- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - Driving in Belgrade, on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Iowa Street, you might notice lots of pigeons around two small wooden houses. These homing pigeons are just a part of Sam Newville’s hobby: falconry.

Across two small pigeon houses you can see a small fenced cage with two falcons and one goshawk. Sixty-year-old Newville breeds pigeons for racing and as food for his falcons. Since he was 12 years old, Newville has spent his winters doing falconry - from September through March.

As a young boy, Newville didn’t get interested in regular hunting.

“When I was a kid I hunted with my dad, but I wasn’t a good shot. And there used to be a magazine, called Boys’ Life, and it said you can buy these hawks from this place in Florida, so I got one,” said Newville.

Every day during winter Newville and his two hunting dogs, Dakota and Bell, go out around 2 or 3 p.m. In the summertime, Newville has a sprinkling business that keeps him busy.

Newville spends most of his winters in eastern Montana, where he has another house. Miles of unplowed land is a perfect spot for falconry.

“This year I talked to a guy about extending the season, because it only goes till the first of the year. The guy was really nice about it and he asked me to put on shows for natives down there. I didn’t mind at all.”

He also enjoys watching the falcons diving in from the tremendous heights they reach.

However, during hunting people can lose the birds.

“In the past one of my birds migrated to Mexico. You can buy little transmitters and you can track them down now. I can see everything on my phone and where exactly they are,” Newville said.

He also lost one falcon to an owl and one to an eagle.

Newville likes all birds and knows a lot about them. Even though pigeons “are pretty disgusting and uneventful,” he seems to care about them and knows every “accident” that happens to them. One broke his neck, so it sees everything upside down. Another one got stuck and his leg fell off.

“There is a pigeon club in the valley,” and that club takes care of the racing part. One guy takes pigeons to Butte, the next guy takes them to Missoula, and then they start racing them for those distances. Five hundred miles is a standard race for pigeons.

Soon it will be time for Newville to butcher some of his pigeons.

“I’ll butcher the old ones that don’t breed anymore and young ones that I don’t find desirable. Ones that are born in the winter are the most desirable, because you can race them for a year,” he said.

This hobby also has one big minus. “My wife hates my driveway, as you can see it’s covered in (expletive),” Newville said as he looked down.

Falconry also has become a business. Some people breed falcons to sell and “get paid handsomely” for that, Newville said. In the Middle East they have falcon races and give away luxury prizes. “I tried to breed them but it took all the fun out of it,” he said.

Newville doesn’t attract just regular locals driving by. One day when Newville had his white falcon out in the cage, Michael Keaton stopped by. “And you recognize a Batman right off the bat. He really liked the white guy,” Newville said.

As it turns out falconry is not a new thing for Montana.

“There are getting to be quite a few of us,” he said. “This is a good place to do falconry. We have lots of public lands.”

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Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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