The end of an era: Long-time Badlands Circuit Finals pickup man retires |

The end of an era: Long-time Badlands Circuit Finals pickup man retires

Minot, N.D. (September 19, 2022) – For the first time in more than two decades, pickup man Tyler Robertson won’t be making his way to the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in Minot, N.D.

The Hermosa, S.D. man has retired from rodeo.

Since 1999, except for one year, Robertson has been chosen by the bareback riders and saddle bronc riders of the Badlands Circuit to be one of two pickup men at the Badlands Circuit Finals.

He got his start in rodeo riding saddle broncs in the regional associations, but after a broken leg in 1995 and a growth spurt, which made him bigger than the average bronc rider, he switched full time to the pickup man role. He had started doing some pickup work at age fifteen; when he retired from bronc riding, in 1999 at the age of 21, he switched exclusively to picking up.

The pickup man’s job during the rodeo is to help the bucking horse rider in the barebacks or saddle broncs dismount after the eight-second buzzer. Pickup men work in pairs at rodeos, riding their horse close to the bucking horse as to be close enough for the rider to move off the bucking horse and often onto the pickup horse, then to the ground.

At the height of his rodeo career, he was in high demand, working 186 performances a year, everywhere from Rodeo Houston to San Antonio, to the World’s Toughest Rodeo series, and everywhere in between. He’s worked Badlands Circuit rodeos including Dickinson, N.D. and Deadwood’s Days of ’76 for 27 years each; Rapid City’s Range Days Rodeo for 23 years, and rodeos across the Dakotas and the nation.

He’s worked rodeos for some of the biggest stock contractors, including Bailey, Brookman, Burch, Cervi, Korkow, Three Hills, Sutton, Wilson, and more. At his busiest, he had sixteen pickup horses on the ranch, “and they were all good solid horses.”

Brent Sutton has picked up the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo alongside Robertson for about fifteen years, starting in 2006. As Sutton learned the trade, Robertson was a mentor for him. “He was someone to watch, someone who taught me, and I could ask him questions, and he’d make the answers plain and simple.”

Robertson’s wife Tif is as much a part of the job as Robertson is, Sutton said. “I appreciate Tif as much as I do Tyler. She’s helped me with switching horses and taking care of me, more or less, from the time I was nineteen to now. There were times I went to a rodeo by myself and needed help and she never hesitated to cool off a horse for me, or do whatever needed done. She’s always spoiling us at rodeos.”

Robertson said being a good pickup man requires quick thinking and good horses. “You have to almost have a thought in your mind before it happens,” he said, “to be able to read livestock and react in any situation super fast. (A pickup man) can be in the wrong place and cause a pretty big wreck, or be in the right place and prevent a wreck.”

It’s time to retire, he said. “I fulfilled what I wanted to do. I need to stay home and take care of the ranch.

“I’ve been very fortunate, that people have wanted me to work for them. It’s been a good run.”

This year’s pickup men for the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo are Donnie Moore and Brent Sutton.

The 2022 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo will be held Oct. 14-16 at the N.D. State Fair Center in Minot. Performances start at 7 pm on Oct. 14-15 and at 1 pm on Oct. 16.

Tickets range in price from $20-$30 for adults and $10-$30 for children. They are available for purchase at

For more information, visit the website or the Facebook page (

–Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo

Tyler and Tif Robertson, Hermosa, S.D. Tyler is a long-time rodeo pickup man who was selected to work the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo 22 times. Photo courtesy Tif Robertson.
Tyler Robertson (on the right) works alongside Brent Sutton (on the left) at the 2021 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo. Robertson was chosen to work as a pickup man at the Circuit Finals for 22 years. Photo by Alaina Stangle.

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