News and Updates

Race 4 (334 Miles) from Deeth, NV will be flown tomorrow Tuesday November 7th.  Expected release time is 6:55 AM and it will be very cold at release about 17 degrees.  Forecasted conditions are mostly sunny skies, light east winds, and temperatures reaching upper 50's to about 60 degrees at the loft.  Based on the conditions I expect a race in the mid to upper 1400 YPM range so the window for bird arrival is probably around 1:45 to 2:30 for the first birds.


Lunch will be served around 12:45 and there will also be plenty of desserts, beer, water, coffee, etc.  If you are attending the race/lunch I would suggest you bring a jacket as it will be cool in the shaded areas.


Loft Address is:

6120 Chrysler Circle

Garden Valley, CA 95633


Thank You to everybody for supporting the race again in 2017 and good luck to all those with birds going into the final race of the 2017 season tomorrow.  




Warm Sun was the story of Race 3.  It turned out to be a good race, the bright sun and warm day adding a different element to this race.  Jon released the birds from Crescent, NV (267.657 Miles) at 7:40 AM.  The birds were released in clear skies, calm winds, 34 degrees.  The course would remain mostly mild with clear sunny skies and calm to very light 3-5 MPH east winds.  In Nevada temperatures were only to reach the low to mid 70's but the last 30 Miles was forecast to be a little warm with temperatures around 80-82 degrees when birds arrived.  The birds really have not been flying significant miles in anything above 80 degrees so the warmth of this day combined with the 267 Mile distance was going to be somewhat of a challenge.  


It ended up being 81 degrees at the loft when the first birds were arriving.  Not a truly hot day by any means but the bright sun really gets to you when you stand in it too long. I think the same is true for the birds when the temperatures start climbing into the upper 70's or low 80s.  With no cloud cover the bright sun and UV rays start to take their toll after a while.
Based on the forecast and the fact most of the course was beautiful I figured birds would arrive around 1:00 give or take 10 minutes.  They did not disappoint and I heard the birds before I saw them as a drop of 13 birds flying very fast arrived at 12:56.  They made a couple loops landed and trapped very well.  Unlike Race 2, the birds were not skittish at all and looked and acted normal on arrival.  Most of the birds looked good on this drop with only a couple of wings hanging a little but you could still tell they flew hard and fast to pull away from the other birds.  
1st Place in the Clock @ 1487 YPM once again went to Alex Bieche and Mick Stevenson with their #7153 Red Check.  This is the same pigeon that won 1st Place in the Clock on Race 2.  Congratulations to Alex and Mick on what is not only turning out to be a super pigeon but a great trapper as well.  This time though it was super close as 7153 out trapped the 2nd bird (Ceyx Loft) in the clock by just 0.5 Seconds.  This pigeon currently sits in 8th Overall Average Speed and Alex & Mick also have another pigeon in 4th.....both within striking distance of 1st Overall Average Speed.
13 Different Breeders had birds on this first drop and they split equally 1st thru 13th Prize money with each bird winning 926.53 Each.  A few of the birds were repeats who were also on the first drop in Race 2.  Of most significance was Flying W's (Paul Watson) #557 who for the 3rd race in a row was on the first drop.  This is the only pigeon to be on the first drop in all 3 races this year and this pigeon furthered it's lead to 10 Minutes in Average Speed and nearly 100 Points in the Nominated Point Bird Category.  This is an extremely impressive pigeon that has won first in 3 different types of races.  Most of the other birds on the first drop have changed in each race but this is the one constant.
This pigeon will be trying to make history as in the 10 years of the Gold Country Challenge no pigeon has ever finished 1st Drop in all 4 Races.  One pigeon had 3 first drops and one second drop, a handful including 4 birds last year had 3 first drops and either a 3rd or 4th drop.  A couple birds were first drop 3 times in a row only to perform poorly or get lost on the final race.  This pigeon #557 has quite the challenge and past history to overcome but as we've seen with the Cubs and Astros winning the world series the last two years, anything is possible with great talent.
A minute and a half after the first drop a single bird arrived dove down and trapped quickly.  That left one prize spot left to be divided equally and sure enough 12 birds arrived together (4+ minutes after first drop) to split that last prize spot.  We pay all prizes by the drop and this year it just worked out that 12 pigeons had to split that one remaining prize.  A minute after the 3rd drop another 10 bird drop arrived and then about 40 seconds after that the 5th drop arrived of 20 pigeons.  Early on the birds were arriving good and 59 birds were home in the first 7 Minutes.  The 6th drop was a single bird and from then on for a while some smaller 5 to 15 birds would continue to arrive steadily after small windows of nothing.
On the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. drops we were starting to notice some birds arriving with hanging wings and whose legs were cramping up.  On these same drops some birds looked fined but you could tell the warm temperatures and bright sun was taking it's toll on some of the birds.  Most of the birds were arriving from the NE or the N.  There were 129 birds home within the first hour which was a pretty good percentage.  After the first hour the returns became more erratic as the warmth had really set in and anything that had flown non-stop had been now flying for nearly 7 hours.  After 3:30 PM and for the next 2.5 hours there was a pretty good surge of birds to close out the day and most of these looked good as they had obviously stopped and went down to rest and/or for water at that point.  180 Pigeons of 235 Shipped arrived home on the day.  22 more arrived on the 2nd day and 3 more on the 3rd day (one of which had a hawk injury).  
In total 205 of 235 Pigeons (87%) arrived home from Race 3.  Normally we like to be above 90% but 87% is close and not bad for 267 Miles on this mountain course with the warm temperatures.  Inevitably a handful of the 30 pigeons that didn't make it just flew themselves too hard in the warmth and increased distance.  As we are starting to get further out there since the 2nd Race you can see some of the pigeons that did great on the activation toss and Race 1 start to fade.  Likewise you are also starting to see some different pigeons starting to rise up the sheet and once we get to the final Race past 300 Miles some pigeons will move further up the sheet.  The best pigeons to me are always the ones that do well in at least 2 or especially 3 or 4 of the races.  That's why our largest prize and a high percentage of the prizes are reserved for the Overall Ace Pigeons.  As a breeder when you've got a bird doing really well you just hope they don't have an off day when it matters the most.  There is always a little bit of luck involved.
The birds went on a 73.5 Mile toss this Wednesday.  With bad weather arriving today (Friday and for the next next days) we knew that the final race wasn't going to happen this weekend as scheduled so we decided to get the birds on a long toss on the very last nice day of the week before the weather turned.  As it turned out nothing is ever simple on the mountain course and the birds arrived pretty broken up Wednesday morning.  They were about 100 yards slower than they should have been and the first drop was less than 10 birds followed by 20 about a minute later.  After an hour there were still about 15 gone and 11 of these trickled in later in the morning and the afternoon.  We were out 4 overnight and I thought for sure we'd lose a couple but fortunately all of them made it home the next day with 2 arriving in the afternoon of the second day.  I'm assuming a falcon probably broke them up because the weather was good but you never know for sure.  Will be watching to see if any of the late arrivals have any injuries.
Race 4 (334 Mile Final Race of 2017) will not be flown this weekend as scheduled.  As mentioned the weather is turning ugly the next few days and then again most of next week.  We only needed a couple more good days of weather and we could have had the final this Friday but we just missed out.  We are supposed to get rain, high winds, and cold temperatures the next couple days (with a lot of snow in Mountains).  Sunday a little bit of a break but not good enough to race and then another small storm Monday morning.  The current forecast does show Tuesday 11/7 as being pretty nice along the entire course (just very cold) so we are hoping it works out to Race this coming Tuesday.  We have to make a decision on Saturday to have it catered by Back Forty BBQ so hopefully the weather picture will be easier to predict by then.  Appears another storm is arriving Wednesday and Thursday so if we can't go Tuesday who knows it may be a while as they're predicting a very active weather pattern the next 10 days after a typical dry October.
Please let us know if you are able to attend on a Tuesday so we can give the caterer a more accurate head count.  Obviously we'd prefer to have the final race on the weekend but with the long range forecast not looking very encouraging for the following weekend, if Tuesday does in fact turn out to be a good day to race we can't pass it up.
Stay tuned to the front page of the website and the loft flights on WinCompanion as to what day we will race.  Good luck to everybody in the coming final race.
- Matt

Race 2 was flown this past Sunday and it turned out to be tougher than Race 1 but overall a good solid race.  Jon released the pigeons South of Winnemucca from 212.6 Miles at 7:45 under partly cloudy skies (with plenty of sun), 37 degrees, a light south wind.  The forecast was for a light headwind for about the first 75 Miles and then calm winds from then on.  The actual conditions ended up being light 5-8 MPH headwinds all the way through the first 130+ Miles before they finally dyed out around Reno.  No major headwinds but enough to slow the birds down a little and make them work.  The last 70 Miles or so of the course was very calm.

The first drop of birds arrived from the north at 12:25 and immediately we noticed they were skittish as instead of landing when the first dropper was thrown they circled around a tree out in front of the loft by the street and they finally started landing coming over the top of the tree and then down.  Once they landed they were really skittish and some of them remained frozen on the board or on the roof.  A few birds trapped good but took a couple minutes to get them all to snap out of it and go in the loft.  1st Place in the clock with a speed of 1333 YPM went to Bieche & Stevenson with their #7153 a Red Check.  Congratulations to Alex and Mick as well as all the other breeders on this drop.  The first 10 birds in the clock all won $100 each.
Of note Tom O'Brien had a tremendous race with 3 pigeons on the first drop.  Also of note was Flying W Lof't's (Paul Watson) #557 which was on the first drop for the second race in a row and the only pigeon to finish on the first drop in both races.  This pigeon has a 6 minute lead in Average Speed and already a sizable lead in the nominated point standings.
After the first drop a two bird drop arrived (also skittish) and the next 3 or 4 drops arrived the same way hesitant to land and frozen looking out to the skies once they landed.  Most likely the birds in these groups encountered a peregrine falcon when they were together somewhere along the west side of the sierras.  
At 12:44 and 12:47 two larger drops of birds arrived and their behavior was completely different.  They landed normally, cocks were chasing hens around on the landing board, and none of the birds on these drops appeared skittish.  It would appear these drops of birds took a different route and/or flew a slower pace.  They did not appear to have encountered any hawks or falcons on the course.  From 1:00 PM until a little after 2 PM the birds continued to arrive consistently.  There were 146 of 257 pigeons home within the first hour of the first drop which was a pretty good percentage for a 1300 YPM race.  The rest of the day pigeons continued to arrive steadily with a couple coming just before dark and one actually arriving when it was pretty dark to where we had to turn the lights on to get the pigeon in the loft.
203 of 257 pigeons arrived home on the day.  2nd day returns were solid and we even had 3 more arrive on the 3rd day and 1 on the 4th day.  In total 236 of 257 (92%) pigeons made it home from Race 2.  This is a good percentage for a race that wasn't easy with speeds only in the low 1300's and the birds being fairly broken up early on.  Of course we'd like to get 98-100% home every race but that's just not reality especially on a mountain course.
On Wednesday the birds went 60 Miles again to Mount Rose and all the birds made it home.  Most were home within the first 10 minutes but some screwed around for a while and 4 were left home from the toss and let out when Jon got home.  Today (Thursday) during loft flying though we are missing a bird and a falcon may have taken it.  We never saw anything but at one point when the main flock was gone from sight, a small group of 20 birds came diving through real low and started circling and trying to land on the house.  At the time I thought it was strange but makes sense now.  Two birds didn't come out of the trees from hiding till about 1 PM and another never did come back in.  We are hoping it is just hiding after being chased but will see tomorrow.
Race 3 will be held this weekend most likely on Saturday 10/28.  Race station will be Crescent/Exit 261 and this is a distance of 267 to 268 Miles.  We're going to 267 Miles so that the jump from Race 2 to Race 3 is less than 60 Miles and I think they will come better from there than Carlin.  It's also supposed to be in the low to mid 80s for highs on Saturday at arrival. Just warm enough that it could tire the birds out quicker.  Winds are expected to be very light (under 5 MPH) from the NE with clear skies.  If Saturday starts to look too warm will push back to Sunday but as of right now Saturday will be the day.  There will be $12,545 in total prizes to be won on Race 3 this weekend.
The long term extended forecast so far is not looking promising for the final race being held on the weekend of November 5th.  It's still early so will have to hope for the best very good chance we will be holding the final race on a week day or following weekend.  Right now though we're focused on Race 3 and it should be another good race.  Good luck this weekend.  
- Matt

Race 1 was flown this past Saturday October 14th.  It turned out to be both a good race and good start of the four race series.  Jon hauled the birds and released them @ 7:35 from Coal Canyon (165 Miles) which is about 8 minutes past Lovelock off I-80.  Conditions at release were 33 Degrees, Clear Skies, and a 10-15 MPH ENE Wind.  The birds left the release point great and were gone in less than a couple minutes headed towards home.

Jon reported that driving home the winds had calmed down especially towards the sierras and on the west side of the sierras.  The internet weather websites confirmed this as just about all the areas I checked the winds were 4 to 6 MPH.  At the loft the weather was pretty nice with sunny skies, a very light smoke haze, and light winds from the SE.
At 10:38 a drop of 14 pigeons arrived to the loft flying fast from the NW.  It appears that they may have overflown just slightly and looped around but they still made great time and a speed of 1582 YPM.  Last year (2016) with the same release time and similar conditions the birds made 1585 YPM and clocked within 30 seconds of this year's time.  There were 13 breeders represented on the first drop with Delmon & Oragel winning 1st Place.  Congratulations to them and the other breeders who had pigeons on the first drop.  The first drop contained 6 pigeons entered in the optional Champion Point Bird category and all of these 6 pigeons gave themselves a nice early lead in the point bird standings.  The first drop also had a good lead of nearly 6 minutes ahead of the second drop.
At 10:44 the 2nd drop arrived from almost due North and this drop was much bigger with 44 pigeons in it.  Undoubtedly many of the top pigeons in the series will end up coming from these first two drops of birds that were flying hard and got out front.  5 minutes after the second drop a single bird arrived and then it was another 4 minutes before the 4th drop arrived of 20+ pigeons.  Then another single arrived for the 5th drop.  At this point I was a little concerned as it had been 20 minutes and already the birds were pretty broken up with a couple singles arriving.  
This is both a good and bad part of flying from the high deserts and especially the high sierra mountains.  It really breaks up the birds to where they have to make smart choices on which ridges and ranges to fly over and/or around.  As my GPS tracking devices showed in the Old Bird combine races, the fast winning birds go right over the top of the biggest mountains and cross over the middle of Lake Tahoe.  Any groups that are reluctant to fly over the biggest mountains or cross the water are naturally going to take longer.
Fortunately at 10:59 a huge drop of birds (6th drop) arrived and a few minutes later another big drop arrived.  From 11:00 to 11:07 over 90 pigeons clocked in between those two big drops and that brought the returns up to a great percentage for early in the race.  Within 1 hour of the first drop 204 pigeons were home of 266 shipped.  This keeps many pigeons still in contention for overall average speed going into the next race.  Several more arrived over the next hour and throughout the rest of the day.  248 pigeons arrived home on the day and 9 more arrived the next day.  A total of 257 of 266 (96.6%) pigeons shipped to Race 1 made it home.  This is a nice percentage and similar to what we usually have for the first race.  Most pigeons arriving looked great with some of the cocks on various drops cooing hens on the landing board.
Four days after the first race, on Wednesday the birds were trained 60 Miles from Mount Rose.  It was a good toss with just about all of the birds arriving to the loft within 5 minutes of each other.  Only a couple were actually late with one coming in the afternoon and another the next morning.  With the weather so nice now and the birds so wound up, even from 60 Miles many of the birds continued to fly a while once they got home. Even after they landed there was a group of about thirty (the same birds as usual) who are really stubborn and just don't want to go in with cocks chasing hens all over.  For the second and the third race we will also try to go on a 60 Mile mid week training toss weather permitting, as this is what many of the breeders have pretty much demanded.  There is some risk to this though, training in the mountains and around Lake Tahoe.  It's just not the same as on a flat course jumping on the freeway and going 60 Miles for an easy toss.  Here going past 30 Miles puts you into 7000-9000' mountain ranges.  Many peregrine falcons are in these mountains and I hope that on one of these tosses none of the major contending ace pigeons gets taken out.  I personally never train my own birds between races and have won the Disney Award 3 years in a row, plus numerous Racing Pigeon Digest Ace Loft and Bird Awards.  I stopped training between races years ago not because I'm lazy (as some breeders have said about those who don't train) but because I tested both methods extensively and never found any correlation between road training between races and results.  In many cases I think heavy training between races does more harm than good.  It beats the birds up to where they fizzle out as the season goes on.  
In this case though for the Gold Country Challenge birds we will compromise and get the birds on one good 60 Mile mid week toss and then loft fly on the other days.  The birds have been loft flying great and the last couple days there has been a group of about 75 that have stayed up for 2+ hours. All of the birds have been doing at least 1 hour especially as they get deeper into the week closer to the next race.
Race 2 is scheduled for this Sunday October 22nd.  Race Station is South of Winnemucca like last year about 210-212 Miles depending on the exact spot we release from.  Weather for Sunday is forecast to be sunny with temperatures only reaching upper 70's at the loft.  Winds are projected to be light headwinds for the first 75 Miles then calm to a light tailwind for about 75 miles, then finally calm to a very light headwind for the last 60 Miles.  Based on the forecast right now I'm thinking speeds in the 1300's maybe 1400 if the winds are calm at release. 
We are going South of Winnemucca because there are some large mountain ranges immediately in front of Winnemucca that we don't want the birds to swing around North of which gets them off track.  Ideally they go right over the top of it anyways but would rather make the choice a little easier for them.  The second and third races have always been a little trickier and seem to break the birds up a little more some years because of all the mountain ranges in the 190 to 220 Mile range and again in the 270-290 Mile range.  The 3rd race will either take place from Crescent Valley (268 Miles) or Carlin (283 to 285 Miles) depending on weather and how the birds come from Race 2.
Prize Payout for 2017 is just about done and will be posted Saturday Morning.  Good luck to everybody in Race 2 this weekend.  
- Matt 

Race 1 (165 Miles) from Coal Canyon, NV will be flown tomorrow Saturday October 14th.  Expected release time will be 7:35 AM and I'm thinking a good time for bird arrival would be sometime just before 11:00 AM to right around 11:00.  Forecasted weather is mostly sunny with east winds 5-15 MPH and temperatures reaching about 80 degrees for the high.  I think it will be a 1400-1500's type of race but we'll see.

Just about all of the unpaid entries were paid today either by checks that arrived in the mail or by credit card from a few breeders.  As I write this there are still 6 pigeons (2 breeders) that are technically unpaid but the breeders did send photos of completed money orders and sent them with priority mail with tracking number showing they will be delivered tomorrow.  Since they sent money orders and tracked mail we will allow these birds to stay in the race provided they actually show up tomorrow.  Anything otherwise and they will be disqualified.  Also any checks that do not clear that breeder will have all their birds disqualified.  After all the checks clear mid week, I will post a Prize Payout on Thursday or Friday Night.  There are 266 pigeons being shipped to Race 1.
The birds look great with a nice shine to them.  They are amped up and ready to race tomorrow.  On yesterday's short training toss from 31 Miles, most of the birds flew around a while once they got home with some of them really flying a long time.  Even once they land there are some cocks they chase hens around for a while before going in.  As has always been the case in our race, the short training tosses and loft flights don't show you who the best birds are.  More often than not many of the best birds in the loft are those that stay up flying extra and are stubborn about trapping on the short tosses and loft flights.  The truth always comes out as the distance increases to actual race distances and you see many of these birds rise to the top.  There are a lot of super pigeons in the loft with realistically well over 100 capable of being Top 10 Overall Ace Pigeons and even more capable of scoring on any given race.
Birds marked with Green Champ Icons are entered in the optional $50 Champion Point Bird Category.  I have more birds to add the icons with tonight and they will all be current later this evening.  Remember regular Average Speed (Overall Ace Pigeon) is included in your $250 Entry Fees.  The Green Champ Icons are for those that paid the extra $50 per bird to also compete in the custom point system category.  It's difficult to update the points during the race with all of the birds coming in, so points will be updated Saturday Night after the race.
Good luck to everybody tomorrow and hopefully we get a great race to start the series.
- Matt
The weather has been really hot here over the past month with several days above 100 and Sacramento has been above 105 degrees numerous times over the past month.  We've been getting the birds out early everyday as it's already in the mid 70's here at 7:00 AM on the really hot days.  Today we also had a lot of smoke coming up from the Mariposa fire (46,000 Acres towards Yosemite) but I think most of the smoke was because the winds were strong out of the south overnight.  Fortunately we are about 100 miles away from that big fire.

Training will begin in Mid August, probably sometime around 8/12 to 8/18 since the first race doesn't start until the middle of October that gives us plenty of time.  In the week or so before the first training toss the birds will be loaded into the hauler to get them used to the process.  We also like to take them down to the mailboxes at the end of the street and release them from the hauler for loft flying.

Overall health of the birds is much better since the last update and they all look very good now.  Only 4 or 5 more birds died after the last update.  It has been almost a month since any birds have died from sickness.  For whatever reason the virus that hit the 4th group of birds really hard, didn't bother more than a few birds in the next two groups.  There were a few birds in the loft that had one eyed colds so we gave all of the birds a 10 day respiratory treatment a few weeks ago with Tylan and Doxycycline.  Since then the birds have been on the usual of oregano, apple cider vinegar, elderberry, probiotics, echinacea, etc.
Some of the birds that died and/or were lost around the loft were able to be replaced and all the replacements are caught up and loft flying with the rest of the birds.  Over the last few weeks birds have continued to disappear here and there from loft flying (as I write this we are down 1 from yesterday and 1 from this morning).  I don't know for sure what happens to them all but when you have several hundred pigeons, trees, and hawks......... naturally some of them are going to vanish. 
We do have a cooper hawk here that has been picking some of them off away from the loft and others I think just take off too far from being chased and get lost.  We've had a couple show up a couple days later after being gone from a loft flight with minor hawk injuries so they got hit and then spent the next day or two hiding before coming back.  It's also possible that a few may have hit wires or trees down the street.  I have not seen any do that but when they get spooked off the loft and go flying low and fast towards the street it's likely a few have ran into things.
So if you have had a bird go missing from a loft flight over the past few weeks or over the next few weeks before training most likely it was picked off by a hawk or lesser chance it flew away or ran into something.  Health of all the birds is fine now and birds are not dying.  Obviously getting close to the start of training it's a shame to lose birds around the loft but in a one loft race with a large number of birds it happens.  Racing pigeons especially young birds find different ways to get lost, it's part of the sport.  
10th flights have been pulled on about 95% of the birds and have already grown back in fully on most of the birds.  We did them in various groups depending on how old they were.  Only the last handful of late replacement birds from June have not had their 10th flights pulled as they should never reach that point anyways and we are getting too close to training now.  Body moult is done on many birds and many more birds are in heavy body moults which is good because they'll finish before training begins.  The youngest birds usually go into heavier body moults in late August and September and finish just before the races start.
Over the next few weeks we will continue to get the flock of birds flying better and ready to start training.  As it stands now there are groups of birds that fly great, others that are flying longer each day, and others that are flat out lazy and don't want to fly.  We are starting to force fly and flag the lazy ones more and over the next few weeks most of those will catch up.
Next Update will be in early August before training begins.
- Matt @ Gold Country Challenge



The 2017 Gold Country Challenge is now closed to new entries and we ended up in the mid 400's which was our goal and a comfortable number for the loft.  Thank You to everybody for supporting the race again or for the first time in 2017.

We pulled the 10th flight on about 250 pigeons last week and another group will be done in coming weeks.  When Jon pulled the 10th flight a physical inventory and live clocking was done on all the birds in that section but there are 3 that either missed getting chip rings or need re-chipped (AA 19029, AA 19025, and JNC 1812).  These 3 pigeons are all in the loft and will be re-allocated next time we have the main Benzing unit out.  The 250+ birds in this group are loft flying well and a pretty big flock has started to develop with more constantly joining the flock.  Over the last couple weeks we have lost a couple more birds in this group to hawks or the owl that continues to pick off birds that stay in the trees overnight.
I wish I could say that overall health of the pigeons has been great since the last update but unfortunately that is not the case.  When I last updated on April 19th a couple sick birds had just popped up among the first two groups of birds and within a couple days a few more had came up sick.  One of those ended up pulling through but the others did not make it.  Over the last 5 weeks in the first 3 groups of birds (260+ birds) maybe 18-20 birds came up sick and about 12 or 13 of those died with a handful pulling through and now back to good health.  As is usually the case with Young Bird sickness (Circovirus and Adenovirus) the majority of the birds in this section were unaffected and continue to stay healthy.  Among the first 3 groups (260+ birds) we have only had a couple die in this section in the last couple weeks so I believe the virus has just about passed through that section and those birds will be fine moving forward.  So many of the birds in this section act mature and look like yearlings.
Unfortunately the 4th group of birds (about 80-90 that arrived in early May) have been hit much harder with about 13 to 15 dying over the last 2 1/2 weeks.  This is a much higher percentage than usual and it has been very frustrating in that at least in this section I don't think it's necessarily the weaker birds getting sick.  These were birds that all passed through about 7 to 10 days of quarantine with no problems and then went into their own section.  It appears there was either a carrier bird(s) in that section with a more aggressive strain of virus or for whatever reason the virus that went through the first groups of birds mutated into a stronger form once it got into a new group of birds.  Symptoms are almost always the same, the bird huddles up on the floor lethargic and goes extremely light while hardly eating or drinking.  Usually the ones that actually die get a glassy look in their eye within hours of dying.  As with past years we've tried removing them from the loft and isolating them and also leaving them in the loft and it doesn't make much difference either way.  It does seem like when you take them from the loft and isolate them they usually give up and are dead within 24-48 hours.  Still you do get a handful of them that continue to eat a little and not give up.  It's always nice to see these birds looking better a week later and then being completely fine in a couple weeks.  With that said of the actual infected birds, I'd say only about 25% survive. 
All of the birds have been receiving Oregano Oil in the water as well as Elderberry and Echinacea.  These all have anti-viral and anti-bacterial and immune boosting properties.  In addition they also get Showstopper and Max Immune Plus supplements on the feed and recently we started using organic cinnamon powder on the feed every few days as cinnamon is also reported to have some anti-viral and bacterial properties.  When dealing with viruses like Circovirus there is really not much else you can do other than try to boost the birds immune system, prevent secondary infections, and let the virus run it's course.  I think all of the health supplements do help and they were a help in minimizing problems with the first 3 groups of birds but for whatever reason they have been less effective with this 4th group.
There is a 5th group of about 80 of the youngest birds that have been moved to the main loft but they are completely isolated from the other groups and so far they all look great with zero sick birds in this younger section.  We are going to try and keep those apart from the others as long as we can before finally mixing them in.
The birds are quarantined in their own holding cage with their own food/water bowls when they come in for 7 to 14 days when they come in.  On arrival they are given a PMV vaccination and a single dose treatment for canker.  The vast majority of the birds look great from start to finish through quarantine before going into the main loft (again in their own section/group of 80-100 birds).  Sometimes you receive some youngsters that look a little rough (or worse) when they arrive.  Generally we leave these youngsters in quarantine longer (sometimes up to 3 weeks) until they look really good but I wonder if these same youngsters that looked a little rough on arrival and stayed in quarantine longer end up being the carriers that pass viruses onto the other birds in the main loft even though they themselves appear healthy.
As everyone knows not every breeder takes care of their pigeons as well as they should.  Unfortunately one loft races and the other breeders within these races are at the mercy of a small percentage of breeders that are not in tune with the health of their pigeons.  Just over the past 3 weeks we've had 2 particularly bad examples of youngsters that were sent to the loft with major problems.  One breeder sent birds and within 4 or 5 days of being here in quarantine one of the youngsters had full-blown PMV with the twisting neck syndrome.  Considering the youngsters had been here less than a week and in their own quarantine cage this meant this youngster was sent to the loft with PMV.  Another breeder sent some youngsters and again under quarantine within a week one of the youngsters had leg/wing paralysis and Paratyphoid symptoms.  Examples like the above are really discouraging when people are sending birds with obvious health problems.  To put it bluntly the breeders with health problems in their breeding lofts and/or young birds should not be sending out young birds to out of area races.
For some all of the above may not be what you want to hear but it's the truth and it's the truth for most one loft races in most years.  I could try to paint a rosy picture and turn these updates into a BS fluff piece saying that all of the birds are in super health and everything is going 100% perfect........... but that's just not the reality of taking in hundreds of young pigeons from different lofts all around the country.  It is challenging as a handler and between settling, hawks, and health it can also be pretty stressful as the breeders understandably have such high hopes for their birds.  I don't update the news page as often as some of the other races but when I do, my goal is to provide in depth content of what is really going on with the birds good and bad.
This year young bird sickness has hit the GCC birds harder than the last couple years but even in good years you still lose 5-20 to sickness and there was one year we lost about 40 so we're hoping this doesn't turn out to be any worse.  Even if it does this is not our first rodeo and once their through it (with most of the birds remaining healthy the entire time) they will go on to race well.  Every year young bird sickness tends to start up in late April and subside by the end of June.  Part of the timing I think is attributed to the constant weather/temperature changes you get later in spring.  The last two weeks along we've had stretches of 3 or 4 days in the mid to high 90's and then two days later we're cold/windy with temperatures dropping 30+ degrees.  Needless to say that kind of weather doesn't help for trying to maintain the health of the birds and it has been a trying time over the last few weeks.
Things will get better though and the strong birds will survive.  Fortunately most of the birds are strong.  We're definitely not having the best spring but for those that have followed the race before we tend to make up for it in the fall with great races.  We have contacted most of the breeders that need to replace birds and some replacements have already been sent.  There are a few more breeders we need to contact in the next few days.  
Will update again in the coming weeks with status of the health of the birds and progress on loft flying and pulling 10th flights on the next groups of birds.  - Matt

New entries continue to arrive steady every week and as I write this we have accepted just under 300 birds with more arriving over the next few days. We expect to take in around 400-425 young birds this year for the 2017 Gold Country Challenge. Low 400’s was our goal as that is a good manageable number that keeps the birds comfortable as well. The loft will hold over 500 birds.


If you have not sent your entries yet, you still have about 1 more month to do so. Our races do not start until October which gives even the May entries plenty of time to finish the body moult. Every year pigeons that arrive to the loft in May and sometimes even June perform great in the races, so if you still have not sent your entries don’t let the later arrival date discourage you as they have just as good a change as any due to the races being in the fall. Replacements will be accepted through early June.


The first section of about 100 birds has been loft flying regularly (when it’s not raining/windy) and some of them are flying in a flock already. Younger batches of birds continue to be settled and added into this group with a new group going out later this week after the last of a series of storms we have had. This has been a very wet and stormy winter/spring with the rainfall and snowfall totals way above average this year. We even had a dusting of snow here at the loft less than 2 weeks ago, but mostly just a lot of rain and wet ground that will seemingly never dry out.


There are 6 birds that are missing from loft flying and we will run the clock inventory one more time this week to confirm none of these came back. We know for sure one was killed by a cooper hawk and another was killed by an owl after it stayed out overnight. I suspect the hawk and owl are probably responsible for at least a couple of the other missing birds but will never know. The cooper hawk that was giving the GCC birds and my own youngsters problems over a week ago seems to have moved on from the area.


Overall health has been excellent so far despite all of the cold wet weather. As I write this no birds have been lost due to sickness yetbut there are a couple birds that we just had to take out of the loft and isolate that didn’t look so good. These may end up being the first birds lost to sickness but will see in the next few days if they. When you bring in hundreds of youngsters from all over the country it’s inevitable that you are going to end up with a handful of sick birds. We’ve been fortunate the last few years to keep that number in the 15-30 range which is a pretty low percentage. Quarantining them on arrival definitely helps as well as using multiple immune boosting and probiotic based products to help build and support their own immune system. Most of the birds stay strong and healthy from start to finish and I do believe as a general rule that pigeons who get sick were not going to be champions anyway.


The moult on the older birds is progressing very nicely and some of them that really moulted quick are starting to look like yearlings. In a couple of weeks we are going to pull the 10th flight on all of the birds that have been here a while and then a couple weeks later do another batch of birds. Right now the birds are on about 20 hours of late per day and at the end of May we will go back to natural amount of day light. This transition usually helps accelerate the body moult on some of the birds that were not moulting the body much.


When youngsters arrive here to the loft they are given a PMV-1 vaccine shot and a single dose canker treatment. They then go into quarantine cages (in small groups of 4 to 8) on the porch area where they get a good view of the property and can also see the loft. They remain in quarantine for about 7 to 12 days in most cases. The quarantine process is really more to make sure the youngsters are less stressed and eating/drinking well before going into the main loft. Quarantine is probably not going to prevent a seemingly healthy carrier of a virus from getting into the main loft…….but it will help ensure all of the birds are stronger immunity-wise when they do go into the main loft. We use about 4 or 5 different supplements that are immunity builders and while none of them are miracle cures, when combined together they do seem to help quite a bit.


To be continued……