Hunter Herrin was disappointed when the State Fair Rodeo was replaced by an Extreme Bulls event only.
It didn't seem right to the Apache tie-down roper that Oklahoma City — home of the National Finals Rodeo from 1965 through 1984 — would no longer have a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo.
“The PRCA, I think, kind of let that go through the cracks,” he said.
A PRCA rodeo returned three years ago when Oklahoma City landed the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo. Herrin, a six-time qualifier to the NFR, has been a regular participant in the National Circuit Finals Rodeo each year it has been in Oklahoma City.
It's one of the few rodeos that Herrin, 28, gets to rope in front of family and friends.
“I got a big family. My wife's got a lot of family and they really enjoy getting to come and watch,” he said. “It's a great rodeo for a competitor because it pays so well. As long as it's in Oklahoma City, I am going to try and come every year.”
This is the final year of the three-year contract for the National Circuit Finals Rodeo to be held in Oklahoma City. There has been no announcement about whether it is returning next year.
The PRCA circuit is designed for the weekend cowboys and cowboys who want to rodeo close to home and not have travel so far to events, something that is necessary for those chasing an NFR berth.
The PRCA divides the country into 12 regions where cowboys and cowgirls compete in their “home circuit.” From those 12 regions, two contestants in each event — the season champion and winner of that circuit's championship rodeo — qualify to the National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
Even though it's designed for part-time cowboys and cowgirls, it also attracts cowboys like Herrin who are regular qualifiers to the NFR because of the payday.
The total purse in the National Circuit Finals Rodeo exceeds $500,000, and every champion will get a $20,000 voucher for a Ram pickup.
Herrin is coming off his worst performance in six appearances at last December's NFR in Las Vegas, winning only $4,900.
“It wasn't my horse's fault, it was me,” he said. “Every time I had a chance to win something I found a way to self destruct and beat myself.
“I have been disappointed a couple of times before when I left there, but this one was really disappointing.”
Herrin has been one of the most consistent money earners in tie-down roping in the PRCA over the last eight years. He has only missed qualifying for the NFR twice.
In five of the six years that he did qualify to the NFR, Herrin entered the championship rodeo in the top five.
He almost won the world championship in 2008. If not for one calf kicking free, Herrin would have won the gold buckle.
“I let a world championship get away in '08,” he said. “I dang sure should have won it that year.”
Herrin is still chasing that gold buckle even though it is getting more costly to do so every year.
“People look in the newspaper and see (the money) you've won on the season but they don't realize the costs involved,” he said. “You spend $20,000 on entry fees and can easily spend $50,000 in fuel.
“Express Ranches and Bob Funk have been a sponsor of mine since 2006. They have stuck with me. It would be hard to do this without them.”
Herrin is riding a new horse this season and has cashed a small check at every rodeo thus far.
“I could be roping better but I still feel confident,” he said. “It (the rodeo life) can be draining, but I am not going to stop anytime soon.
“I am not looking for a way out yet. I am going to try to keep getting better and hopefully finish it off one year and bring a championship back to Apache.”
Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo
When: Thursday at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m; Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Jim Norick State Fair Arena
Activities: Fan Zone opens two hours before each performance. Kids can participate in mutton bustin', take roping lessons from the Oklahoma State University rodeo team and take photos with a Texas longhorn.
Thompson Square is in concert following the rodeo Friday night, and Chris Cagle will perform on Saturday night.
Tickets: Available at State Fair Box Office, State Fair web site or by calling 948-6808.