For seven of his eight decades, J.W. Stoker has entertained rodeo and western fans. The Weatherford, Texas cowboy has criss-crossed the nation and the globe, […]
Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
Rodeo and hunting are two lifestyles that often complement each other — one season picking up where the other leaves off — but Colby Lovell calls hunting his greatest weakness towards rodeo. “My biggest deal with hunting is that I love to raise dogs,” explains the professional team roper from Madisonville, Texas. “I’ve grown up with such a love for that. There’s nothing better than raising a set of puppies and seeing them grow and develop. It’s something money can’t buy, and the hard work and effort I’ve put into it has taken a lot away from my rodeoing, but it’s something that I love to do.”
Colby has 25 bloodhounds, many of which he’s raised and trained himself. “It’s hard to get a real solid dog — it takes a lot of time and it takes a special type of dog to be very good. They need to go eight to ten hours one day and want to get up in the morning and do it again. They have to love it as much as you do. I hunt with my best friend and seven or eight other guys. We’ve done it religiously since we were kids hunting with the older men, and these dogs we’re hunting with have originated from right here for the last 50 or 60 years.” With Colby returning to the rodeo trail this season after taking a year off, he has several friends who care for his dogs and exercise them while he’s on the road. They have to stay legged up much the same as horses, though Colby runs them less in the summer when they’re prone to overwork themselves in the heat.
Hog hunting and deer hunting are two of his favorites, though hog hunting is more likely to spike the adrenaline since the quarry can charge and has tusks that grow several inches long. “I put a tracking system on the dogs, and once they have the hogs bayed up, we usually try to rope them. A couple of the videos I’ve taken have gone pretty viral.” Since feral hogs cause so much damage to property and waterways, hog hunting goes year round in Texas. During deer season, Colby and his son, Levi, hunt on Colby’s grandfather’s ranch near the Trinity River. A year ago, Colby started feeding Record Rack deer feed on the ranch. “We haven’t seen a deer big enough to kill on the river in three years, and last year, my little boy killed the biggest deer we’ve seen since putting the feed out. He scored a 160 — I’m a big believer.” Colby and his friends donate a large portion of their meat, and also make steak, pork chops, and an abundance of summer sausage.
The time Colby enjoys with his son and his daughter, Jewel, will carry into the rodeo season since the Lovell family plans to travel with him more this year. His wife, Kassidy, runs an equine swimming facility, Champion Fit Equine, with her mom and will fly home for work when needed. One of the reasons Colby, a six-time WNFR qualifier, decided to take time off was the wear and tear from traveling and being apart from his family. “There’s no downer to having your kids with you,” he says. “There might be frustration when I leave the arena, but when I get around my wife and kids, I can’t express how much that picks me back up and makes me want to go to the next rodeo.”
Colby grew up heeling and his hard work took him far, such as winning seven USTRC open ropings when he was 18, but it wasn’t far enough. When finding the caliber of header he needed to make the WNFR didn’t pan out, Colby became a header himself. Within four months of roping horns instead of heels, he was approached by several professional heelers. “I was so lucky to accomplish making the NFR on my first try. I look back, and I was just lucky to have Kory Koontz behind me.”
Currently, Colby ropes with one of his best friends, Ty Arnold, and he and Cory Petska are teaming up to see how far the summer run takes them. “Ty is one of those good up-and-coming heelers, and I’ve been roping with him this winter. He’s one of the best young guys I’ve seen. You don’t get very many opportunities to rope with Cory Petska, and my second year of rodeoing, I got to rope with him that winter right after the NFR,” says Colby. “He could motivate you to do anything rodeo-wise. Ty Arnold being a good friend — he motivates me and pushes me, and I’ve been close with his family since I was young. What motivates me is all my friends and family getting to share the (WNFR) experience and getting to enjoy that with them. Without them, there wouldn’t be any motivation to do it.”