BILLINGS — Sometimes, Bridger Chambers feels more lumberjack than steer wrestler.
Staying with that metaphor, Chambers views the challenge in front of him as a large tree he must clear from his path.
“Just chopping away, one swing at a time,” said the Butte bulldogger as he tries to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo a second straight year.
Chambers will be taking another sizable swing Thursday night, during the first performance of the PRCA Yellowstone River Round-Up in front of the MetraPark grandstands.
Performances are 7 p.m. nightly through Saturday.
Chambers comes to Billings 17th in the world standings, having made the steady climb up all summer after a slow winter. He is just $5,022 shy of being in the top 15. The PRCA season ends Sept. 30.
“I’d call it a grind,” Chambers said, describing his season.
It’s a sharp contrast to 2018 where a great start carried him to second place in the final world standings with $216,761. Placing in five rounds at the National Finals Rodeo, Chambers earned $135,583 in his first trip to Las Vegas.
He had previously won $21,067 since turning pro in 2013.
“I’m doing it the hard way,” Chambers said of 2019.
A month ago, he placed second in Nampa, Idaho for $7,891, which gave him a lift in the standings. “Nampa gave me a pretty good boost,” he said.
“You kind of know where you’re at,” added Chambers of the standings. “You try to break it into small portions. It’s easy to out-think yourself when looking at the big picture and you start worrying about everything around you.
“You take it one steer at a time. You try to make the best possible run in that moment.”
Billings is just one stop during a busy week for Chambers and his traveling partners Scott Guenthner and Tanner Milan. Another traveling partner, Harley Cole, suffered a season-ending bicep injury in June.
The trio was in Caldwell, Idaho on Tuesday and were to run steers in Baker on Thursday morning before coming to Billings. They plan to be in Moses Lake, Washington on Friday morning, followed by Kalispell the same evening.
“It’s not as bad as you would think,” Chambers said of the Moses Lake to Kalispell drive. “It’s about six hours.”
The week will finish with rodeos north of the border in Pincher Creek, Alberta and Cranbrook, British Columbia. Chambers is also ninth in the Canadian Pro Rodeo standings.
“Both were goals, making the NFR and CFR,” he said. “We’re just doing it day by day.”
Guenthner is second in the world standings and Milan 21st. Those numbers also play a factor in the remaining weeks of the season.
“That is something else that comes into play. You have to make the best business decision for you,” said Chambers. “That’s something to consider.”
The trio is part of a loaded steer wrestling field Thursday night that includes world standings leader Ty Erickson of Helena, along with Will Lummus (No. 10) and Matt Reeves (No. 16).
“One swing at a time,” said Chambers.
NOTES: The stock contractor is Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics … Thursday’s performance includes 12-time NFR qualifier and recent Calgary Stampede champion Lisa Lockhart in barrel racing and 2017 tie-down roping world champion Marcos Costa along with Montana newcomers Caleb Bennett and Richmond Champion in bareback riding. Bennett moved to Corvallis late last year, while Champion and his wife have settled in Hamilton. Champion is fourth in the world standings and Bennett sixth.
Slack for steer roping is Thursday at 10 a.m., with slack for steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping on Friday at 10 a.m. Barrel racing slack will follow Friday night's performance.