MIS Winners-2013

By: Whitney Sabrowsky

It is my pleasure to once again submit racing results on behalf of the Minnesota Invitational Series.  Every year, I have the privilege to visit with all of the winners.  This article in particular is special as it features several guys who I know very well.  They are flyers who I have known since I started racing, and guys that I look up to.  I hope you enjoy this glimpse of these great flyers.  This article is months overdue. I have to admit that I began writing this article before I paired my birds up this winter. The months flew by, and now we are in the middle of our 2014 old bird season.  Good things are worth waiting for, right?  My apologies for delaying the well-deserved recognition to these flyers!

The Minnesota Invitational Series (MIS) was founded in 2006 by the Twin Cities Concourse.  A handful of fanciers in the Concourse had a vision of an increased level of competition in long distance racing. Prior to the organization of the MIS, the clubs in the Twin City Concourse flew five long distance races.  Clubs located outside of the Twin Cities area were limited to only racing the Midwest Classic and the MN State Race.  The MIS created an opportunity for more clubs to join in statewide long distance racing.

In 2013, sixty-four lofts from fourteen clubs competed in the MIS. This year, the five race series began on June 1st and ended July 5th.  The AU affiliated clubs are split into north and south sections. 

Ogallala, NE, Overall winner

Watertown, SD’s Rich Anderson claimed the top position in the State Race from Ogallala, NE.  He flies 350 miles and had two birds in the top 10%.  Rich races with the Lake City RPC.  The club has been racing with the MIS since 2012; every year their flyers have been at the top of the race sheet.  In fact, this is Rich’s second year racing with the MIS and his second MIS win (he was the Salina winner in 2012).

            Many guys that I have interviewed over the years grew up raising wild pigeons.  Rich was another kid who caught commons and discovered a fascination for the birds.   Flash forward to 1980, and Rich decided to get some real racing pigeons.  He wrote a letter to a good flyer in Chicago and bought his first homers for $15 a pair. 

            Rich races on the natural system.  His winner, AU 1421 LCR 2011, was one of those birds that we have all had in our lofts.  The Janssen-based cock wasn’t a great young bird, a so-so yearling, and finally as a two year old had a decent performance.  Needless to say, Rich was surprised that the cock pulled off a win on the big State Race.     

            His system is simple.  Rich feeds the same blend all season, gives apple cider vinegar in the water, and does a lot of loft flying.  Old birds are trained out to 50 miles before the races begin. During the season, the birds loft fly between races.

            Rich is really pleased that his club joined the MIS.  “It gives us a chance to race against more flyers”.  More competition keeps everyone on their toes, and the race results show that the Lake City guys, like Rich Anderson, are certainly doing that.

Jack Hofmann

Ogallala, NE, North Section

It is my pleasure to highlight the accomplishments of someone with whom I race with every week.  He is known in the Mid Minnesota club as a great handler who knows his pigeons.  My friend, Jack Hofmann, is this fantastic flyer.  He was the winner of the north section of the State Race from Ogallala, NE.  Jack lives on the long end and flies 475 miles from Ogallala.         

            Pigeons have been a part of Jack’s life since childhood. He started racing around 1982.  Over the years, Jack has tried many of the systems and methods of racing.  For the 2013 season, he started the season racing naturally, but then switched to double widowhood. The widowhood system has the benefit of less road training for Jack since the birds exercise better around the loft.

 The two year old plum check cock that took care of business for the State Race was out of Jack’s family of birds that he has been breeding for over 20 years.  Jack modestly says that “it is no real family, just the birds that keep doing it.” The cock, AU 3501 MM 2011, was returning to a two week old youngster.  As a yearling in 2012, the cock earned a diploma from the Midwest Classic race from Topeka, KS which is a 512 mile race.  Jack hopes that this cock will have a few more successful years on the team before he is considered for the stock loft.

            In the off season, Jack often helps out with the judging for winter shows.   Handling qualities are important to him whether judging for shows or looking for quality racers. He says, “I do like medium-sized birds that have the soft, silky feathers and buoyant, supple muscles, and a good attitude around the loft.” If Jack is not judging, he is certain to have several birds at the top of the show class.  It is one of the things that I admire about Jack’s pigeons.  They are beautiful, classy pigeons that can race and win.

Bart Hoffman

Topeka, KS, North Section

Bart Hoffman of the Viking RPC is a guy who truly believes in quality and not quantity.  I would venture to say that he likely races one of the smallest teams in the MIS.  However, his small team has more top finishes than many who race triple the amount of pigeons.  Just how small is his team? Bart often races only 8-10 pigeons. This is his whole team, not just per race! 

            Bart’s winning hen, AU 9425 WOW 2012, was returning to a newly hatched youngster.  She was bred out of a super pair of Ganus bloodlines.  This couple has raised combine winners three years in a row.  9425 won three concourse races, and her siblings have been combine champions.

            His system is all about simplicity: he flies naturally, feeds the same mix year round, uses a basic medication program, and does lots of training.  Bart mentioned that it seems like motivation tricks are more for the flyer than the birds.  A good pigeon will race well.  A few years ago, Bart had a cock that flew to a perch, unmated, for a whole

season. He was one of Bart’s best birds, the first bird home nearly every week. A good pigeon has the heart to come home and that is the only motivation he needs.

            Bart’s pigeons are allowed to have a winter of leisure.  But two months before the race season, he begins loft flying to get their athleticism back.  The month before the first race, road training begins.  His first toss is at 25 miles, and then the birds are rapidly jumped up to 40 and 50 miles before they join the Viking club’s training trailer, operated by Paul Rudolph. The trailer takes the birds out 50 miles three times per week.  Every evening the birds are allowed to loft fly.  The birds are in top condition from this vigorous schedule.

            As a boy, Bart cleaned a neighboring flyer’s loft to earn a few young birds.  He enjoyed the pigeons and flew a young bird season as a teenager. He got back in the sport from 1995-2006 until he set it aside for the sake of being more involved with his sons’ school sports.  In 2009 Bart made his comeback and has been flying great ever since. His performances in club and combine races prove that small scale fanciers can fly extremely well.    

Orlan Gulker

Topeka, KS, Overall

Orlan Gulker of Sioux Center, IA races with the Great Plains Flyers. He began racing in 1994. Double widowhood has been the system that he has flown for most of his years.  Orlan has had many good performances with the MIS.  His winning hen, AU 1044 GPF 2011, is a bird that Orlan called “unpredictable”.  She is a pigeon that either does really well or is the last bird home.  1044’s father is from Ganus’ Hollywood line and the mother was a bird that Orlan got from Bob McCarty of Texas. 

            I was chatting with Orlan about how he trains his old birds.  He was the first flyer I have interviewed to mention that he loft flies during the winter.  As long as it is not too windy, Orlan will allow the birds to exercise.  He feels that it helps the birds do better in training come spring and rarely has a fat pigeon when the weather warms up.  I also found it interesting that Orlan keeps a training log of all the releases he does, which details the miles and location.  He keeps notes of where he experiences bad tosses and avoids those locations in the future.  Most of his tosses are less than 70 miles, but he tries to train 4-5 times per week.

            Since his recent retirement, Orlan has started to do more traveling, which makes it harder to race.  He has started getting into futurity races.  One of his most recent successes was his fantastic finish on the South African Race, 239th out of 3478 on the main race (410 miles).        

Mike Ludolph

Salina, KS, Overall Winner

Midwest Classic Topeka (MIS), Overall

Mike Ludolph races with the Great Plaines Flyers. In 2013, Mike won both the Salina race and Topeka race with the same cock, AU 1651 CBS 2011.  Ludolph is known for his family of top quality birds sourced from the Continental Breeding Station.  The winning cock has Bliksem Vandenbeele on the cock side.  1651’s mother has quite a pedigree also: a daughter of CBS’s Jade and Sky Devil. 

Mike races widowhood; though he flies a bit differently than others on the system.  He doesn’t allow his widowhood couples to raise any youngsters, even after the season.  The hens are with the cocks for around 20 days before the season and then removed.  On the day of shipping, the hens are not always shown. However, Mike always has the hens waiting in the box on race day.

There are dozens of theories and methods to training pigeons.  Surprisingly, Mike is not a big believer in training.  As soon as the weather warms to between 30 and 40 degrees, he begins exercising the birds around the loft.  His widowhood birds do a lot of loft flying early in the morning.  The only amount of road training the birds get is 2-4 tosses from 10-30 miles.  Mike rarely road trains between races.  He feels that good race performances depend mostly on the quality and health of a pigeon.

Mike is one of the most knowledgeable fanciers I have met in regard to knowing about families and strains.  He travels to Belgium and knows many fanciers across the country.  During the winter, Mike often lends his skills in judging shows.  Local clubs appreciate his generous nature as he regularly donates his birds to auctions. Mike is a great flyer and a wonderful friend to many.             

Vince Meyer

Salina, KS, North Section

Vince Meyer has been racing since 1985 with the Minneapolis RPC.  He is a dedicated natural system fancier.  The winning cock of the Salina north section was AU 2159 MPC 2012.  Vince flies 490 miles from Salina.  The bird clocked in at 1108 yards per minute.  His yearling cock was bred from a family of Belgium imports that Vince’s friend and club mate, Don Lowe, recently acquired.  Vince has been flying very well with birds he has raised from Don’s pigeons.

A lot of guys train in line with the race course, however, Vince does it a bit differently.  He believes that it is important to train from all four directions.  He says that pigeons get off course all the time.  They need to be able to figure out how to find home even when they are turned around.  This method of training is one that Vince learned from his friend and mentor Vic Hennig, a long distance legend in Minnesota. Vince gets his birds out to around 40 miles, twice a week.  His old bird team consists of around 20 pigeons. 

Vince mentioned the importance of having a loft environment that pigeons want to come home to.  He takes the time to train his pigeons to be calm when he comes into the loft. The birds fly to his hand for peanuts.  Pigeons are smart, and are trainable, even those impossibly flighty birds. “Like with most parts of this sport,” Vince says, “it [earning the trust of the birds] takes patience.”    

Vince is a great guy who is an asset to the sport.  Often, he does releases for funerals, weddings, and the Relay for Life.  Junior flyers are important to the future of racing;  Vince always goes out of his way to do things for the kids.  In the past, he has supported junior flyer fundraisers by donating his hand crafted baskets.  The racing sport needs people like Vince who shed a positive light on the hobby. 

Rob Scripture

Braham, OK, Overall

A few years back, Rob Scripture was buying barn pigeons to use for dog training.  After a while, he got tired of constantly buying birds and losing them.  He invested in some homers as a solution. Then the unexpected happened. Rob’s daughters took an interest in the pigeons after the racers began returning to the loft from dog training.  His girls said, “Dad, we should start racing them!” At that point, Rob did not even know that there was a local racing club.  The rest is history.  Today, Rob races with the Rochester Racing Pigeon Club.  

Amazingly, Rob only flew his fourth old bird season in 2013.  His winning hen is a silver Aarden-Janssen cross.  AU 4365 RRP 2010 was always on the front page of the results, but the big Braham race was her first win.  Rob flies naturally, and all season his birds have either eggs or babies. 

Leading up to the season, Rob takes his birds on 6-12 tosses ranging from 10-35 miles.  Loft flying is very important; all the birds are given one hour of exercise both in the morning and evening.  Once the races begin, Rob only loft flies.

Rob is grateful for all of the advice his club mates have given him since he began flying.  “The guys in the club have all been great friends who have given me advice on training, mediating, and have given me pigeons.”

Paul Rudolph

Winner of Average Speed,

Midwest Topeka North Section,

Braham, OK, North Section

Paul Rudolph has an amazing record.  Every year he is at the top of the race sheets.  In the MIS alone, since it began in 2006, Paul has been in the top four for average speed 7 of 8 years.  His 2013 average speed win was his fourth time winning the title.  There are not too many guys who can claim such a consistent concourse record, and this is not just a good, average-type of consistency either. It is being at the top for every race: this is Paul’s consistency.

In 1966, two young scrub pigeons caught Paul’s eye down at the railroad tracks.  He managed to catch the wilds, and the rest is history.  Paul flew his first young bird season in 1969.  Incredibly, he has not missed a season in 44 years.  His time was certainly not wasted over the past decades. His carefully bred family and expertise in long distance racing are the products of many dedicated years. The family of pigeons Paul has bred all goes back to two original cocks.  Very rarely will he ever bring in outside blood to his loft.  Few flyers have maintained such a pure family and been as successful with a single family as Paul.

            He claimed two wins in the 2013 MIS.  The Midwest Classic race from Topeka, KS was included in the series where Paul won the north section.  His section winner is a hen that was bred directly out of Fast Eddie, one of Paul’s foundational breeder cocks.  I must also mention that Fast Eddie is 16 years old and still breeding winners like AU 7559 VIK 2012.  Paul flies on the natural system.  Often, he will race birds three weeks in a row or more. He says, “I start with eggs and trick them until the end.”

Paul is a big believer in racing hens.  His Braham north section winner was also a hen.  Braham is the longest race of the year: 598 miles for Rudolph.  Paul had two hens come in together at an incredible speed of 1612 YPM. His winner 14136 GOLD 2010 was first on the drop, the other hen spooked and trapped a minute later.  14136 was AU National 3rd Marathon Triple Crown Ace in 2013.  Not only can this hen fly, she also won Grand Champion of the MN State Show in 2011. 

Body types and bird characteristics are always a topic of debate.  Winners come in all varieties.  Paul mentioned, “I can see poor quality, but I can't spot an ace. I prefer the long body cast.  Both of the hens are of long body cast. I do not think the body style is the important factor: most important is good health, resilience, birds with the drive to come home, and that can fly fifteen or more hours. Even with all of this, not all of the birds can accomplish the win.”

I asked Paul, “What would be the one bit of advice that you would give a new flyer?” He wisely offered, “There is a lot of hard work involved in flying successful pigeons, but that is the secret! I would also tell them to enjoy the breeding, flying, raising youngsters, shows, members, and all the sport has to offer. Do not concern yourself with winning. That will come!”  

Closing thoughts

Congratulations to all of the winners!  This little article gives a bit of recognition for the efforts of the winners. However, no article can truly portray the hours, weeks, and years of work and experience that many flyers put into their hobby. Thank you to all the guys who graciously took time to speak with me.  Be sure to stay up to date with the Minnesota Invitational Series and Twin Cities Concourse by visiting www.twincityconcourse.us  Until next time, happy flying!