It did not take very long for several people to challenge my statement that flying in the GHC is the fairest and most competitive in the United States. So here is why I made such a strong statement.

1. cost of real estate
2. construction of pigeon lofts
3. training
4. supplies for your birds
5. fairness of race course/loft location

In relocating, one of the major considerations is the cost of real estate. In fact, I think that is the one single factor that stopped people from moving into the San Fernando Valley when that area appeared to be the new mecca of pigeon flying a number of years ago. By way of contrast, a fancier can move into the boundaries of the GHC club and find property ranging from the very inexpensive all the way to upscale. For example, inexpensive housing is available if you choose to move into a nice mobile home. There are a number of areas where it is possible to place a mobile home on 2 1/2 acres of land. This gives you agricultural zoning, where there are no restrictions and an excellent location to fly pigeons.

Next let's focus on the subdivision itself, since this is where I live, and which I also consider to be the most desirable for wives and social interaction. There you can purchase a home from about $90,000 to probably $200,000. The subdivision is laid out with the lots being 1 acre or a little larger. The streets are all paved, which is very important in Florida. Plus, you have the interaction and social contacts with your fellow pigeon flyers.

A new home in the subdivision with cathedral ceilings and in-ground swimming pool can be easily bought for about $150,000. So you see, real estate within the boundaries of the GHC is affordable at any price range that is comfortable for you. I would call that real equality for any pigeon flyer who wants to compete.

As to pigeon lofts, in other areas of the country, pigeon flyers are hampered by the kinds of lofts they are allowed to build because of restrictions or fear of neighbor problems. Here in Spring Hill, that is eliminated. You get a building permit and you build your dream loft. Most lofts are 10' by 40', or 12' by 33'. With these measurements, you are within the 400 square foot limit. A loft with more square footage requires a plan certified by an approved architect. But you can build more than one loft, or you can go larger, which a number of people have done.

So when you come to Florida, you know you can build your dream loft. Putting up a building that suits you is as possible for you as for anyone else. Here flyers build the lofts they always wanted to have with their own unique ideas and innovations. They can have the room they always wanted and enjoy their birds to the fullest. After all, this is our last hoorah!

There is no such thing as a "Florida loft". For the most part, the lofts are an extension of the flyer's past and of course his future dreams. Some of them have open fronts, but most of them are closed just like they are where the flyer came from. Ventilation systems and ideas are standard or unique. You will see wooden floors that are scraped daily, deep litter, but also open floors with trays underneath them.

If you visit Spring Hill for the GHC classic in November and/or the AU convention in December, you will certainly see very modern lofts and many different features. The 2 main concentrations of lofts are found in the subdivision and at the short end. In either place you can more than likely walk from loft to loft. And people will be glad to show you what they have.

Now let's talk training. This is always one of the major subjects pigeon people like to talk about. They usually claim they do not have the time or the ability to train as much as their club-mates. This gives them the feeling that they are not on a level playing field. That problem or concern is also equalized in Spring Hill.

First of all, time is not a problem, since most of the people are retired and therefore use their hobby to eliminate any possible boredom. In Spring Hill you can train to your heart's content. Just recently a new freeway opened up with an entrance and exit on County Line Road 2 miles east of the subdivision. This gives a clean shot to get past any congestion and be in the open country for training. As you drive north, you will encounter beautiful large cattle ranches and you will also travel through horse country and stands of pine. Many people do not train by themselves, but combine with several friends or on small trailers or pickup trucks.

Also, there are several larger training trucks which run 5 or 6 days a week. There are longer tosses before the races begin and on the off weekends. The truck that I am most familiar with is that of Charlie Hoffman. He is an extremely conscientious trainer who really looks after your birds. He takes great pride if the winning pigeon that week has been trained on his truck. Here are your options if you are on his truck. You may either load your birds in the evening or bring them in the morning. You are assigned your own compartment, which is quite inexpensive. I assume the price has gone up some because of gas prices, but 2 years ago I know a compartment cost $3.00 or two for $5.00. Each compartment houses 30 to 35 birds.

The beauty of this does not stop with the price. When you load your birds, Charlie has a small notebook in his hand and he asks you "Where do you want them?" He normally makes 3 stops: 35 miles, 50 miles, and approximately 70 miles. You tell him where you want your birds released, and also if you want them up separately or with everyone else who is releasing at that point. When he returns from training, he will call you, or you can call him, and he will tell you when your birds were released. Now I don't know where you can get it any better than that. To repeat, training your birds can be done as often and as far or short as you like. It is truly an affordable, equal opportunity for everyone.

Another factor is getting your supplies for your birds. In Spring Hill you have the option of at least 2 feed stores. One is Heritage Feed, a Canadian feed company, which is presently run by Roger O'Neill, a successful pigeon flyer. It is located right next to the subdivision. They handle medications and supplements also. The second and probably the granddaddy of pigeon feed stores is American Pet Supply, which is owned and operated by the well-known pigeon fancier Alan Frampton. Here you will see skid upon skid of different pigeon feeds. Al handles the Baden Canadian feed, but also many of the Pennsylvania feeds. At American you also have a large room displaying nothing but pigeon supplements and medications. If you can't find it here, you certainly have a problem. Both feed stores have capable men running them who will advise you on any of your needs. So again, it is fair and equal for all because it is available to everyone. Besides that, it is always a social call for the pigeon flyer to go to a feed store and spend some time.

Probably the one factor that makes pigeon flying the most frustrating in the United States is the way we are spread out. We often feel cheated or robbed on race day because we have been beaten by someone who has an advantageous loft location, especially when the wind blows from one side or the other. In addition, when fanciers advertise that they have won against big competition, quite often it is just not so. Let's say a loft flies in a large federation that is perhaps 60 or 70 miles wide. When the wind blows from one side or the other, the winning loft on that particular day really did not fly against the entire liberation, but was only competing with 5 or 10 lofts that were close to him and were favored that particular day. But then you hear the hoopla how the person has won against these big numbers when in reality 95% of the competitors were not flying the same race and were not contenders.

We also have the situation in some areas where certain lofts are favored because of large bodies of water or mountain passes that the birds have to come through. How about the guys who are very cleverly located 10 or 20 miles behind the concentration of pigeon lofts? Here if the birds are blown to either side, how can a guy who is deep miss? The above factors are nullified in Florida, making it a very fair race course. In reality it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get a loft location that will give you a big advantage, especially in Spring Hill. Remember, the birds enter a very narrow front. In the subdivision the width is only one mile. I hope this has clarified to several of you my statement that this is the fairest and toughest competition in the United States.

The real estate, pigeon lofts, training, availability of supplies, and loft locations are as equalized as I know it to be anywhere in the States. The competition ­ well, you have 160 members in the GHC club alone and you compete in the Tampa Bay Concourse with over 200 members.