It was the first week of July 2009, and I was asked by a very nice experienced flyer why his birds did not seem to come home as well from 25 air miles as he expected. What might he be doing wrong? My first response to him was “Why have your birds been at 25 air miles five times already in the first week of July in Florida?” His initial answer was “I do not want my birds to get stupid. After all, Mel Melendez has already had his birds to Bronson 6 times, and that is about 65-70 air miles.” Like I said, this is early July, the height of summer in Florida, with heat and humidity. Our young bird races do not start until almost the middle of September.
Back to Mike. I finally said, “If you have to be training, then I would first either check or medicate the birds for canker.” He told me he had already done that for 5 days. Then the next option would probably be a respiratory problem. However, my basic question to him still was “Why do you want to train and force the birds in this heat and humidity?” Again, the answer came, “I want to make sure they don’t get stupid.”
The next day I happened to see Mel, so I asked him if he really had been training for a long time, and did he in fact have six tosses to 65 or 70 miles. His answer was, “Absolutely.” Of course I again asked why. The answer was, “I want to build them mentally and physically.” Understand that Mel’s track record is a good one, especially when it gets harder on race day.
But let’s consider the opposite end of the spectrum, and that is Randall Berky. Here is a loft with a very consistent excellent flying record over many years. He never skips a race. He just keeps coming at you like a freight train. Randall keeps his young birds locked up. He does not settle them until the middle of July. At that point his birds have been molted and when his platoon hits the sky, they darken it. In a little over one week, he has them flying as a group and although it may be hard to believe, he has them in the sky for one hour.
However, the intensity at his loft is just beginning. Within the next seven weeks, he will not only have those birds race ready, but he will be one of the main competitors as he has been over many years. He regiments his birds to a fine point. For instance, they must learn to circle his loft clockwise when loft flying. His rationale – should they circle counter clockwise, they will make at least one turn returning from the race, putting him at a disadvantage, and that will cost him the race. So you understand why a turn in the wrong direction around his house is so important.
As I said, Randall is very very competitive. Many people have said how well he traps. This prompted Tony Melucci and me to watch a race at his loft. (Another point of interest – Randall and Darlene moved 3 times within the subdivision with a total area of 1 mile by 1 1/2 miles to get the location that he wanted to maximize being a winner.) When Tony and I sat down to watch for his birds, we realized he has a beautiful location. He lives on a hilltop at the back of the subdivision where he can see the birds as they return to the 80+ lofts there, giving him a panoramic view of the entire area. It was truly a spectacular sight, but the best was yet to come.
When someone spotted the lead birds coming over the tree tops at a distance, Randall’s droppers were being flipped into the air. In this way the race birds were locking on to his chicos from quite a distance. Those birds came very much like you would expect to see a jet airplane landing on the runway. There was no hesitation. It was a steady descent from the distance, followed by the spectacular sight of the bird hitting directly on the electronic loft antenna. When I say “directly”, I mean no turn, no circle, just a straight line and hitting on the little pad. His lofts are set up with the standard 3-stall scanning pads that could only protrude 5 ½ inches outside the wall at that time. Yes, I was in disbelief. But by the time Tony Melucci and I left, we had seen 18 of the 20 birds entered in the race come in and hit directly on the small little pad.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is a wire landing board, but without any hesitation or any circling the birds would consistently hit directly on this little pad. After seeing that, I conceded that if my bird and Randall Berky’s bird are coming home from a race together, he will be the clear cut winner, and he only lives about 1 ½ blocks deeper and a block closer to the center of the subdivision.
Which leaves me with this thought. I hear repeatedly about birds getting stupid when they are not educated early in life; I see how a good number of my competitors train early to get the birds ready for this mental and physical task; I observe Randall Berky locking his birds up until the middle of July and always being a loft our flyers have to contend with. So I ask, “Just how bad would he beat the competition if he had smart birds instead of these stupid ones that have not been educated early?”
If you want to know how he does this, you’ll have to talk to Randall. His determination and persistence would be hard for anyone to surpass. Once he begins a process, he does not quit. Come rain or shine, he never misses a race. He is always there. In fact, he would never miss a training toss either. If you are flying in the same competition as Randall, you have to get past him to win.