Everyone who enters the USTRC Finals has dreams of clean runs and big paychecks. Unfortunately, only a handful of ropers realize those dreams. One such […]
JJ Hunt watches rodeos from the best seat in the house. That’s because the Ridgeview, S.D. cowboy is in the arena as a pickup man. He’s been picking up since 2001, but his rodeo career began well before that. Growing up on the ranch south of Dupree, on Cherry Creek, it was natural to rodeo. He competed in the South Dakota High School Association, and after graduating from Dupree High in 1999, he Indian rodeoed for a few years before joining the Northwest Ranch Cowboys Association.
In addition to picking up, he is a steer wrestler and team roper, and used to ride saddle broncs. It was at one of Lance Lesmeister’s rodeos that he got called into service for picking up. “He needed me for some rodeos, and I worked one or two,” JJ recalls. “Now I do close to twenty rodeos a year.” His work involves Longbrake Rodeos for the NRCA and the South Dakota Rodeo Association, and PRCA rodeos for Tom Reeves and Sutton Rodeo.
JJ often competes at the same rodeos where he works, which can make a busy weekend. “If I can win (in the steer wrestling or team roping), that’s my bonus for the weekend.” At the NRCA rodeos, he sometimes team ropes with his wife, in addition to his other events. “It don’t leave much time for messing around.”
JJ ranches on his maternal grandparents’ ranch, running commercial black Angus cattle and raising saddle horses. His dad and grandpa own Hunt Quarter Horses, so JJ often rides their horses and “throws their breeding into mine.”
He loves to pick up, and has had some great mentors along the way. “It takes a good horse, and when you work with people like Jim Wilson, Shayne Porch, Kirk Schuelke, they teach you and tell you” what you need to do. He was chosen to pick up the NRCA Finals in 2012-2013, and the SDRA Finals the past six years. It’s an honor, he says, to be selected by the roughstock cowboys. His goal is to take care of them in the arena. “I try to set them down safely to get to the next rodeo.”
JJ is married to Laura, and they have three sons: Daycen, who is 13, Kanton, four, and Koy, two. Daycen competes in the goat tying and breakaway in 4-H rodeo, and made the State 4-H Finals the last two years. Kanton rides and helps gather, and it won’t be long before Koy is in the saddle, too.