These team ropers who hunt are making a living in the hunting industry, with a passion for conservation and wide open spaces of the American West.
Outdoor Involvement: Covered S Ranch Guide, Safari Club International
Location: Lipan, Texas
Roping Cred: Two-time World Champion Heeler, three-time NFR Average Champion
Smith has been eaten up with roping and hunting his whole life and, between running Driven Services—the oilfield services company he owns with Trevor Brazile—and family-man and professional heeler roles, Smith builds the outdoor industry into his must-do list.
“I was 11, and my dad had a hunting lease in West Texas, and that’s where it started for me,” Smith said. “By the time I was 14, things shifted in our lives, and I didn’t get to hunt again until my 30s. Once I got around more people like Brandon Webb in South Texas and Mark Maunder in Oregon, I had great outdoorsmen for my mentors. It’s no different than roping—when you want to do something the right way, it’s good to get around experience and wisdom.”
“When you really start hunting and traveling, you’re less likely to be successful than you are to be successful, but there’s so much more to it,” Smith said. “It’s teaching people what hunting is all about. It’s the lifestyle and the conservation dollars that are pumped into it that protect forests and animals. We love animals, and we believe in this way of life more than anything and will protect it with everything we have. It’s been taking place since the dawn of man.”
Outdoor Involvement: Owner, Covered S Ranch
Location: Snyder, Texas
Roping Cred: 4 header
More Info: coveredsranch.com
The Covered S Ranch, located near Snyder, Texas, is a family-owned and -operated working ranch where guests can experience the ranch’s rustic elegance and modern amenities. And the word is, it’s a favorite getaway of two-time World Champion Patrick Smith. Smith is a long-time friend of ranch owner Chet Pharies who loves hosting friends and family at the Covered S Ranch and has opened it up for guided hunts with overnight stays.
Prior to owning the Covered S Ranch, Chet played football at Texas Tech University before leaving to take over his brother’s one-van carpet cleaning business. Nearly 30 years later, Pharies has grown Carpet Tech exponentially and owns several other companies, including CT Customs, a custom automotive and accessory shop. But Pharies’ true passions are hunting and roping, and he now makes time for both at the Covered S Ranch.
The 27,000-acre Covered S Ranch is perfect for hunting, and Pharies has significantly improved it in the last few years.
“When we bought the land, we just had aoudad sheep, whitetail and mule deer,” Pharies said. “About three years ago, we built a high fence around Flat Top Mesa and have exotics that fit.”
Flat Top Mesa is a prominent landmark on the ranch towering approximately 400 feet above the rolling plains.
“It’s such a cool spot,” Pharies said. “The terrain includes mesquite and cedar, rolling plains, rugged canyons and open pastures.”
The Covered S Ranch now offers traditional guided hunts for mule deer, whitetail and varmin, like coyotes, bobcats and feral hogs. Additionally, guests can book guided exotic hunts for everything from the North African aoudad sheep to Asian markhor—a large goat species usually found in Pakistan—and everything in between.
Pharies’ Covered S Ranch also sports a covered arena with a full roping setup, where he can get away and run a few between business meetings and guided hunts.
The lodge at Covered S also offers authentic getaways for families, guys’ trips, corporate events and weddings, complete with an in-house expert chef who can prepare meat straight from the ranch.
Outdoor Involvement: Director of Sales, Burris Optics
Location: Greeley, Colorado
Roping Cred: 4 header, 4 heeler
More Info: burrisoptics.com
Brian Cary doesn’t have much time for team roping these days. As the Vice President of Burris Optics, Cary lives and breathes the outdoor industry. If he’s not in his Greeley, Colorado, shop managing the day-to-day sales and a team of 50 outside reps, Cary is taking Burris buyers on hunts from Missouri to Texas to Colorado, guiding them to trophy elk and mule deer.
“I’d say I guide hunts three weeks a year with various clients and customers who use our products,” Cary said. “I started 22 years ago, not knowing much about making, building or selling rifle scopes. But as we’ve grown, I’ve been able to match my passion for the outdoor industry with the business side of things.”
Cary’s roping is limited mostly to the practice pen these days on account of his busy travel schedule, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love it as much as the regular weekend warrior.
“I grew up in Illinois, but I was always involved in racehorses and Quarter Horses,” Cary said. “When I got out to Colorado, the number system was taking off. I had friends who all decided we’d like to try to do it. When the USTRC first got going, it made it a level playing field. You could get into lower-numbered ropings and just have a good time. Team ropers, in general, are typically outdoorsmen. Almost everybody in the team roping arena enjoys some type of shooting sports. As it gets colder, the rodeos and jackpots maybe slow down, and it gives them a break from it. No matter where you are in the U.S., there’s something to hunt in November and December and, in the South, you can hunt in January and February.”
Outdoor Involvement: Broker, Fay Ranches
Location: Prineville, Oregon
Roping Cred: 4.5 header, 4 heeler
More Info: fayranches.com
As a ranch broker for Fay Ranches, Jerry Hicks, 64, sells a lot of working ranches, timber ranches and recreational hunting ranches. It suits him, because Hicks has spent a lifetime dabbling in the ranching, timber and outdoor industries.
“I’ve spent a fair amount of time in my career in each of those sections,” Hicks said. “I have over 20 years in big-game outfitting, and I guided on a team roper friend’s ranch for 10 years. So I understand how important it is when people want to find a really nice timbered piece with a big stream running through it and maybe a lake on it, and total privacy from the rest of the world.”
Hicks, who’s specialized in ranch real estate for 23 years, helped bring the NTR to Oregon, and he’s long been a friend of the Ariat World Series of Team Roping and NTR’s Ty Yost. He spends three months each winter in Arizona, where he escapes the cold in favor of great ropings at Rancho Rio, Horns N Hooves, Dillon’s and Simpsons, to name a few favorites.
“I think roping and hunting are the same culture,” Hicks said. “Ropers grew up with a ranching family, or had friends with a ranching family. And the lifestyle just fits. That’s the draw. Some guys are born into it, some guys have a passion for that and want to be connected with that lifestyle.”
Fay Ranches is the official real-estate partner of the Ariat World Series of Team Roping, loaded with team ropers and ranchers with expertise in buying and selling ranch property.
Outdoor Involvement: Guide, Spear U Cattle and Hunting
Location: Chromo, Colorado
Roping Cred: 7 header, 8 heeler
More Info: 505-215-0191
When Kory Bramwell isn’t on the rodeo road swapping ends, he’s at home in Chromo, Colorado, ranching and guiding hunts for his family’s Spear U Cattle and Hunting. With a steady stream of repeat customers—many of whom slip up to Colorado between jackpots in Arizona—the Bramwells don’t have to spend any time looking for clientele.
“I guided my first hunt on the ranch when I was 8 years old,” Bramwell, 35, said. “My parents ranch, and it’s a family deal. Elk, mule deer, bear, turkey, antelope, turkey and lion. We start about the middle of August, and we go through the end of November. Me and my brother and my dad are the guides, and my mom does the cooking.”
The ranch offers a riverside bunkhouse and cookshack near its barns, miles away from main roads and any population centers and not far from the New Mexico line.
“We get up in the morning, go hunt, come and eat lunch, then go back out,” Bramwell said. “The elk like to hang out close by the barns, because we’re so far out. So we do most of our hunting just walking.”
Bramwell is a Turquoise Circuit Finalist who’s made short rounds and won at most of the country’s major rodeos and jackpots, but he opts for hunting instead of rodeos come August.
“We get to go to some in the summer, but we miss the good fall rodeos for hunting,” Bramwell said.
Clay Hill grew up in a sixth-generation Colorado rancher whose family supplemented its income guiding hunts. After heading at the high school and college rodeos, Hill moved back home to Kremmling and kicked off his outfitting business.
“It was through hunting and the rodeo world where I have met some of the best people, and it has always been a way of life that I wanted to give back to if ever given the chance.”
With that, he brought to market Apex Next Evolution, a supplement company serving outdoorsmen and the official supplement of the Ariat WSTR.
“Apex Next Evolution was created because me and my partners saw a need for a clean, healthy supplement that would help everyday folks reach the apex of their performance. Whether it be running a tractor putting up hay, roping, hunting or whatever task at hand, we wanted to create a supplement that helps people conquer the task.”
These organizations are all-in on team roping and hunting.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is the official wildlife conservation group of the NTR and the USTRC.
Mule Deer Foundation
The Mule Deer Foundation is the official conservation partner of the Ariat World Series of Team Roping, partnering to increase awareness and help conserve mule deer, black-tailed deer and their natural habitats. TRJ