Peter Matic’s and his 2013 CCF Bird of the Year
By Paul Gibbs
Peter Matic is a 53 yr old pigeon fancier that was born in Australia of German and Croatian parentage. At the age of four, his family decided to move back to Germany where they purchased a house not far from the Dutch/Belgium border, and this is where his love affair with pigeons began. Peter said that as a child he could still remember his first contact with pigeons, as a neighbour kept and raced pigeons and that as a fascinated child would spend most of his free time in the loft with his
Peter said that his neighbour became his mentor and even after all the years that have the past can still remember all the secrets and methods that which were told and showed to him. Peter said that his neighbour would always say “nothing comes from nothing, don’t waste your short life with pigeons that are too slow or weak, they belong in Pigeon Heaven”.
In those days the pigeon sport was still very big with nearly everyone in our village keeping pigeons, we’re taking 1967 like it was the only sport that existed. Peter saying he always wanted to know how pigeons found their way home and why some were fast and others slow.
Living only 15 km from the Dutch and Belgium border made it easy to visit many other pigeon fanciers and do the household shopping while there. On one of his visits, he befriended a Dutch fancier who was racing on the “widowhood” system and was seemly unbeatable. This new friend helped Peter and his father build a widowhood loft and taught Peter how to bring his birds into top condition.
In their first two years of racing, Peter said that they made a lot of mistakes, but in their third year they won nearly everything there was to win. At that time I was only twelve years of age and was the helper of a Champion Flyer. Peter saying that his neighbour was his hero and that they had big plans for the future, but it was not God’s will.
His hero and neighbour had a stroke and passed away leaving Peter to ask himself “What will I do now? He was like a father to me”.
My real father was rarely home due to work commitments and had a dislike for most animals.
One day my father saw how much I missed my neighbour and his pigeons, so he built me a bigger loft but I had to promise to be good at school, all I needed now was good pigeons to fill it. Unfortunately, my neighbour’s wife disposed of all his pigeons quite quickly, reinforcing my opinion as to my dislike for her as she would always give me a hard time whenever I visited.
Soon afterwards after hearing of my position, many local fanciers gifted me pigeons to kick off with, many of which I fell in love with, but to tell you the truth most of these were just “homing pigeons”, not “race pigeons”. One of these, a blue bar cock was always consistent to my loft being my first bird
home many times, but unfortunately was usually an hour or so behind the winning birds.
Peter said that for the next two years he continued to play around with the birds he had until one day at a club ring off the best flyer in the Federation at the time asked if he could come and visit my loft. I was frozen to think that a champion fancier like him would even talk to me, never mind want to see my loft and birds. This fanciers name was Erich; he was an elderly man who had been at the top of his game for many years. A stern man that was military drilled during the Second World War, he didn’t tolerate fools, showed little mercy for things that were not right, everything had to be done on time, no mistakes were accepted. Such was his manner that many despised him.
Peter said that he arranged that Erich should come to his house the next day at 9 am. Saying that he was so excited he barely slept that night. At 8:59 that morning Erich arrived, and we soon went into the garden and down to my loft. I felt proud like never before. Erich said, “show me your best pigeon”,
so of course I quickly grabbed the blue bar cock and gave it to him. Erich didn’t even bother to look at him; before I knew it he had rung its neck. I called crying to my father, I thought my father would kill him!
My father ran up the garden, but before my father could speak old Erich started talking, saying to my father that he wanted to help me and become my new mentor and that he would provide me with the best he could breed and that I should not waste my time with second rate pigeons. After further
discussions it was agreed to dispose of all the birds I currently had. They all went that day.
The following Monday afternoon old Erich turned up with 49 youngsters, a few of these would end up becoming my foundation pigeons. I started counting them and asked why are there 49 birds and not 50, as it seemed like an odd number. Erich said, “listen, son, pigeon racing is like a lottery, there are 49 numbers here if you get 6 right you are a millionaire. If six youngsters become top birds you will be famous and rich in no time. Just race them in the coming season and we will talk later.
He gave me a feeding plan and training schedule and took the birds every fortnight to a local Vet to ensure the pigeons were OK. During that period we had a 5-week race program for young birds. In those days young birds were only raced to a distance of 280km. After this race program was finished
Erich came past to select certain birds out of the 45, which was left. He looked at every bird’s performance over the 5-week race program culling 21 of them leaving 24 birds to race the following season as old birds (yearlings) and to further prove what they may be capable of, racing them through
to 700km. At the end of the season, only 3 of them turned out to be good enough to keep. This being only 3 of the original 49 pigeons that survived to see Christmas for the second time in my loft.
Over the following years, Enrich was to supply me with further youngsters and occasionally bought birds from some of the top performed lofts in the district for me to try. Those 3 birds, 2 cocks, and 1 hen lived and had a good life in my breeding loft, producing some outstanding birds over the years.
Today, after 47 years I know I had done well to have had 3 good pigeons. As Enrich said; “pigeon racing can be like a lottery” and can come down to just being lucky, (although I am still not a millionaire). In my 27 years of racing in Germany, I had both good and bad years, but I still love my pigeons, and
still don’t know why it is that they come home, some quick and some slow.
Peter said that in 2001 he moved back to Australia from Germany to start a new life, in doing so he did not realise that there was Pigeon Racing here. It was while living at his uncle’s place in Oatley that one afternoon he noticed a flock of pigeons working not too far away. He followed the flock and looked to see where they were landing. When he identified the house, he went up and knocked on the door introducing himself and asked could he have a look at the pigeons.
The fancier welcomed Peter in, but on seeing his set up and pigeons was not impressed. Peter said he seemed like a very nice bloke, but in his opinion had a lot to learn to say that; “nobody is perfect and that everyone can learn more”. This was Peter’s way back into pigeon racing and as time would have it they became good friends. In no time at all Peter found himself a member of the Punchbowl Pigeon Club, saying that at this point he should mention one thing; “I couldn’t speak much English but spoke the language of pigeons and that was good enough to make many friends”.
In the beginning, I built a simple loft just to have some birds. I went to auctions and bought birds from local fanciers and just played around with them for a while. My first loft in Riverwood was perfect in summer, but in winter was a nightmare. The backyard was always full of water and damp, I tried everything for years but it was in the wrong location.
Peter said that he stayed there for four years before deciding to move to Westmead to race pigeons. At this stage, Peter said; “I must mention my new neighbour, Tom Wills who was to become over the following years a very good friend. It was through Tom that I was quick to realise that there are many good fanciers in Australia with Tom Wills being one of the best and now here I was living next door to him and was about to be racing against him. It seemed like a big challenge and a lot of hard work was coming my way”.
It was not long after that Peter was told that a shipment of pigeons was due to arrive in Australia from an old mate back in Germany, this fanciers name is Willi van Beers, these birds being those of the Hardy Kruger bloodlines.
Peter had a knowledge of how good and well performed these birds have been for his friend Willi in Germany, as he was a top professional fancier there, and in his opinion, these were the pigeons he had to get hold of. As it turned out Peter was doing some work for both Tom Wills and Vince Pedavoli and in return he was rewarded with six children direct off the imports, what he considered to be Germany’s best.
Four of these youngsters were bred by Tom Wills, the other two by Vince Pedavoli, these youngsters being exceptionally well bred down off German National Ace Pigeons. The two from Vince being grandsons of Carl Lewis. Not easy to get hold of. All these birds were line bred to Hardy Kruger’s champion, “Carl Lewis”. As a matter of interest, I’ve been told that both Louis Wouters and Louis Van Loon, both master breeders in their own right, crossed the Carl Lewis line of Hardy Kruger from Rommerskirchen Germany into their birds.
Peter said that one of the cocks produced him his best two stock hens when crossed to a daughter of Louis Wouter’s Golden Pair. The cock from the Golden Pair was later sold and the hen remained in my loft until she died. Another line used to cross into those of the original 6 were a Staff Van Reet/Jos Thone cock and hen off an Albert Marcellis import that were bred for me by Tom Wills in 2005. I raced both these birds and they both showed to be outstanding race birds which when put to stock, paired to each other became a super breeding pair. This combination of birds are now my family of birds which I line breed. I should mention one other introduction, a line bred hen of “Kleine Dirk” of Gerald Koopman, which I purchased from Mark Schubert, which turned out to be a top producer for me.
Peter said he doesn’t like to bring too many different families of pigeons into his loft unless they are well proven birds, but in 2010 he said he purchased a line bred to “Birdy”, a direct import from Germany. “Birdy” of Sudhoff/van Beers is the best performing pigeon in one loft racing and sold for a
record sum of $106,000 US to Mark Kitchenbrand in South Africa. This cock had already produced a 1st and 2nd Fed in the VHA before I bought him.
Now to “Forest Gump” – the CCF Bird of the Year 2013 Peter said he was elated when he heard that his bird’s nomination had won the title of CCF “Bird of the Year – 2013” as it is a big honour to have bred the bird that had been so consistent, and to win ahead of so many thousand other birds, especially with this bird’s race achievements coming at the end of the year.
When questioned, Peter said; “That’s right, I called him Forest Gump”, he was originally bred for the Blacktown Blue Ring Race, but only had one race before the Ring Race, that being from Orange where he was an equal club winner coming with my clocked bird having topped the Section as well.
He flew the Ring Race later that year putting up a strong showing but unfortunately was not among the prize-winners, but I had a feeling that his turn would come”.
Around that particular time Peter said that he was planning to relocate, and had purchased a house on the Mid North Coast of NSW. This had kept him away from home on a regular basis as he was undertaking major renovations in preparation for his move. Peter said he can remember coming
home one Wednesday and couldn’t help but notice that “Forest” was limping and not knowing what had caused his injury didn’t send him again until later in the season from the 1st Ivanhoe race (600km).
As mentioned earlier, Peter said that as a young boy he was trained to motivate his pigeons, pushing them to the edge saying that he has always trained his birds the way he was taught as a youngster. Saying that; “Widowhood is not easy at the beginning of the season, but very helpful when you get up the line. It’s not as much work as some fanciers think, just needs a different loft design. I heard it said many times here – Widowhood won’t work here. Of course it won’t if you don’t do it the correct way”.
Peter was quick to point out that as a young fancier he had burnt his fingers many times, but eventually was taught how to push pigeons to their limits the correct way, saying we all learn from our mistakes, or should. He said that he has told many of his friends that fit pigeons are tuff and has explained to them how hard they are pushed in Germany.
Peter said that many of his friends told him you couldn’t do that here, saying his answer is always the same – “If they can’t handle the pressure, I don’t want them”. Peter believes that pigeons love to fly and that they get fitter the more you send them as long as you feed them right when they come home
and prepare them properly for their next race they should be fine and don’t train them too long around the loft, they need their energy for the weekends.
Back to “Forest Gump”, Peter believes that towards the end of the season he was just starting to warm up to become the champion he is. He was in top shape and ready to send to the 950km race, the last for the season, but that was the weekend that he had to move to Taree. In the end Peter said
that he was glad not to be able to send him saying that the Falcon can claim the best of them, and many times has.
In just fourteen days “Forest” went to three consecutive races, flying a total of 2150km where he finished 1st Club, 22nd Fed from the first Ivanhoe, 2nd Club, 46th Fed All Age Derby, and 1st Club, 1st Fed Menindee (800km) making it home on the day in a strong northerly wind. Peter said he is now
retired and I am happy to see him dancing around in his box.
Peter said that his dam won for him his first race in Australia and that his Sire won $1,000 in the Rooty Hill Ring Race from Orange by 26 minutes. A half Sister won $3,000 in the Rooty Hill race from Euabalong West, with only six birds home on the day, taking 8 hrs to fly 400km. Peter believes that
this family of birds are the best that he has ever owned. Saying that he has won many races and topped his Federation Section countless times with his family of pigeons saying; “I believe in them, and more importantly what they do”.
Feeding and Medication – The following are Peter’s comments on feeding and medicating his family of pigeons – I have found that most feed that is available for racing pigeons to be of a poor standard and generally not always good enough. I often ask why is it that in Australia where most grains are grown, it is difficult much of the time to purchase good quality grain.
I can’t stress the importance in obtaining grain that is clean and fungus free. One bad grain can spoil a feed with drastic race returns and results. Quite often purchasing grain can be like playing poker; you never know what you will be dealt. I like to feed my birds differently every day. I believe it is not good to feed birds the same mix every day. It is almost impossible to write a feeding plan because of changes in weather, how the weather was on the last race, what will the weather be like for the next race not to mention the weather on a daily basis – hot, cold, wet and/or humidity levels.
In general when your birds arrive home from a race it is important to build them up with protein, as much as they want for the first two days (Saturday/Sunday). Monday is cleansing day, which means you should feed them as much barley as they can eat to help clean out their system. Then you can start to build them up slowly, Thursday/Friday filling their tanks with high energy feed (Corn and Oil seeds). It is also beneficial to give the birds an iron supplement early in the week.
It’s also a good idea to have your birds checked by a Veterinarian on a regular basis of which there are two in Sydney and several others in other states and major centres. Don’t follow any particular programmes when you treat your birds, observe them daily and watch how they behave in the loft,
they will tell you if something is wrong.
Try some Apple Cider Vinegar occasionally in the water, or administer a good commercial multi vitamin along with a Pigeon Herb Tea. Some medications will give your birds a good boost but it will only last for a short time. If your loft is dry there should not be too many problems especially with Coccidia. Canker on the other hand can be a big problem if not checked. A good seven-day treatment with Ronidazole before the season commences is recommended. Make sure your loft is free of Salmonella. In my opinion this is a major problem in many Australian lofts. In Europe birds are vaccinated against this disease. A blood test will soon determine if your birds are infected, if so it is extremely important to treat. Respiratory problems quite often affect many fanciers birds, this can be attributed to several things i.e. Loft design, drafts, poor ventilation and over crowding to name just a few.
I’d like to thank Peter for his time and views on his aspects of pigeon racing, and wish him all the best when next he races on the Mid North Coast. If anyone would like to have a chat with Peter he can be contacted on 0403-415-278 or via our contact page.
Footnote: A previous article claimed ownership of the “CCF Bird of the Year 2013” It may have been a misprint/interpretation, but “Forest Gump” is the actual title holder. In closing, and in light of the “new race season” being upon us, the following quote by William Faulkner may be appropriate: “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself”.
Source: Author: Gibbs Paul,
Australian Racing Pigeon Journal
March 2014 Vol 22 No 3 – Page 27