Montana's Dustin Bird has made four trips to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, fitting professional team roping into his busy ranching schedule every year. The Cut Bank native helps his family run cows across Big Sky Country, and his ranching background has made him into one of the top-all-around hands in the professional ranks. He's added parenting 5-month-old Stockton to his busy resume in 2017, and he's hitting that out of the park, too. Stockton and Bird's girlfriend, Alicia, stay on the road with him and are enjoying their busy winter, which has already included a Champions Challenge win in Grand Island, Neb. last week, a go-round win in Denver and lots of other checks along the way–not to mention a second-place check at RFD-TV's The American worth $25,000.
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How’s it been having a baby on the road?
Stockton’s already traveled a lot. I go to bed a little earlier than I used to now, but I wouldn't trade it. I don't like being away from him and Alicia at all now. Stockton loves the bright lights and music.
What horses do you have on the road this year?
The same four—Yahtzee, Dolly, Tupac and Cowboy. Last year really helped me get confident on Yahtzee and Tupac so I could give Dolly some much needed time off. She's sound for 2017, and Erich Rogers gets on her from time to time, too. He rode her at The American, and it was awesome to have two of my horses in the short round in AT&T Stadium.
You just lost your Uncle Beaver Bird, who was instrumental in building the Arizona roping scene. Tell us a little about him.
He left Montana 20 or 25 years ago, and he started putting on Horseworld Ropings every Tuesday. He would get 500 or 600 teams every Tuesday. His first treatment was Dec. 4, 2014, so he battled cancer for 2.5 years. He was a very supportive, up-beat guy. He was always positive. He was my dad’s oldest brother. They grew up ranching, and he got into race horses. He started putting on ropings when he moved to Arizona, and he roped all his life. He had to quit a year or so ago. He had five kids and quite a few grandkids, and we all miss him.
Are you going on the California run?
No. I need to help out more at home. Russell and I talked about it, but I honestly didn’t want to go. Last year we were fourth high-call, didn’t win anything in the go-rounds, won $1,200 that whole week. I went to Clovis and didn’t do any good and that was it.
So then what will you be doing this spring at home instead?
My brothers and my dad are calving. I went up last week and helped out for four or five days. I need to feed cows and calve cows and heifers. That will let me get in more of the work, not going to California. I usually show up and they’re done calving and we’re branding. Stockton is coming with me, and all of that will be fun because it's all new with him for the first time.
Who do you have at the George Strait this weekend?
Russell, Kyle Lockett and Cory Petska. Cory's an awesome second partner. Kyle and I have been good friends since we got to know each other, and he’s still one of the best heelers around. He just goes to the California Circuit rodeos because he has his family there, but he could make the NFR every year.
What rodeos are you most looking forward to this summer?
Great Falls, Mont. It’s close to my house. And Russell and I do well in Montana. Everyone I’ve ever traveled with tells me I’m a different person at the Montana rodeos. I love being home, going back to the house every night and just rodeoing in Montana.
You're the reigning Canadian Pro Rodeo Association champion header. Are you going back to Canada this year?
Absolutely. It’s equal money this year at the Canadian Finals, so it will get more people guys for sure. There are 10 or 12 teams who asked me about it already. Everybody wants me to enter them, buddy with them or stay at the house. They must think I know Canada.