Interview with Richard Clark, Top Gun Loft, Overall Winner of the PM Release Big Pigeon Race 2011
1. How long have you been racing pigeons?
I started flying when I was about 14 years old. Several neighborhood friends had racers and got me interested in the hobby. I built a crude loft out of scrap wood and chicken wire. These friends gave me some birds. A couple years later, I purchased two pair from the areas top race, the late Mr. Will Baldwin, at a price of $20 a pair. That was a lot of money in 1966. I never raced them, but, when my family went on trips I would take some with us and release them when we got to where we were going. After graduation in 1968, I wasn’t able to keep them and gave them away. In 1997 I became interested in the hobby again and began to build a loft. While building my loft I researched nationally acclaimed pigeon breeders/racers and made contacts to acquire my first birds from the ones that impressed me most.
2. What family of pigeons do you fly?
Over the years I have brought in numerous strains and through the riggers of training and mating the best performers together, I now have a blend of the best survivors. So I have a unique family of my own breeding. I originally looked for the speed families and moved more to the distance families over the years. My breeders came from Alex Bieche, Horst Hackemer, Rick Mardis, Will Baldwin and Frank McLaughlin. Then I mixed in birds from Carroll Smith, Mike McDowell, Ed Minvielle, Bob Prisco and Lou Arcuri. Through selective breeding I have reduced my family down to the point that I am mostly a line breeder now.
3. Do you feed any special mix for the longer races?
The feed I use year round is a commercial blend of pellets and grains. For the races over 300 miles I feed the day before and the day of shipping a mix of Browns Super Crack, Spanish peanuts, safflower and corn.
4. What system do you use to race your pigeons?
I fly natural. I don’t separate sexes. Ever. I don’t use any of the motivation schemes. I believe that if the birds are happy and healthy in the loft they’ll do all they can to get back to it. I think people want to believe that the pigeon is capable of human thought and memory. I don’t think so. I don’t think what I do today to motivate a bird, then crate it, carry it to the club, counter mark it, stick it in a new environment, bounce it for miles down a road with tight quarters and other birds, release it in a frenzy, that the bird will be thinking of what I did yesterday that it better hurry back home. I think they just want to go home where they are safe, sheltered, and fed.
5. I know you have won in the past. What do you think is your best win and why?
That is a tough question as all wins are great. Winning the 2008 Southeastern Open 600 mile division and NC State was one of the top wins. Winning the 2010 Big Pigeon Race 600 mile NC State also a big win. This year winning the 2011 Big Pigeon Race late release Overall, 600 mile and NC State also a top wins. However I must say that winning the 2000 International Federations Champion Loft Award tops the list with two I.F. Hall of Fame birds that year.
6. Do you believe in eye sign?
No. I believe in Bob Trap Sign. When I see the traps close behind a bird that is my eye sign.
7. Do you sell pigeons?
I have sold a few. I do not promote selling my pigeons as I do not breed enough to support my racing and selling birds also. I have in the past taken request for future matings with an up front payment.
8. If you were to give a new flyer advise, what would you tell him/her?
Plan ahead. Prepare your loft before stocking it. Listen to everyone and pick out what makes sense to you. Purchase the book “A Veterinary Approach to Pigeon Health” by Dr. David Marx, DVM. This book covers most everything a flyer needs to know to be competitive. Read this book! Do not get caught up in the hype of strain names, schemes and the what ever that is the latest and greatest.
A special Thank You to the organizers and participants of the Big Pigeon Race. May this race continue to be successful for many years to come.
Thanks Danny and everyone involved for all the hard work you put into this race.