BILLINGS — People in Montana always love a hometown hero to root for on network competition reality shows, and they'll soon find one in Stephen Yellowtail of Wyola, who will compete in the third season of the INSP network's reality competition program, "Ultimate Cowboy Showdown."
“One day after one of the episodes, they asked, 'Do you think you’ve got what it takes?' I leaned over to my girlfriend and I said, ‘What the heck, let's see what happens.' I filled out an application thinking I would never ever hear from anyone. Then low and behold later that summer I got a call," Yellowtail told MTN News on Saturday.
The third season of the show premieres April 21 on INSP. It pits 14 cowboys who hail from across the country against each other, competing for bragging rights, a belt buckle and a herd of cattle worth $50,000.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm dang sure glad I did it. I met some incredible cowboys from all over. Guys that I still talk to and guys that I've got a chance to visit," Yellowtail said.
Yellowtail, 28, is a fourth-generation rancher on his family’s patchwork of 12,000 acres on the Crow Reservation near Wyola. Yellowtail and his father each own half of their herd of 500 cows.
Below you'll see a still image from the Yellowtail family's home videos from the 1950s, depicting Yellowtail’s grandfather working calves in the same pen that's still partially standing today.
“These houses here go back to my great grandfather. This was kind of some sheds where they would harness their teams. Then further in the back there, those were some of the houses that they stayed in. They built these houses back in the early 1900s," Yellowtail said.
“I’m fortunate to have my Dad guiding me. I’m in my fourth year of this. It’s been fun, but we’ve also been faced with a lot of hardships: with market, with drought, with fire. There’s a lot of adversity that we’re facing, but so far we’re staying strong and we’re pushing forward," Yellowtail said.
When it comes to the reality show, it was filmed in November last year on the Powder Horn Ranch in Douglas, Wyoming, Yellowtail said. While reality TV is edited to accentuate drama, Yellowtail said the contestants ended up being friends in the end.
“I didn’t want to get too cutthroat. That’s just not how we’re raised, here in Montana," he said. "That’s something that I kept in mind. I’m not just representing my family. I’m representing the Crow Tribe and the state of Montana and the cowboy world as an industry. We are. It’s a lifestyle that’s all about being neighborly and helping each other and being kind. When I went on there, I tried to keep that in mind the entire time and hopefully I made Montana proud.”