BILLINGS — Riding some of the toughest bulls on the planet for a living would make any cowboy hungry.

And when Montana Professional Bull Rider Dakota Louis is scheduled to ride in Billings this weekend, he knows he can always find a good, home-cooked meal. He’ll also get to visit with one of his biggest supporters, which makes this weekend’s PBR stop in the Magic City even more important for Louis.

“This particular event is special as my grandma lives in Billings and she is one of my biggest supporters and will be there,” Louis told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com. “I go have breakfast with Gram. She makes a lucky breakfast. If Gram is there, I can ride anything.”

The annual Billings stop on the Professional Bull Riders Unleash The Beast tour will always have a special place in Louis’ heart. It was at the Metra where his grandma, Nathel Show, took Louis and his younger brother, Preston Louis, to their first PBR event.

“Billings is one of my favorite events. My grandma brought me when I was 8,” Louis recalled. “My little brother got to go, too. When I saw the enthusiasm of the Western culture and crowd (I was hooked).”

Riding in the Treasure State in front of his home-state fans who are avid about bull riding is one of the other pluses for Louis when the PBR bucks into First Interstate Arena at MetraPark for the three-day Ariat Invitational beginning Friday at 7:45 p.m.

The Saturday performance is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. and championship Sunday begins at 1:45 p.m.

From sentimental reasons to a chance to climb the ladder with six regular- season premier series events remaining on his quest to qualify for his first World Finals, the moment is not lost on Louis. A win in Billings would also be his first on the elite series tour in his three years of competing full-time in the PBR.

The top 35 bull riders in the world standings quality for the World Finals, which are scheduled for Nov. 4-8 in Las Vegas.

Louis is tied for 38th. He has 83 points, trailing 35th-ranked Taylor Toves by 13.5. Louis has earned $42,612.23 on the circuit this season.

“A win in Billings would be so special to me,” he said. “One of my goals is to be at the World Finals. I’m looking forward to the future in Billings and Vegas at the end of the year.”

Louis lives on the family ranch near Glacier National Park. He said it is closer to East Glacier Park than to Browning, but the mailing address is in Browning — which he lists as his hometown on his PBR rider profile page. Louis graduated from Browning High School in 2011.

With ground to make up in his quest to be competing at the World Finals, he is taking it one ride at a time. Louis earned a $10,000 Touring Pro division win in Shipshewana, Indiana, in July.

He will be paired with the bull Chilli Whap in the first round at Metra.

“In bull riding, you only go one bull at a time,” Louis said. “If you start getting ahead of yourself, things don’t go your way.

“I definitely believe in myself. I plan on being in the top five at the end of the year.”

The 28-year-old Northern Cheyenne tribal member, who is also of Blackfeet descent, says he’s “had a lot of friends and family tell me on social media they are coming.” He estimates the number of friends and family to be cheering him at Metra at between 30 to 40 people.

He also appreciates the support he gets from Montana fans in general. Louis, who also has his PRCA card and team ropes and rides bull on that circuit when the schedule permits, has competed at the MetraPark facility in PBR events and at the PRCA NILE and fair rodeos numerous times.

“I like to ride at the Metra and it makes it that more exciting for me,” he said of the atmosphere in Billings.

This weekend, the PBR cowboys and bovine athletes won’t be competing in front of a packed audience due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Seating is limited to 50% of arena capacity.

Louis said he feels safe as a competitor. PBR staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before each event.

“The PBR staff has went above and beyond to make it a safe environment for the riders, faculty, staff and fans,” he said, later adding that he is “very proud to be a part of the PBR.”

When the PBR did manage some closed-to-fans events and a newly developed Team Challenge during the pandemic, the schedule wasn’t as busy as normal. In fact, the original date for the Billings event in April was canceled.

Living on a ranch, Louis managed to stay busy. He also worked out almost daily. Louis also got on a “handful” of bulls thanks to a friend who lives nearby and stayed in riding shape by riding horseback every day at the ranch.

“We have horses and cattle and to keep them going you are outside staying active,” Louis said. “I also have my home gym workouts.”

Now, Louis is ready for his chance to shine at the Metra. While his brother Preston Louis won’t be in attendance as he’s competing in bull riding at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Greeley, Colorado, this weekend, his grandma Nathel will be.

“She wouldn’t miss it,” Louis said.

Louis remembered his grandmother’s message to him and his brother while at that Billings PBR approximately 20 years ago. It seems successful cowboys aren’t just hungry for food to give them fuel, they are hungry for success, too.

“She told us we could be there with hard work,” Louis said. “The first time I could be there and ride in front of her, that in itself felt like I won the world.”

Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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