We are fortunate to have two interviews with Clay. One from 2012 and one from this year (2019). While there are similarities, there are some good tips in each and well worth the read.
Interview with One of America’s Top Flyers, Clay Hoyle of North Carolina (2012)
By: Tou Yang
1) Please state your name, age, along with where you live if possible.
My name is Clay Hoyle and I live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Burke County, N.C. I just turned 75 years old in November.
2) When did you get started in flying rollers and who helped you initially with your first rollers?
I have only been flying rollers since 1990. I got into rollers by accident. I was an English Setter breeder and an old friend convinced me to get some pigeons to use in training the dogs. The pigeons turned out to be rollers. I liked the pigeons and started raising them. The first ones didn’t roll much so I started looking and got some from Danny Horner in Mebane, N.C. I called him a lot with questions that always ended like this: “Danny, the pigeons are doing (whatever)” He would always have an answer as to what to do and always ended up with this “It ain’t the pigeons, it’s you”. And it was true, the problems were coming from me LOL. Within a year I was starting to compete and that is when I met JoeBob Stuka. JoeBob has helped me a lot over the years with information and birds.
3) What family/strain of rollers did or do you have?
I still have a lot of the Danny Horner blood in my birds, most have about half, and have added a bird here and there from several people, JoeBob, Jay Yandle, Cliff Ball, and a bird that Randy Gibson bought at the NBRC convention in Spokane in 2001. That bird was bred by Dennis Hayes and Randy bought him for several hundred dollars and Randy carried it around a bit and walked up to me and said “do you want this bird?” I said sure and thanked him and have a son of his that I am breeding today. Then at the convention in NC a couple of years back, Randy bought the highest priced bird and gave her to Cliff Ball. I had been bidding on the bird and Cliff later gave her to me. Randy is known for buying the bird that everyone is bidding on and giving it away. But, the answer to this question is my birds are all mixed up. I do not raise a high percent of WC quality birds. I have all my pairs decided for 2012 and am anxiously waiting for Valentine’s day to start them breeding.
4) Which strain have worked best for you and why?
I have raised at least 10 or 12 families of birds, pure, just the way I got them from the breeder, and have yet to find any that I am 100% satisfied with. And to answer the obvious question, I am not satisfied with what are “my” family either. I think everyone manages their birds differently and that, along with location, is why you can take birds from one loft and they do not act the same at a different loft. There are so many things that are different from family to family that it is a lifelong process to get to where we want to go. What has surprised me most is to get some birds from a famous line and raise a bunch and be disappointed to the point that you scrap them all. I have done this a number of times. The birds that have “bred on” in my line are almost by accident. Here are a couple of examples; I have a 2004 hen that I think a lot of. She has made good ones with every cock except the Hayes cock. And he has made good ones with every hen except the 2004 hen. But the 2004 hen made all good ones from a son of the Hayes cock, all great rollers but they have a flaw, they all want to fly forever once they get some age on them. The 2004 hen is out of a cock that JoeBob gave me. I raised a few from that cock and a Danny Horner hen and got the 2004 hen. She was as close to great in the air as they get and always has a couple of top babies every year, but why did she not have good ones from the Hayes cock. You just cannot predict what they will produce with every mate. I had an old ugly hen that had been shot and both wings broken that was used as a foster and finally raised a couple from her and she became the top hen here for years. The only way to know what they will produce is to raise some babies and fly them out.
5) How many breeding pairs do you have and how long do your birds fly before they can become stocked as breeders?
I have room for 16 pairs of breeders in an 8X12 loft. The floor of the loft is the ground with a couple of inches of sand and an inch of pigeon droppings on that. I have some individual boxes in back of the loft but I have noticed that a lot of the time the babies in those pens are not as strong and healthy as the ones raised in the open loft. I don’t have a set time for stocking birds. I usually pick a bird from the WC team and stock it, especially if it stands out in the kit. But I have stocked a bird that is less than a year old if it stood out and there was a good chance it would get caught by the BOP. I wish I had done more of that as I have lost most of the best I have raised to the BOP. That is probably my biggest mistake, flying them during a time when I know I will lose some. That is the downside of competition. I had three birds left in the 11 bird kit from the time I won the region in 2011 until I flew in the finals. That is bad. (I did stock two).
6) What exactly do you look for when selecting breeders? A particular trait or traits?
I look for the same things that I think everyone looks for, speed and depth. But there are character issues that are very important to me. There is a family of birds, no let me change that to I have birds down from a bird that are notoriously hard to trap train. And I do it a bit differently than most in that I start them at 24-28 days old. But these birds just stand out in that they take forever to learn to trap. And here let me say that there have been serious faults with certain families that may have only been in one of the birds I had from that family and not the whole family. Here is an example of that. I raised about 75 birds from a famous family and the damn things just would not roll. They flew real fast and kitted tight and every time one would start to roll it would just break off the roll and speed back to the kit. I think the kitting instinct was just too great and it spoiled the kits. I had switched the breeders with the same results. Now I maybe could have discovered the one bird that was causing this or maybe it was in them all, I don’t know but after two years of flying I gave them away, breeders and flyers, it just wasn’t worth the effort. Let me add tht I have seen “stiff” kits at other lofts that I think was because of this same thing and those folks will never be able to fly a kit with any depth at all with those birds. I brought this up a few years back and got laughed at but I do believe that the kitting instince can be too strong.
7) What characteristics or traits do you avoid when selecting breeders and flyers?
Well, non kitting would be first. High flying would be second but I do have that in my birds and have been trying to breed around it. Those high flying birds almost always have a high Q spin, the trick is to have that spin in a bird that is not genetically programmed to fly high and forever. Now second is to try and know how much of the high flying is genetic and how much is BOP induced. I don’t care what color, pattern, eye color, type, or anything else a bird is to be stocked. I do pay all that some attention when chosing a mate. I don’t like to mate two recessive red birds together and lots of other things but I do have two recessive reds together this year, and bro/sis at that. I am experimenting with dilute to try and see if it has an impact on the high flying.
8) Is there a particular wing style you prefer and why or why not?
This is talked about all the time and I think it gets a lot more talk than it deserves. It’s hard to explain but some pigeons just look good and some do not. I think it has more to do with how long it takes to “stroke”. Pigeons have to stroke their wings on every revolution. Fast pigeons spin at least 10 RPS and some 12 RPS and I filmed one at 13 RPS, that is revolutions per second. Some use about half the circle to complete the stroke and some use about one fourth the circle or so. Now the one that uses a lot less of the circle will look a lot better than the one that uses more. Then it has to be in sync with the ground and at exactly the same part of the circle and it will look good. If it looks good that is what is important to me.
9) Tell us a little about your preparation weeks and days leading up to a comp fly. What do you feed? How often do you fly?
I fly them every day for a week or so and give them a day or two off and fly them a week or so every day then give them two days off and then fly them in competition. I feed them only wheat during this time except on the day before competition when I give them milo. If I am having problems with them I may change that up but it would vary according to the problem.
10) Who has been the most influential person to you in regards to rollers? In other words, who do you consider to be your mentor?
Like I said earlier, Danny Horner and then JoeBob. And I have learned a lot from the NBRC bulletin and Earl’s roller list.
11) You have been very successful in flying rollers. Could you explain have been able to stay atop so consistently?
Sure, it is really simple. Just raise a bunch of birds and fly the heck out of them and keep taking the ones out that mess up and the most important thing is to watch the birds when you fly them. They will teach you everything you need to know. If you don’t fly them you can’t expect them to do good, especially in competition. It takes a lot of air time for rollers to develop. And you have to watch them. And quit making excuses for them because they are out of a certain favorite bird. I try and forget what they are out of so I will not play favorites and only play favorites because of what they do.
12) Lastly, do you have any additional words of advice for your fellow fanciers?
Yes, and it is important. Raise as many birds as you have time to fly. Do not raise a bunch of birds that are not flown. They can not develop in a box, they have to have air time. Do I always do this, well for the past couple of years I have not flown my last round like they need. I have 19 out there right now that are a couple of months old that have not been flown, just turned out a few times to teach them to trap and try and save them from the BOP. But it is not good and their development is way behind.
Receiving this interview from Clay was a special treat for your webmaster (Mark Fields). You see, I go way back with Clay even though we’ve never met in person. Long before Facebook groups we were both on the old pigeon forums such as Roller World & Earl’s List. There were some really lively discussions back in those days and I quickly gained an appreciation for Clay’s wit and no-nonsense approach to rollers. He helped me steer clear of many of the myths and old-wives-tales that guide so many in this hobby. In short, he helped me become a better steward of the breed.
I know Clay is too much the gentleman to dig into those old details about the yellow birds, but I clearly recall the many “color rants” that went on back in those days and Clay set out to disprove those myths. No one can refute Clay’s ability to put up good birds whether they are red, blue, yellow or any other color or pattern.
Without further ado, I give you Clay’s interview in his own words:
1. What is your full name, age range and location?
Henry Clay Hoyle, Icard, North Carolina
2. How many pairs do you typically own and breed from a season?
I have a loft that is set up for as many as 16 pair but usually about 12 pair.
3. How many kits do you usually fly a season?
I usually raise about one hundred a year. BOP bad here.
4. When did you begin with rollers & why?
I got into rollers by accident. I was a bird hunter (grouse and quail) and a friend had me to get some pigeons to use in training dogs. That was in 1989.
5. What has influenced you the most?
Rollers are about as good as one can get for a hobby. Stay at home and have fun.
6. What is the make up of your birds (what family?)
In the 1990’s I got birds from about everyone in the Southeast except one guy and he never would sell me any of his. I have had my birds stolen twice and the third time we caught the thief in the process. Most of that oldest blood was stolen and I had to keep starting over. Thankfully, there are great friends.
The birds I am flying now are truly a mix, if I tried to list everyone I know I would miss someone, aw heck try anyway, A bit of Danny Horner from the 90’s, a little Monty from Rick Schoening, The ee (recessive red) cock from the 2001 convention, and the brown bar hen from the convention here, They were both bought at auction by Randy Gibson and I ended up with them. Long story but if there is interest I will tell it. A black grizzle cock from JoeBob out of his Frank Lavin stuff. I dun South Carolina hen someone gave Rick Mee and I used her during one of his deployment moves. (she could be where the dilute came from), A blue lace cock loaned to me by Jay Yandle. A reduced bird from Cliff Ball. A good cock from Don Greene after a theft. Two pair from James Turner. And last and least A bunch of birds I have bought.
7. Name and describe the one roller that has influenced your family the most or ‘the best’ you have ever owned.
I raised a red bar hen way back when that was as good as they get. (long story about her and I’m not telling it but she was used) I bred her one year, From her I raised a red bar grizzle cock. He carried dilute and I would get a yellow or two every year, only hens. In 2002 i raised a red bar grizzle cock from him that was in my A kit and I let a guy pick a pair from the kit. He took the red bar G cock and a black hen. He raised a kit from the pair and Dennis White bought all his birds to get the pair. When Dennis got out in 14 he gave me the 12 year old cock. I raised a sweet yellow grizzle hen from him. I mated him to the sweet hen and got two yellow cocks. Both good ones and the first yellow cocks on the place, ever.
8. What do you look for in a roller in the AIR when you are looking to stock?
“The secret to flying a good kit of rollers is to fly them often and watch them.” Don’t raise more than you can fly. If you fly them a lot you will notice the ones that are good ones and it is just simple to breed from those.
9. What do you look for in a bird on the GROUND when you are looking to stock?
I pay less to the “on the ground” than anyone I know. I just don’t pick them for the way they feel. I know most can do it but I am not good at it.
10. If you had to choose, what color/pattern would you prefer: blue check self, blue check WF, blue check badge, blue check grizzle, blue check bald, blue check bronze, recessive red self
I did mate the old cock to his daughter to get a yellow cock. She gave them to me and they are good breeders. But I like a lot of different colors. Makes it easier to tell them apart and it is free.
11. How does color and the colors in the background of the roller (parents, grandparents, etc.) affect their abilities to perform?
I had always heard that dilute birds were weaker. So, OK, I always had problems with birds that flew too high and too long. I have had good luck with the dilute. they stay down unless something gets after them. I get lots of expressions, silver, silver G, dun, dun G, yellow, yellow G, and and double G, almost white. And I do think it helps keep them down. I end up with about 25% dilutes and some cocks carrying dilute. I know that I will have to watch that I don’t get too many dilutes
12. What do you think the most important quality of a roller is?
Too many birds will get stiff as they age. I am raising now so the birds will be the age I want them for the competitions. All you guys tell me what age is the best age for the best performance? I never considered this until I started the dilute influence.
13. Is there a motto that you use or keep in mind that influences the way you breed / fly?
14. What has been the most disappointing thing that has happened while in the hobby?
Bad judging. I said when I started that I would not complain about the judges and with that in mind I will keep quiet.
15. List the top 3 items that would automatically categorize a roller as a ‘cull’?
Poor kitting. Keep in mind that a lot of birds will fly above the kit when the spin gene starts acting on them but if they keep it up…. I don’t let my birds on the ground. I will scare them up a few times but if they keep it up……….Land and fly again, I had a famous family of birds that would land and spook off the loft several times before they trapped, keep it up and…………
16. Do you compete either locally, nationally, globally?
I compete in every competition that is offered. With whatever birds I have, good or bad.
17. If you do complete, share your process or a few tips in getting your kit ready for the fly day?
Send me $1000, in a plain envelope…….I just fly them every day for 6 or 8 days and give them two days off before fly day.
18. What advice would you give to new fanciers who is main purpose is to breed champion rollers?
It is so simple, fly them often and watch them fly. I’m having a hard time doing that right now as I have a dislocated shoulder. I have 25 birds here right now that have not been flown as they REQUIRE if they are to live up to their breeding.
19. Any other topics that you feel should be covered?
I want to thank all you guys that I fly with. great bunch of guys. I’m sorry that I have not been able to make the rounds but I guess I should be thankful that I can still compete.
Above Clay had eluded to a “longer story” on a bird. I asked him to share and here is the story.