Dustin Bird’s Life After Rodeo
Dustin Bird is a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo header who’s no longer pounding the pavement on the full-time rodeo trail. These days, he splits his time between the family ranch in Cut Bank, Montana, and winters in Wickenburg, Arizona. Bird, 41, and his wife, Alicia, have two boys, Stockton, who’ll be 6 on Oct. 7, and Sampson, who just turned 3 on Sept. 15.

Q: Where is Cut Bank, Montana?

A: Cut Bank is 45 minutes south of the Canadian border. I’ve ranched here my whole life, and between my dad and brothers and me, we have about 1,200 head of cows. It’s a lot of hard work, but I want my boys to be ranch-raised, like I was. They’re with me every day, and them getting to grow up like I did is pretty neat. They ranch and rope non-stop, even when they’re just playing. We wake up in the morning, and they’re pretending to be bucking bulls, team roping, branding and doctoring calves 24-7.

Q: Name your NFR years and partners.

A: I roped with Paul Eaves at three NFRs, 2012-14, and headed for Russell Cardoza at my last two in 2016-17.

Q: When and why did you pull up from the full-time rodeo road?

A: My last year going hard was 2017 with Cardoza. I heeled for my brother Shawn up here in the Montana Circuit in 2018, then roped with Trey Yates some in 2019. I remember being at St. Paul (Oregon)—which is one of my favorite rodeos—that summer, and realizing I wanted to be home to be a dad and raise my boys up here. I didn’t want to travel anymore. The last rodeo Trey and I had entered was Cheyenne. We won it. Then I came home. It was time.

Q: What was the most exciting win of your career?

A: In 2012, Paul and I had a pretty good Fourth of July run. Our last rodeo that week was St. Paul, and we won it. We had about a $20,000 Fourth, and it jumped us into the top five in the world. It was the first time I got to rope at St Paul, and it turned out to be one of my favorite rodeos.

Q: What do you miss most about being out there on the road?

A: I have a lot of friends, and I miss seeing them all the time. I’m glad I got to go to all the big rodeos all around the world. Getting to compete at all of them was great. I also miss watching all the other events. I loved watching a fast calf roping run or a great bronc ride. I watched it all, and loved it. I miss that.

Q: How do you divide your time between Montana and Arizona?

A: I get to Arizona about the first of December, and stay until the first of March. Montana winters are so cold, and it gets dark at 4. It’s 75 degrees in Arizona, and you can rope all day. Alicia and I ride a lot of young horses these days. I ride head and heel horses, and she rides breakaway and barrel horses. Wintering in Arizona let’s Alicia and I keep the horses ridden year-round.

Dustin Bird and his game-changing bay mare Dolly at the NFR in Vegas.undefined
Dan Hubbell photo

Q: Got any you’re excited about?

A: We’ve been buying two or three young horses a year from the Potter Ranch in Arizona. We ride them on the ranch, and mostly keep them for personal use. I think we have eight of them now, and we’re pretty happy with them. To get a horse from them that’s 3 years old with 30 days of riding, then get to the point where we’re winning on them is a pretty cool feeling.

Q: What’s your dream ride Dolly up to these days?

A: Dolly’s down in Broadus, Montana, at Britt Williams’s place. She got bred by Britt’s stud, and is just hanging out there at the Williams Ranch. Dolly’s had three colts so far, and is due again next May.

Q: You’re also a steer contractor now, huh?

A: Yes, we bought a load of steers and also raise some. I’m a timed-event contractor for a lot of Kesler, Brookman and Jacobs rodeos up here in Montana. I have the team roping steers, and have calf contractors I work with.

Q: Do you still keep track of team roping and rodeo?

A: Not as much as I once did, but I still check out the standings and watch it on TV from time to time. It’s crazy, because I don’t know a lot of the young kids coming up in all the events now.

Q: How much do you rope for money these days?

A: I go to as many of the circuit rodeos as I can get to—usually two or three a weekend—and have been heading for Ike Folsom at them. He has kids and ranches, so those things come first for both of us. Roping is down there a ways on the priority list, where it used to be #1, but it’s that way for both of us.

Q: Which rodeo friends do you still stay in touch with?

A: Me and (Kaleb) Driggers are still really close. And I heeled for (Erich) Rogers and (Aaron) Tsinigine at some of the Indian rodeos up here this summer.

Q: When you look back on your first 40 years, how big a role has team roping played in your life?

A: My whole life has been team roping. I high school rodeoed, amateur rodeoed, got my card and rodeoed. Now I winter in Arizona so I can rope every day. It’s been non-stop team roping my whole life. TRJ

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