Hawaiian Cowboy Paradise: Island Ranching and Team Roping with Zanga Shutte
Zanga Shutte is a roping rancher from the big island. Shutte, 60, runs a cow-calf operation in Kamuela, Hawaii, where he lives with his wife, Kimberly, and three kids, Brooke, Trent and Kawohi.

Q: Tell us about your cow-calf operation.

A: I’ve been a full-time rancher since 2006. A guy from Maui, Peter Baldwin, bought a purebred Angus herd out of Colorado, and I bought the herd from him. We run about 700 mother cows.

Q: As a Hawaiian native, do you agree with the rest of the world that you live in paradise?

A: Hallelujah and hello! Of course this is paradise. Hawaii is the closest thing to Heaven. We average about 80 to 85 degrees year round. In the wintertime it might get down to 60 or 65, but it’s rarely below that.

Q: How big a deal is roping in Hawaii?

A: We rope as a hobby, not as a livelihood. I brought the USTRC to the island and ran it for 20-some years. That gave the locals a chance to travel to Oklahoma City for a finals.

Q: Have you seen the same evolution in the event there as everywhere else, with more tough, talented ropers all the time?

A: Yes. It’s the same way over here. Of course we don’t have the number of ropers here as on the mainland. But more people are figuring it out here, too. The competition has gotten stiffer everywhere. High school rodeo is in full swing here in Hawaii, and the Hawaiian kids know that if they want to excel at nationals they need to push themselves. They’ve taken advantage of roping clinics and videos. The families of the top kids in Hawaii have taken the next step and gotten them good mounts. And these kids are putting in the time.

Q: How much do you get to rope, and who do you practice with?

A: We rope at least twice a week pretty religiously. My son Kawohi ropes, too. He gets the horses, steers and arena ready, and I just show up and rope. Kawohi heads for me here at home.

Q: Do you mostly heel then?

A: I try to do both. I’m a 6 header and a 7.5 heeler. I prefer heeling unless my headers miss, and vice versa. It’s all a great challenge.

Zanga Shutte used to enter every event on the Island, including bull riding, but now focuses exclusively on team roping. Olie Moss Photo

Q: Did I hear right that you had a big time at the 2018 World Series Finale in Vegas?

A: Yes, last year I ended up placing second with Brice Boatright in the #14 roping. We won $69,000 a man. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile. The Boatrights are old family friends. I used to stay with (National Finals Rodeo header Bret) Boater when I came to the mainland years ago. This year, I’m going to rope with Brice’s brother, Ryon.

Q: How often do you come to the mainland to rope?

A: This year, we made the trip for the ropings in Fallon and Reno in June. We returned for the World Series roping at the Madonna Inn (in San Luis Obispo, California) in July, and we’ll be back for Scotty Hutchins’ roping in Paso Robles (California) in October. I’ll be at the World Series roping at Rancho Rio in Wickenburg (Arizona) in November. Then we’ll be back for the World Series Finale in Vegas in December. We’ve been blessed to have a major sponsor, Hale Anuinui Ranch, last year and this year.

Q: What do you ride when you fly in for a roping?

A: We keep horses in Los Osos (California) with Ryan and Tammy White for when we come to the mainland. Tammy gets all the credit. She keeps our horses legged up, conditioned, sharp and ready to go, including exercising them on the beach.

Q: Did I read right that you used to ride bulls?

A: Yes, I started riding bulls in 1975 when I was young, stupid and crazy, and rode for three or four years in the rodeo circuit here on the island. I won the bull riding championship two years in a row—in the Hawaii Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1976-77—then quit.

Q: Did you compete in other events before becoming a hard-core team roper?

A: Yes. I grew up on the ranch, but was more into sports than anything else. I got started in rodeo when I was about 15, because my older brother, Joey, was into it. In 1975, I was just riding bulls. In 1976, I did all the events—team roping, calf roping, double mugging, poo wai u and bull riding. I started getting a little bit burned out at the rodeos, and they started dying off over here. We started with nine rodeos a year and ended up with two. So I started concentrating on team roping. Boater and Kory Koontz, Charles Pogue and Bobby Harris, and Leo and Jerold (Camarillo) all came over and taught roping schools. They timed their schools to rope in the jackpots here in Hawaii.

Q: How closely do you follow today’s world championship races?

A: Now that Trevor’s (Brazile) not there, there’s no sense. Trevor was my man. He did it all, like I used to. What he did was a tough feat. That’s a lot of horses to keep tuned up. Of course Kaleb (Driggers) and Junior (Nogueira) are always fun to watch. Jake (Barnes) and Clay O (Cooper) are great Christian brothers of mine. They’re such gentlemen, and Clay’s been one of my mentors. Allen Bach’s another one who’s been really close to me. I’ve bought horses from him in the past. Same way with Paul Eaves. I bought a horse from him that I’ve won a lot on.

Q: What’s your goal as a team roper?

A: My goal today is to stay competitive as long as I can. When I can’t be competitive, I’ll retire. If I can’t compete at the level I’m numbered at, it’ll be time. But it seems like I’m getting better as I get older. And age really is just a number. 

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