What is it with new flyers?
By John Vance

Note: This item was written before I moved to Southern Califoria

What is it with new flyers? Twice in the past week, I have come across new flyers that are demonstrating all the right desire but the wrong (in my opinion) process to get there.

A new member in our club, who has been reading the Digest for months now, just couldn't wait and ordered a pair of grizzles. Only problem is they are late - late hatches and won't be able to breed until probably May, and we start flying YB's in Mid July. So, how are these birds going to help him in 2004. Maybe later they will help, but the first year of flying is the most important in building a good experience for these new flyers.

Another new flyer called me after viewing my website and asked about purchasing birds. He said that he had visited my site and saw that I had birds from strains he had heard were winning. Instead of selling him some of my birds I recommended he purchase from another flyer who I knew had birds that would fly in his climate and race course. This new flyer wasn't interested in these birds as they were not the "strains" being advertised.

Don't get me wrong, I do sell to new flyers but I am more interested in making sure they get the proper start in the sport. And, in my opinion, the best staring point is to begin with birds that will fly successfully for you immediately!

In our "new" club member's case, where he should go for birds is the club. Not all his birds but say 60% - 80% should be birds from proven local lofts. In the second case, the newest wonderboy strain name does not make a bird qualified to fly every race course.

I have found from my own experiences that there is much to be learned in order to be successful in your first year of flying. All to often the smallest mistake in training or hygine can end the season for these new flyers. I think in the first year(s), your management technique is more important than your stock selection. Inexpensive local birds are (in most situations) the best start for a new flyers. After one or more seasons, the new flyer can make a more knowledgable decision about their stock acquisitions.

Now let me pontificate on how a new flyer should be indoctrinated into the sport. But before I do, let me tell you about our club's Late Hatch Classic.

Every year, a different member of the club is the host of this race and will handle about 30 birds that are all moved into the classic loft in Mid April or May. Our first Classic was a 100 mile race. our second classic was a 60 mile race. Oh, I forgot to tell you the idea is to have fun not win the race. For one day of the year, we just sit around as a club having fun, The race is in September after our YB season is completed. We BBQ, and picnic and talk and have fun. We calcutta each bird and after the race we auction the birds off. Rarely does the owner of the bird win their calcutta. Some of the birds are bid on and won by the children or grandchildren of the flyers. We only send the birds 60 - 100 miles because we have all been to money races were no birds or only a few come home. Besides, they are not trained all that hard so a short release is enough to break up the group and spread them out.

This year, the birds only had 60 miles to fly yet then came in one's and two's and mostly out of the north which means they overflew the loft. The first bird was about 1 minute ahead, then another bird and another, etc. After about 7 minutes we had 5 birds on the roof of the house and none on the landing board. What suspense, what drama! The big question as we sat and watched, was whose bird would enter the loft first?

Oh, I know you are probably thinking what kind of a race is that???? Well, it is the best day of the year that we spend together. Being the winner means little and being an "also ran" means little. Being in the company of your "flying friends" and their families for an afternoon of fun and food, that is the purpose of our Late Hatch Classic.

So now, back to how I think a new flyer should get their first birds. Let the new flyer's loft serve as a "One Loft Race" series loft. Have all the experienced flyers that want to participate, enter a small team of yb's with an entry fee of $10 - $20 a bird. Award the prize money to the top three average speed birds 50% / 30% / 20%. Because of our competitive natures, and the prize money, all the yb's entered will probably be from the best birds in the breeder's loft. They are competing for a flash of glory, club bragging rights and hopefully $500 to $1000 bucks in prize money.

Because the purpose of this exercise is really to populate the new flyer's loft with a good team of yearling flyers for the coming old bird season, it is best to not encourage the new flyer to push these "average speed" birds. Possilby make it a modified race series of 100, 150 and 200 mile races. You don't want the new flyer to feel like they have to ship every bird to every race, but you do want them and the birds to have a race season under their belts (wings). You don't want the new flyer to have a descimated yearling team because of yb losses rather a strong yearling team for the next season that will allow them to compete through the short and middle distance races.

You have probably noticed that I am discouraging the new flyer from racing complete seasons in youngbirds and their first old bird season. I find in most clubs, that the majority of flyers are short handed when it comes to a strong team of old bird flyers. They are always playing catch-up and usually have a old bird team heavy on yearlings.

A good way to start out a new flyer is to get them through their first yb and ob seasons with minimal losses. If after two race seasons they have a strong team of yearlings that have made it through their first ob season, they are equipted for continued success in our sport.

We have all heard about the bird sellers who prey upon the ignorence of new flyers, and convince them that they will never get good birds from local flyers, but will only get good birds if they buy from the seller, who can sell good birds because they won't have to compete against their own birds, or some other simular "cock and bull" story.

Getting a new flyer off to a good start is the best thing we can do for our sport. If the new flyer can tie their success to the birds and support they received from their local club members, then a strong and healthy bond will exist between the new member and the rest of the club, and that club has laid a successful foundation for the new member.

Just as our club's Late Hatch Classic Race serves a needed bonding purpose within the club, getting your new members off to a great start with good birds from club members, can be a opportunity for the whole club to enjoy the success of their new flyers and to enjoy some fun competition and comraderie outside of the normal basketing and knock-off gatherings.