Montana Knife Fight

Familiar Territory: Tryan Tops Bird for Montana Circuit Lead
Three-time Montana Circuit champion header Brady Tryan has gained control of the 2023 Montana Circuit standings, but not without a fight from Dustin Bird.
Brady Tryan turning a steer for Calgary Smith in Red Lodge, Montana, in 2023.
Brady Tryan spinning one for Calgary Smith in Red Lodge, Montana, over the Fourth. | Avid Visual Imagery

With $23,067.39 won in the Montana Circuit, three-time circuit champ and two-time NFR header Brady Tryan is back in the lead. 

Gaining control hasn’t been easy, though. Five-time NFR qualifier Dustin Bird has jumped in and out of the No. 1 position all year, and now sits only $1,562.44 behind Tryan with $21,504.95 in circuit money. Two guys with more than $20,000 won on the year with multiple circuit rodeos left in the season is a first in Big Sky Country as well.

“We’ve had to rope really good with Dustin Bird and Ike Folsom dominating this summer,” Tryan, 34, said of the other top-running team. “We just happened to have a really good last few weeks and it kind of let us get caught up. I’m just barely ahead of Dustin, and he’s been heading so good. It’s not often that two guys in Montana have as much won as we both do with still a few rodeos left—that’s never happened before.”

Upward climb

Since taking the lead in the circuit, Tryan continues on an upward climb, adding $6,927 to his standings just last week, Aug. 14-20, 2023. 

Tryan and his partner, Calgary Smith, 24, started the week at the co-approved Cody Night Rodeos in Wyoming Aug. 14 and 15. Between both Cody rodeos, they both pocketed $1,416. From there, they travelled to Baker, Montana, for the Fallon County Fair & Rodeo—one of the circuit’s bigger rodeos in August—where their 4.8-second run split second and won them $3,726 a man. 

“We had a real good steer and just made a pretty good run,” Tryan said. “Calgary heeled him fast, which probably made up the time that we needed to jump ahead because it was so tight. If we were a couple of tenths longer, we’d win a couple thousand less.”

The team rounded out the week at the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo in Kalispell for another second-place finish with a 5.6 to both take home $1,785.

Tryan has been paired up with 14-year-old “Gypsy,” a mare with a style like Tryan’s.

“She’s been a good horse for me these last few months,” Tryan said. “She’s just kind of a winner. If you draw good, she lets you use your rope. She’s easy to be aggressive on and just kind of lets you do the same thing every time.”


Though Tryan is heating up the circuit, it wasn’t always the main goal for 2023. Originally, he and Smith were laser-focused on the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

“We went up to Canada in the month of June to try and make that finals,” Tryan explained. “Our first rodeo was like the last weekend in May, and then we stayed up there for just over a month. Since it went good enough, we kind of just kept entering, and Calgary said he’d go wherever I wanted to go.”

They both sit in the top five of the Canadian Pro Rodeo standings and are continuing toward that goal while also keeping the ball rolling here in the States. 

As an Adams, Oregon, native, Smith naturally claimed the Columbia River Circuit at the beginning of the year before they planned on roping together. Once they realized how challenging it would be to Canadian rodeo and hit both PRCA circuits—keeping in mind that Tryan has a wife and two babies at home in Huntley, Montana—Smith was on board with whatever was best for the team.

“He told me whenever we decided to go to Canada that he just wasn’t going to worry about [the Columbia River Circuit] as much,” Tryan said. “And since I do have a family and I need to be home at least some, trying to rodeo in the two circuits and Canada, it’s pretty much impossible. He was cool with that, and he kind of set his sights on the Canadian Finals and, hopefully, a chance to get into some winter rodeos.”

Not only is Smith up for anything, he’s also wicked fast in the pen.

“He’s excited to be there, and he has heeled so good that it’s made me look way better than I’ve probably even done,” Tryan said. “He doesn’t miss, and he throws as fast as he possibly can every time. He’s got a pretty high percentage of catching, too.”

Down the road

Tryan and Smith head to Lethbridge, Alberta, Friday, Aug. 25, and will stick on the Canadian route until coming back south for Coeur D’alene, Idaho’s Gem State Stampede that same weekend. The year is winding down for the two, depending on how they continue to sit in the Canadian standings.

“We’re only entered for a couple more weeks, depending on Canada,” Tryan said. “It’s pretty tight right now. We’re fifth but could easily be 13th—it’s not very far away. So, we need to win something, or else we have to go back up there in September, and we would like to go ahead and just get it done as fast as possible.”

With the chance to get into the big winter ProRodeos, it raises the question of whether or not we’ll see Tryan hit the road for another NFR appearance. But with a 2-year-old little girl and a 4-month-old baby boy, there’s not a definitive answer.

“Obviously I’d love to, but with a family it’s different,” Tryan said. “Which, they like to go, so that helps. If I knew I was going to make it or something when I took off from home, it would be different than going out there and grinding it out for a maybe. But if I got into the winter rodeos, and if we could rope as good as we’ve roped together this summer, then it’d be dang sure worth a shot.”

Here in the present, Tryan is in the hunt for his fourth Montana Circuit title, a goal even sweeter with his family’s newest addition, Tee.

“It would be cool to win it,” Tryan said. “Anything you set out in that you’re doing, why not try to win it? I won the circuit when Oakley was born, and I got the saddle’s seat small, so it was for her. And it’d be cool to do the same thing for [my son] if that’s possible.”

Tryan knows that Bird will make him work for it, though, which may make the win even sweeter.

“Dustin’s not going to make it easy on me, but I’m going to try. It’s fun; Dustin heads so good, if I do beat him, it means I did something.”

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