PUEBLO, Colo. – Chad Berger was hard to miss throughout the 2014 Built Ford Tough Series.
Whenever Berger was at a BFTS event, he could be found standing on the bucking chute analyzing a bull’s out or walking around the back pens glancing and searching for any hint of the next greatest bucking bull.
The industry has only gotten harder since he won three Stock Contractor of the Year titles from 2007-09. There are more contractors, money and competition in the business than there ever was.
Therefore, he had to step up his game this year, and he rededicated himself to acquiring, raising and developing the strongest bulls in the PBR.
It is why even after he had received this year’s Stock Contractor of the Year title, Berger was attempting to wheel and deal inside the Thomas & Mack Center, as well as just this past week, in hopes of adding more power to his developing bull pen.
“We won them three in a row and then everybody started going after it,” Berger said. “The price of the bulls skyrocketed and we just had to sit back for a little bit and let them fight it out. Once it looked like they were done fighting it out and that’s when I went and started buying a bunch of bulls.
“This was by far the hardest one for me to win. There are just so many more guys buying up bulls and trying to be a major player.”
The Mandan, North Dakota, native put all of his chips in this year, with the support of his partners Clay Struve and Julie Rosen, to put an end to Jeff Robinson’s four-reign as Stock Contractor of the Year.
“I said we are going after it this year, and by God we got her,” Berger said. “It is not easy. They are so far and in between to find. When you do find one, people don’t want to let go of them. Then once you got them, you have to figure out which place to go and when to rest them. It is not just getting them, it is figuring out how to get them to every possible event you can without ruining them. It is a full-time job just trying to figure out once you got them where to go.”
Berger’s main goal was to replenish his championship round-caliber bulls, and he did so by acquiring the likes of Fire & Smoke, Modified Clyde and Cowtown Slinger, as well as a slew of other bulls.
Riders enjoy being able to get on bulls that can result in event-winning rides.
“Don’t get me wrong, I always end up with an eliminator or two.” Berger said, “I like to try and have every bull in there that bucks real hard, but has timing and if (the riders) don’t stub a toe they are going to be in the high 80s or the 90s. A lot of the bull riders know that and what I am doing there, too.”
That is the main reason that fellow North Dakotan Stetson Lawrence voted for Berger.
“I voted for him because he just stepped up his game more than likely this past year buying bulls and buying great bulls you want to get on,” Lawrence said. “It is awesome he got the award again, but more than anything I voted for him because he brought a lot of great ones.”
Lawrence actually won one of Berger’s two Touring Pro Division events in Bismarck, North Dakota, in June when he rode Cowtown Slinger for a career-high 92 points amid his summer run that propelled him onto the Built Ford Tough Series.
Stormy Wing added, “I’m happy to see Chad win it. He puts together a nice set. He knows we want the good rank bulls. In my eyes, a good stock contractor strives to be the best like we are. I can’t congratulate him enough.”
Berger said it is humbling to know he has the support of the riders after he failed to come through on his end the past couple of seasons.
“When the top bull riders in the world put your name in the hat and think you have the best set of bulls in the world going that means the world to me and my partners,” he said.
He also was quick to thank his family for their continuous support, as well as Cooper Tires.
One of Berger’s favorite moments involving his pen this year came a night earlier in Bismarck when Kasey Hayes became just the second rider at the time to cover Fire & Smoke. Hayes won the first night of competition by riding Fire & Smoke for 94 points.
“That was a great moment to watch,” Berger said. “I love to watch bulls buck.”
Fire & Smoke was one of the main bulls that Berger acquired in 2014. It was his only World Champion Bull contender.
Berger also bucked Smackdown for the final out of the bovine athlete’s six-year career and Smackdown came through by bucking off Claudio Crisostomo in 4.2 seconds.
“To watch Smackdown for the last time was probably my saddest moment,” Berger added. “That was really nice to see him go out with a buckoff and not get hurt and just trot on off to the sunset. I wouldn’t want to see him get rode for the last time he bucked.”
Along with repeating as Stock Contractor of the Year, one of Berger’s main goals going forward is to win the coveted World Champion Bull title in the coming years. Even more so, he would love to raise his own World Champion Bucking bull and believes in a couple years he may be in position to win the accolade with the offspring of Big Tex, Smackdown, and Copperhead Slinger.
“That is the most rewarding of all,” he said. “We are raising a lot more bulls now and that is my goal. To have a bull that we raise win World Champion Bull. I see that in the future, but I sure would like to win one with what I got right now.”
Berger admits he “couldn’t even put a number” on the amount his herd has grown to, but he is confident in the future of his bullpen and his chances of winning seven, if not more, Stock Contractor of the Year titles that he set as a goal years ago.
“That has always been my goal to win that many at least, and I am going to stay on it and we will see where the cards lay,” Berger said. “Hell, I might not win it next year, but one thing I know is I am going to try my hardest to win it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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