have mostly cloudy to partly cloudy conditions for about the first hour and Jon also confirmed this driving home.  After about the first 50-60 Miles the skies cleared out very quickly and the rest of the course was clear/sunny all the way home.
Winds were projected to be calm to very light along the entire course.  The forecast showed a very light headwind for about the first 100 Miles and from then on calm conditions with a light tailwind (5-7 MPH) forecasted around Tahoe/Truckee.  Jon saw mostly calm flags on the way home and I checked some spots throughout the morning with all showing calm wind readings.  Assuming the early cloud cover didn't bother them, I figured we'd be in for a low 1400s type of race.
Back at the loft we had a pretty warm day under very bright sun.  In the shade it was nice but everybody noticed how warm it was under the bright sun.  We had a great turnout for the BBQ with right around 40 people attending the event.  Back Forty BBQ catered lunch that finished up around 1:30.  We didn't have to wait long for birds to arrive.  I started casually looking around 1:35 and was caught a little off guard when someone yelled "birds" at 1:40  This was about 50-100 YPM faster than expected so apparently they found just a little bit of help somewhere along the course.
4 birds flew over at 1:40 but they quickly separated into pairs of two criss-crossing in opposite directions as they were starting to lower.  I threw a dropper and the two that were in the correct flying path followed it right down and trapped in quick.  I had to toss another dropper to get the other two down as they seemed more nervous.  This is understandable considering 100 yards from the loft there are a lot of people and tables/umbrellas they've never seen before.  Upon throwing the second dropper the 3rd bird also went right in.  The 4th bird a BB Pied was skittish and stayed on the roof for 30 seconds.  It then went down to the board but then made no progress towards either antenna.  I tried to walk it in but it got spooked again and flew back up to the roof briefly.  I then had to back off as the bird was clearly nervous and hesitant to do anything.  Finally it dropped back down to the board and starting walking towards the antenna.  Right as that happened someone yelled out that another bird had arrived in the air.
Fortunately the BB Pied walked over the antenna and went in just before the other bird landed.  As soon as the 5th Bird (2nd Drop) landed it trapped very quickly.  Apparently there was some confusion from those not at the race (watching WinCompanion) as to whether there were 4 or 5 birds on the first drop.  All of the breeders that attended the race in person along with myself, agree that there were 4 Pigeons on the First Drop.  The 4th bird was skittish and hesitant to trap but per the Drop Rules (Here) it did what it needed to remain on the first drop.  The 5th place bird was never here with the first drop and only appeared in the air right as the 4th bird was on the landing board and trapping in.  The fact that it trapped just 12.5 seconds later (than the last bird of the first drop) is irrelevant because it didn't arrive with them.
1st Place in the clock at a speed of 1510 YPM went to 777-GENS of Genesis Syndicate Loft (Gordon Meng).  Congratulations to Gordon who has done well here in the past.  "777" proved to be a lucky number.  This pigeon actually did great in Race 1 and Race 3 as well but was out overnight in Race 2 hurting its chances in average speed. 2nd in the Clock went to White Arrow Loft (Robert Cole).  This was Robert's first year in our race and he had two different birds do well at various points of the series and capped it off with Equal 1st on the final race.  3rd in the clock went to Silicon Valley Syndicates who have done extremely well here the last couple of years winning 4th Overall Ace Pigeon 2018, 5th Overall Ace Pigeon 2017, and multiple money winners.  4th in the clock (last bird of first drop) went to John Gutierrez who has also done well here in the past including 5th Overall Ace Pigeon in 2015.
5th Place (2nd Drop) went to Jimmy Peters and this same pigeon also won 11th Overall Ace Pigeon, coming on strong the last two races.  The 3rd drop arrived about 2 1/2 minutes after the first drop and consisted of 3 Birds from Dan & Greg Courry and PNW Challenge.  On this drop, Dan & Greg Coury's 471-AONE flew super the entire series and ended up winning 1st Nominated Point Bird + 6th Overall Ace Pigeon (Average Speed).  Congratulations to Dan & Greg on a super pigeon.  PNW Chellenge (Mark Mourton) 0037-PNWC was also a super pigeon and had two great races to finish out the series to move up the a result winning 4th Overall Nominated Point Bird and 8th Overall Ace Pigeon.
The 4th drop arrived about 30 seconds later with 5 birds from Al Shulman, Bieche-Stevenson, APC Loft, Fleet Washington, and PNW Challenge (again).  All 5 of these breeders have done extremely well here over the years with multiple outright 1st Place Wins between them, (2) x 1st Overall Ace Pigeon, 2nd Overall Ace Pigeon, etc.  
7+ minutes after the first drop, a large drop of 23 pigeons arrived.  Too many names to list them all but 3 different breeders had 2 Birds each in this drop and PNW Challenge clocked his 3rd money winner of the day out of his 4 birds.  Most notable in this 5th drop was 5519-CRAZY from Crazy Al's Loft.  5519 moved from 2nd up to 1st Overall Ace Pigeon (Average Speed).  Congratulations to Crazy Al on breeding 5519 a super pigeon that was up near the top every single race.  Crazy Al was one of the breeders to have two birds on this drop.  Cuevas Classic (Tony Cuevas) also had his 3924-DALL on this 5th drop that ended up winning 5th Overall Ace Pigeon.
In the next 10-15 minutes after the 5th drop more birds arrived consisting of  5 of the very top average speed pigeons going into the final.  They arrived just in the nick of time to maintain high positions.  In 36th Place WYLoft's 13512-AA ended up winning 7th Overall Ace Pigeon and 2nd Nominated Point Bird.  In 39th Place, King Conch Loft's 0139-KCL won 10th Overall Ace Pigeon and 3rd Nominated Point Bird.  In 41st Place, Rodriguez Loft's 19577-WIN won 3rd Overall Ace Pigeon and 5th Nominated Point Bird.  
In 46th Place was 7100-AA for Perfection Loft (John Beeson).  This pigeon was in 1st Average Speed going into the final and didn't have it's absolute best race on the final but still came in good time (just 20 minutes out).  As a result it came in 2nd Overall Ace Pigeon for the series.  Congratulations to John Beeson on a super consistent pigeon for the series.  All too often in our race (and other races) the bird leading average speed going into the final either comes very late or doesn't come home at all.  So this was nice to see, a pigeon use the 8 minute advantage it had built up in the first three races to help maintain its position in the standings.  Most of the Top-10 Ace Pigeons going into the final were home in the first 20 minutes on the final which is a good indicator these truly were the best pigeons of the 4 race series.         
58th Place went to 7067-ERIE for Shie Loft of Pensylvania.  This pigeon ended up winning 4th Overall Ace Pigeon for the series.  There were 67 birds home in the first 38 Minutes which was pretty good considering it was a warm day and 334 Miles.  After the first 67 birds though returns slowed for a while and the birds didn't come as steady for the next hour.  As mentioned earlier it was a warm day under the bright sun and after a while the sun along with extended time on the wing starts to take a toll.  Most of the early birds actually looked really good with only some mild hanging wings.  After the first hour we did start to see some birds arriving with more noticeable hanging wings and a couple with leg cramps.  Overall most of the birds looked good though.  We did notice that many of the birds were arriving from the S, SE, and SW as had been a trend the previous two races.  I also saw some birds including a few small drops arrive from the NE as well.
Late in the day as the temperatures cooled and the sun started to go behind the hill, returns started to pickup again.  Birds continued to arrive steadily all the way up to dark which is usually a sign that many birds are close and second day returns will be good.  When racing in November the days start to get pretty short.  Many birds that got off course and/or stopped to rest, just run out of daylight to arrive home on the day.  We ended up with 124 Birds (54%) home on the day which wasn't bad considering the distance and that it got a little warm.  The next morning birds started arriving right away after the sun came up.  2nd day returns were excellent with 74 pigeons arriving.  We also had 4 more on the 3rd day and another on the fourth day.  In total 204 Birds (89.5%) of 228 Shipped to the final race made it home.  This is an excellent percentage for 300+ miles and this has been a theme all 13 years of the race, we've had great returns every year and have yet to have a smash final or any smash race for that matter.  After 13 years and 50+ races total we've had at least 75% returns in every actual race we've ever flown despite flying a course with massive mountain ranges.  
204 pigeons of the 306 that started the series finished the 4-Race series (exactly 2/3).  I hate "smash" type survival races/series.  I don't think they prove anything when the vast majority of the pigeons get lost.  The birds aren't even able to race each other competitively and show what they can actually do on a regular race.  We pride ourselves on having good competitive "normal" pigeon races, the kind you'd like to fly in a regular club/combine.  While not all the pigeons here can be money winners, 200+ were at least given the chance to show what they could do (good or bad) for 4 consecutive weeks/races and that's all you can really ask.  There are certainly a lot of great pigeons still here and even among the non-money winners there are several birds that were still very competitive in one or more races and just out of the money.
You can view the entire 2019 Prize Payout Table (Click Here) for Races 2/3/4 + Ace Pigeon + Nominated Point Bird at the link to the left.  If you won over $600 after shipping you will need to email or mail us a completed W-9 Form.  There are still several breeders that need to send us their W-9.  If you have not sent it please send it soon so we can send your check.  We will start mailing checks the middle of this week after we get many of the birds shipped out.  Monday 11/18 we will mail out about 15 boxes of Out of State Birds and then we will mail some more out of state birds on Tuesday.  Wednesday 11/19 we will ship west coast birds and some more California birds on Thursday 11/20.
Please let us know one way or the other in the next week or so if you want your birds back or not (or even specific birds).  Because of the new USPS regulations I had to buy all new boxes for those receiving 1 or 2 birds.  For most out of state areas (such as Texas) the cost for shipping 1-2 birds including a brand new box ($12) is about $65 to $70 and again that includes the box.  For those receiving 4 birds it's probably going to be around $160 if you live in the midwest to east coast, we are still having to use the older style 4-bird boxes for those....just no way around it.  For the birds that are left here we will give them to new flyers early next month.  If you didn't win money and want your birds shipped back, contact me via email and I can get you a shipping amount to your specific area.
Full details for the 2020 series will come out soon.  Perch Fees will be $110 Each or 6 Birds for $550 (additional birds are then $95 each).  Entry Fees will remain the same at $250 and we may add an optional colored bird category or something along those lines.  Biggest change is that we will be flying the south course (SSE off Highway 99) next year.  It will be 4 or maybe 5 Races and similar distances to what we've had.  Races will be from October into November.  
For training and the first three races, the south course is essentially a foothill course where the birds travel in the 1000-2500' elevation range along their route home.  The final race will be flown from Lancaster or somewhere in that area beyond the other side of the Tehachapi mountains.  The birds will have to fly some additional mountains for the final.  I've flown the south course with my own birds for 3 seasons total now and the vast majority of the races are in the 1300-1490 YPM range with a couple slower ones in the 1000's and 1100's.  The absolute fastest race I've flown so far on the south course was 1499 YPM.  Biggest reason for changing to the south course is to avoid the pitfalls in training on the east course (which I think are mostly caused by falcons) when we start getting up into the mountains.  We're just tired of going to Mount Rose every year with the GCC birds (and my own birds) and it being a 50/50 coin flip on whether or not you are going to have a good toss or awful toss.  The peregrine falcon population has just exploded in the sierra mountains over the past decade and it's really having a detrimental effect on training and the races.  We've been pretty fortunate by racing east in October/November to avoid a lot of the problems the combines are having but at the same time we're also pushing our luck.  I don't think the actual races from the south will go that much better than what we've been flying but as mentioned training will be easier as so far I've lost very few birds training south.  It has actually been enjoyable the last two years I can take my YB's just about anywhere to the south and not even have to think about it.  I release them and no worries they all come home (a bad toss is I lose 1 or 2.)  
I believe we will also see more consistency from the top birds on the south course.  Racing from the south I clock the same birds at the top each and every week and my "2nd tier" is usually the same each week and so on.  The groups are not getting busted up by falcons on the way home or having to maneuver any huge mountains, so it allows the top birds to really be consistent.  It used to be the same flying east but not anymore (last 3-4 years) and I've also started to see less consistency in the top GCC birds than what we used to have.  Essentially the goal of switching to the south course is to get a higher percentage of birds through training and to the actual races.  Once in the actual races the goal will be to keep flying races like we've been flying all these years with good returns but maybe just a little more consistency in the top birds.  I can tell you that at least for me the same type and family of birds are still scoring on the south course.  I don't think it take a different type of birds since they are still flying through some elevated terrain.  Medium to medium-small pigeons are still ideal.  Winds are generally very light in the morning on the south course so the birds have to make their own speed.  More details will follow in next couple weeks after we finish up with this year.
Congratulations to all of the winners in the 2019 Gold Country Challenge.  There are many super nice pigeons coming back to the breeders this week.  
Thank you to all of those that sent birds and supported the race this year.  We hope to see you back in 2020.
- Matt Hans

Race 4 from Deeth, NV (334 Miles) was released this morning at 7:12 AM


It was mostly cloudy at release with a little bit of sun (there was a period of brighter sun for a couple minutes right when the birds went out).  Conditions to the west and northwest were very cloudy but skies looked a little better to the SW and especially due south.  We waited till 7:12 for a little more sun but overall the clouds were getting thicker over the last hour at the actual release point.


It was 25 degrees out at release with calm winds.  The birds circled for a minute or so and then headed out very high to the SSW which is somewhat online where the skies are better.


Jon just called and reported at 7:30 on the way home that the skies were a lot better and about 15 Minutes down the road from the release point the sun was completely out and less clouds.  Skies are forecasted to be mostlt cloudy to partly cloudy for the first 150 miles or so and then becoming mostly sunny as the day goes on.


It is supposed to be warm today with a bright sun at the loft.  I think we will see some tired birds and hanging wings again like last week, but it will also make for a good challenge as to which birds can handle some warmth and 334 Miles.


Lunch will be served starting around 12:45 to 1:00 PM today for those attending the race.  We'll start looking for birds around 1:45 and I think most likely time for them to arrive is from about 1:55 to 2:30


Good luck to everyone today and thank you for participating in the 2019 Gold Country Challenge


- Matt



Bright sun was the theme of Race #3.  Jon released the birds from Crescent, NV under clear/cold/calm skies.  They left quickly headed in the correct direction (southwest).  It was a beautiful day along the entire course with bright sunny skies and almost zero wind.  I could not find any wind forecasts or actual readings above 3-4 MPH on the entire course.  I expected a race in the low 1400's and that was almost what we got.

A couple of local breeders did come over to watch the race.  At the loft, temperatures were in the mid 70's upon the arrival of the birds but it felt warmer as there was no wind and the sun was so bright.  Even in the 60's and 70's when you have no wind and a cloudless sky, the UV Rays do tend to take a toll on the birds especially when they have to climb the Sierras in the 8000-10000' elevation where the air is thin (less oxygen).
At 12:11 a group of 14 pigeons arrived from the ESE direction.  Some of the birds looked good when they landed but a few also had hanging wings.  First in the clock at a speed of 1463 YPM was 1943-FLET for Fleet Washington.  Congratulations to Fleet Washington who is no stranger to winning here at the Gold Country Challenge.  Fleet Washington was 1st Overall Ace Pigeon last year and was on the 1st/2nd/3rd drop on last year's final.  There was a nice 50/50 mix of out of state birds and California birds on this first drop.  3 different past champions had birds on the first drop.
Among this first drop was 7100-AA for John Beeson of Perfection Lofts.  This pigeon is now leading Overall Average Speed with an 8 minute lead and has been right near the top in all 3 races.  For the most part the first drop consisted of birds that had previously had one good race and one bad race and also a few birds that have been moving up the results each race.  As the mileage increases, some birds start to make their move up while others begin to fade.  There were pigeons that also apparently made their first mistake and just got off course (too far to the south). 
3 Minutes after the first drop a single bird arrived followed by another 3 bird and 2 bird drop.  The 5th drop consisted of 10 birds and there were a total of 30 birds home in about 8 minutes.  After that 5th drop, the returns started to slow down for a while.  I was concerned as they were really not coming in very well for the first 30 minutes.  It appears a bunch of them got off course a little and were having to work their way back up from the south.  After the first drop just about all of the birds coming home were from the SSE, S, or SW.  I suspect for this race that most of the birds (except the first few drops) broke too far south early and then ended up going around the south end of Lake Tahoe where the terrain is really nasty.  They then have to hook around and come up from the SE.  The first drop made such good time on a calm day that they had to have taken the correct straighter path over Lake Tahoe.
In the first 50 birds or so, only a couple of the birds that had previously been doing well in Average Speed were home and as such they are at the top of the standings now with good leads.  At around the 40 minute to 1 Hour and 15 Minute mark the birds really started to pour in good again and most of the Ace Pigeon leaders going into the race were coming home in this time frame.  They came in right in the nick of time and many of them are still on the outside edge of contention around 35-45 minutes out of first.  
The birds are pretty bunched up Average Speed with 6th to 27th being separated by only 20 Minutes.  The Nominated Point Bird Standings didn't see much change except for that it is now much closer at the top and 278-ML for H & H Flying Circus jumped all the way up to 4th after being the only bird to finish on the first drop in Race 2 and Race 3 (after scoring zero points in Race 1).
As mentioned it was pretty warm under the bright sun upon arrival of the birds.  Among the birds arriving in the first couple hours, many looked great, some looked a little tired with wings hanging, and there were a few that were cramped up and having a hard time walking.  Some deal with the warmth better than others.  We water the birds before release and quite a few drink but when the temperatures are cold only in the 20's before release it's just difficult to get most let alone all of them to drink.  
Pigeons arrived steadily throughout the rest of the day and right up until sunset.  We ended up with 191 Birds (77%) of the birds home on the day which was a solid percentage considering it was 267 Miles and they had to work in the warm temperatures and no wind.  Second day returns were good with about half the birds out overnight coming back the next day.  In total 226 Birds (91%) made it home in race time from Race 3.  Over the last few years we've been in the mid to upper 80s for percentage of returns for Race 3, so we were happy with the returns from this race. They didn't exactly pour in for the first 30 Minutes, so it was nice to get good returns with a lot of the birds having to put in extended wing time likely flying closer to 300+ actual miles.
We took the birds to Loon Lake helipad this Thursday morning and fortunately 100% of them made it home.  They did their usual pattern this morning with most of them continuing to fly for another 30 minutes after they arrived home and the usual screw-off birds staying out much longer.  Only one bird was actually late.  Apparently there are still some that think we should be training more or even further between races. I'm not sure why some can't just see the obvious and the statistics that are right in front of them.  Every year for (12+ years) we have among the best returns in the actual races and have never had a smash race or returns below 76% in any single race  This despite not training between races for several years and the last few years having a single training toss between races. 
The race in North Carolina that doesn't train at all between races actually has even better returns than we do and led the OLR stats in highest percentage of returns the past two years.  Perhaps there is a correlation to keeping the birds fresh between the races, allowing them to exercise freely under less stressful conditions (loft flying).  I believe this is more conducive to setting them up for the next race than beating the hell out of them continuing to pound them down the road.  The proof is in the returns.  Besides when your 30 Mile toss is at 6500' Elevation and your 60 Mile toss is at 8500' way up in the sierras, going on a 60 Mile toss isn't so simple and easy.  On a typical flat course you drive 60 minutes down a straight freeway and the birds have a simple flight home.  Here you drive two hours up windy mountain roads just to go 60 Air Miles only for the birds to be released in the middle of the sierras and have to climb multiple mountain ranges to get home (hoping they don't see any peregrine falcons).  The key to getting the birds ready to race week after week (and get good returns) is what you do in/around the loft and it's mostly in what you are feeding and how healthy are the birds.  
The final race of 2019 from Deeth, NV (334 Miles) will be held this Sunday November 10th.  If you plan on attending the race please let us know in the next day or so just so we have an approximate head count.  Lunch will be served around 1:00 PM and I'd expect birds sometime after 1:30 PM.  Remember with Daylight Savings time now ended, we can release the birds around 7:00 AM so that puts them here earlier.
Weather for Sunday is expected to be unseasonably warm with high temperatures around 10-12 degrees above average for the entire course.  Even a little warmer than what we just flew on Race 3.  As of now the forecast shows Partly Cloudy to Mostly Sunny for the first 250+ Miles of the course and then mostly sunny and pretty warm for the last 40-50 Miles.  Winds are expected to be very light like last week.  It is supposed to be in the mid to upper 70's (maybe even 80 degrees) at the loft, pretty warm for November.  I think this will effect the birds somewhat and we will see some hanging wings from the early birds that really push themselves hard.  This will also make for a good challenge though.  I'm hoping the birds do get some partly cloudy conditions to fly under just to dim out the sun at times.  As of right now I'd expect a race around 1375 to 1450 YPM.
The final race itself pays 23 Positions (See Prize Chart) and all drops are paid equally by drop.  Average Speed pays 14 positions so there will be a lot of scenarios that can play out well after the first 20+ birds have arrived with birds moving up and down the standings.  Same for the Nominated Point Bird standings.  It's always interesting to see which birds come through in the clutch to maintain their high standings and also which birds save their best performance for the last race.
Good luck to everyone in the final race this Sunday and thank you for participating in the 2019 Gold Country Challenge.  -

Race #3 (267 Miles) from Crescent, NV was released this morning at 6:50.


Weather at release was clear, zero wind, and cold with temperature of 24 degrees.  Jon reported that the birds left the area quickly in one group headed southwest (which is the correct direction).


Weather is forecast to be beautiful with sunny skies the entire course and very light winds (under 5 MPH) for the entire course.   Temperatures should be mild reaching the low to mid 70's at the loft.  Just a tad warm at the loft.


I expect birds to arrive sometime around 12:20 to 12:30 or shortly thereafter.


There are over 14,600 in prizes today and the race pays 20 spots.  All drops are divided and paid equally.    See Prize Payout.  Good luck  - Matt



Earlier this week on Monday 10/28 we flew Race 2 (212 Miles) from south of Winnemucca, NV.  It ended up being a tougher race than anticipated but in the end still a pretty good race with decent returns and good performances from the first hundred birds or so.  Jon released 289 birds at 7:55 AM under clear, calm, and very cold skies.  The birds circled a couple times and headed almost due south.  Last he saw the birds they were heading south and actually slight east towards the sun before he lost sight of them.  This turned out to not be a good sign and I suspect it took them a while to correct and as such slowed the race down some.  Normally when we release from this location the birds head out SW or WSW directly towards and over some smaller mountains that run north to south.  For whatever reason this time they decided to more south and not make any immediate progress west as they should.  Most likely this is what slowed the birds down about 50-100 yards.

The entire course was bright mostly sunny skies and cold in Nevada/Tahoe.  The first 150+ Miles was essentially calm with only a few spots showing winds around 3-5 MPH.  About an hour or so before the birds arrived the south winds did start to kick up around the loft moreso than anticipated and it looks like the birds had 8-15 MPH S/SW/SSE for about the last 30 Miles or so.  Not enough to effect the race much but maybe enough to shave 30-40 YPM off their speed. I figured in the morning we'd be in for an upper 1300's to low 1400's type of race with most of the course being so nice.  Once the south winds kicked up around the loft I figured we probably wouldn't hit 1400 YPM but still figured we'd easily be into the 1300's.  When 12:40 went by and still no birds with speeds falling below 1300 YPM, we started to get concerned as the birds should have been there by then.
Fortunately I didn't have to wait to long as at 12:47 a nice drop of 22 birds arrived from the SE for the winning speed of 1279 YPM.  They looked good on arrival and except for 2 birds that were hesitant most of them dropped right down and went in.  First place in the clock went to Watson & Williams with their 776-AUB.  Congratulations to Paul Watson and Rusty Williams.  This pigeon also did well last week and is currently sitting in 2nd Overall Average Speed.  9th in the clock went to Dan & Greg Coury and this pigeon is now sitting in 1st in both Average Speed and the Nominated Point Bird standings.  Also of note, Sandstrom Brothers had 3 of their 4 birds on this first drop.  King Conch Loft had 2 of his 4 birds on this drop as well.  Congratulations to all the breeders with Equal 1st pigeons on this first drop.  Several birds on this drop did well in Race 1 and as such currently fill all the Top-10 Overall Ace Pigeon standings.  There were also a few birds that were very late from Race 1 that rebounded nicely in Race 2 arriving on the first drop.
5 Minutes after the first drop another drop of 15 birds arrived from due east.  They looked good as well, no tired or skittish birds.  Several more birds on this drop also did well Race 1.  A couple minutes after the 3rd drop another 10 bird drop arrived directly online from the NE.  A two bird drop then came and then another smaller drop before some 10-20 bird drops started to arrive again.  98 birds arrived in the first 30 Minutes which was a nice steady pace.  In the first 2 hours 164 (57%) of the birds arrived which isn't bad for a 1279 YPM race where the birds had to spend a lot of time on the wing.  I did notice a few tired birds here and there on the drops that were arriving over an hour after the first drop but for the most part 90+% of the birds looked good on arrival which was a good sign that we'd end up with good returns and that the birds are in good shape.  Cool temperatures also helped as it may not even have reached 70 degrees at the loft.
The first drop and a couple of other drops in the first hour arrived from the SE which kind of made sense if the birds truly did venture too far south at the start.  However after the first drop and especially as the day went on, most of the birds were then arriving from the NE or the N.  I saw quite a few single and small drops arrive directly from the north.  We also did get a call that one of the birds strayed into a race loft that is exactly 30 Miles due north of our loft.  We ended up with 205 (71%) of the birds home on the day which wasn't bad for a 1279 YPM Race.  Second day returns were good with exactly half of the birds out overnight arriving on Day 2, a couple more Day 3, and one more today.  In total 250 of 289 birds (86.5%) clocked in from Race 2.  Normally we like to be above 90% and it would have been nice to get another 10 birds or so but overall returns were still pretty solid considering the speeds and that the birds clearly had a difficult time at the start.
Race 3 (267 Miles) is scheduled for this Sunday 11/3.  Daylight savings time ends overnight Saturday into Sunday so we will plan on an early release before 7:00 AM on Sunday with the now earlier Sunrise.  Conditions for Sunday look to be sunny skies with mild temperatures (reaching low to mid 70's at the loft) and very light winds on the entire course.  Looks like slight headwinds but nothing over 8 MPH at most and generally calm.  There will be 14,670 in prizes for Race 3 and it pays 20 Spots (See Prize Payout).  All birds on the drop split equal prizes (for all drops) on this race and the final race.  We don't believe in paying by clocking order as it's just not a fair system and more like the lottery.  I don't believe a bird deserves thousands of dollars more in winnings over another bird it came with just because it landed closer to the antenna or walked over the antenna seconds earlier.  If your pigeon is truly superior to another bird it should arrive by itself in advance or prove it with consistency in the other races.  I've had enough large drops over the years with my own birds and the GCC birds to know that when you get 10-20 birds on a drop they usually don't trap in the exact order of how good they are.  That's also why we fly multiple races to find out who the repeat performers are.
The Official 2019 Payout is now posted to the Dates & Prizes Link.  Click Here to view the 2019 Prize Payout
The largest prize is for 1st Overall Ace Pigeon but we also have some pretty good payouts in Race 3 and Race 4.  Overall Ace Pigeon (Average Speed) pays 14 positions and has 7 of those positions pay over $1000 to much more as we feel the most consistent pigeons and pigeons that score in multiple races should be the most rewarded. Generally they have to have a good to great showing in the final race anyways to accomplish this anyways and I feel better knowing the largest prize winner (1st Ace Pigeon) will be a bird that flew very well in multiple races if not all of them.  Of course some birds too save their best for last at 300+ Miles and as such those birds should be rewarded too.  We don't have any massive "guaranteed" number for first place in the final race at the expense of all the other prizes and ace pigeon.  I know some are looking for this but I believe there are more than just a couple good pigeons in these races.  I don't believe into just dumping almost all of the prize money into 1st Place on the final just for the sake of creating a big number.
If the weather holds we would like to have the final on Sunday November 10th but so far it's just too early to tell.  We've been in such a dry sunny pattern over the past week and for the next 6 or 7 days that it just seems unlikely that it holds but we'll see. If the weather doesn't cooperate for Sunday 11/10 then I'd expect a mid week race on the first good day after that.
Will update again on morning of Race 3 with weather conditions.  - Matt

Below is the official 2019 Series Prize Payout (Will Be Posted to Main Website in the next day)


306 Entries x $250 Each = 76,500


76,500 - 10% = 68,850


$68,850 in Total Prizes


Race 2 - $1200 (1.7%)


Race 3 - $14,670 (21.3%)


Race 4 - $26,405 (38.3%)


Ace Pigeon (AVG Speed) - $26,575 (38.7%)


Overall Ace Pigeon    

(Average Speed)

1st = $8675

2nd = 4550  

3rd = 2925  

4th =  2065   

5th = 1520   

6th = 1290   

7th = 1085   

8th = 975   

9th = 865   

10th = 760   

11th = 650   

12th = 545   

13th = 400   

14th = 270



Race 2 (212 Miles)

1st Drop = $1200 


Race 3 (267 Miles)

1st = $4300 

2nd = 2150 
3rd = 1400
4th = 1080 
5th = 860
6th = 640  
7th = 540   
8th = 485   
9th = 430   
10th = 380

11th = 330
12th = 290
13th = 275
14th = 260
15th = 245
16th = 230

17th = 215
18th = 200
19th = 185

20th = 175


All Birds on the drop share
equal prizes (All Drops) 

Race 4 (334 Miles)


1st = $7875 

2nd = 4020  
3rd = 2500 
4th = 1615 
5th = 1300  
6th = 1080 
7th = 965 
8th = 865   
9th = 765   
10th = 665

11th = 585

12th = 510

13th = 470

14th = 440

15th = 410

16th = 380

17th = 350

18th = 320

19th = 300

20th = 280

21st = 260

22nd = 240

23rd = 210


All Birds on the drop share
equal prizes (All Drops)



* Optional $50

Nominated Point Bird 


103 Entered @ $50 Each


= 5150 - 5% = $4892


$4892 Prizes This Category



Pays 5 Positions


1st = $2055 (42%) 
2nd = 1175 (24%)  
3rd = 733 (15%)   
4th =  538 (11%) 
5th =  391 (8%)








RACE 2 (212 MILES) RELEASED 7:55 - UPDATE 12:00 PM

At 7:55 AM, Race 2 was released this morning from South of Winnemucca.  Distance is 212.6 Miles.  Conditions at release were very cold (13 degrees) and mostly clear with a very thin wispy clouds.  Winds were calm at release.  Jon reported the birds left quick in one group with no stragglers.  Last he saw them they were headed due south, so hopefuly they corrected shortly thereafter as they should eventually head SW.


Conditions on course are mostly clear sunny skies and very cold in Nevada/Tahoe.  Winds are projected to be light headwinds most of the course especially early and towards the loft  Based on the conditions I'm thinking a race in the 1350-1430YPM range.  That would be ideal and it's a beautiful day here at the loft.


First drop today splits $1200 but if there are more than 12 birds on the first drop then the first 12 birds in the clock win $100 Each.  Race 3 and Race 4 will have much more prizes and of course Average Speed (Overall Ace Pigeons).  Points for Champion Nominated Point Bird will be updated this afternoon.


Good luck to all the entrants today.  - Matt



Race 1 (165 Miles) was flown this past Sunday 10/20 and it turned out to be a good race along with good returns.  Jon released the birds from Coal Canyon, NV under clear/cold/calm skies.  The birds left the area quickly as one big group heading west.  The entire course was mostly clear with mild temperatures and almost zero wind.  I figured we'd get an upper 1400's type of race and it ended up being just slightly faster than that.

3 bids arrived at 10:54 from the north and I was surprised at such a small drop.  They may have been surprised too as they were somewhat skittish and flew around over a minute like they were waiting for more birds.  I threw a dropper and they then came right down and went in.  Congratulations to Jimmy Zheng who won 1st Place at 1526 YPM.  Also congratulations to APC Loft and Watson & Williams who also had birds on the first drop.
About a minute after the first drop landed and went in, a large drop of 50+ birds arrived from the north and then about 15 seconds later right as the first group was starting to land another large group of about 50 arrived from the NW and joined them.  The two groups merged and with just the sheer volume of birds it took 2-3 minutes to get them all in.  They were full of energy and not skittish at all with cocks chasing hens around.  This 2nd drop ended up being over 100 pigeons which is about the biggest drop we've ever had.
Another drop of about 14 arrived a minute after the second drop went in and for the next 15 minutes or some more smaller drops continued to arrive steady.  This is where I started to notice a lot of really skittish birds though from about the 4th drop on.  Also a lot of them coming from the NW or W.  Some birds would come home and not want to land and were real jittery once they did.  I even had one group of about 12-15 land and then immediate explode again off the loft.  I suspect one or two groups of the birds probably saw a falcon or had one dive on them on the way home.  The big second drop clearly didn't because they were cooing and perfectly content when they landed.
Returns were very good early with 185 Birds (60%) home within the first 25 minutes.  After just over an hour we had 245 in.  Birds continued to arrive steadily throughout the day and into the evening with a handful the next day.  94% of the birds made it home in race time from Race 1 and a couple more have came in since then during the week.
We did apparently lose a bird (495-IRIS) from loft flying Monday or Tuesday.  I suspect a Cooper probably got it as we have yet another large female Cooper hanging around that even went after a small drop of some afternoon returns during the race.  
We took the birds on a 60 Mile training toss Wednesday from Mount Rose.  There were pretty strong tailwinds Wednesday at release at the top of Mount Rose that blew them out of there so quick they didn't even have time to circle.  The birds were home early in about an hour and continued to fly around for a while after they got home and then played around a while as they just were not tired.  With the weather being nice and the birds all being sexually mature now and the sexes mixed loft flying and easy training tosses can turn into an all morning thing as they are constantly up and down not interested in trapping.  We don't starve them just to get them to trap good.  Starving them to get them to trap good usually back fires during the races.  Our focus is getting good competitive races with good returns.
PG&E shutoff power (again) at 4 PM Wednesday for most of the county and several other counties as well because of high winds and fire danger.  This time it actually did get pretty windy Wednesday evening and overnight.  Power came back on at 5 PM today.  Fortunately we have a generator and if needed I can run races/tosses with power from the generator and cell phone WiFi Hotspot.
Race 2 (212 or 215 Miles) from south of Winnemucca will be held this coming Monday 10/28.  We were hoping to have the race Saturday or Sunday but the weather just isn't going to cooperate.  Saturday looks to be unseasonably warm and gusty north winds are supposed to start developing around 11 AM.  Between the the high winds starting to develop and the warm temperatures, just too risky to race Saturday in case they get off course.  Sunday is supposed to be extreme tailwinds (NE) 15-30 MPH along the entire course.  It would be a 2000 YPM type of race and I just don't like flying in that kind of wind regardless of what direction it's blowing from.  Sunday will be a legitimate high fire danger day for Northern California.
Monday looks really nice with very cold temperatures at release, mild at the loft, and light winds along the entire course.
Refunds were mailed to a few breeders a couple days ago whose birds were paid but did not make it back from the activation toss.  Actual Prize Payout for the 2019 series will be posted early next week.
Will update again before Race 2.  - Matt
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