Beware the Bushwacker: 'Unrideable' bull brings its farewell tour to Nampa

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comApril 3, 2014 


    When: Friday and Saturday; competition begins at 8 p.m. each night

    Where: Ford Idaho Center, Nampa

    Tickets: $15-$100 each night; or 208-442-3232

    Notes: Brazilians have dominated the PBR this year, holding four of the top five spots, including No. 1 Guilherme Marchi. … CBS will broadcast the first day's competition at 1 p.m. Saturday, while the second day's competition will air at 6 p.m. Sunday on CBS Sports Network.

Traveling between Professional Bull Riders events, cars will honk to get Julio Moreno's attention. But it's not Moreno they want to see, it's what he's towing.

Moreno owns Bushwacker, perhaps the most dominant bull ever on the tour, a feisty 1,750-pound chocolate brown hurricane who has been conquered only once since Nov. 1, 2009.

Bushwacker will retire at the end of this year, and will make his first - and final - visit to Nampa at the Ford Idaho Center on Friday for the DeWalt Guaranteed Tough Invitational, which concludes Saturday night.

The subject of Wall Street Journal, ESPN The Magazine and New York Times feature stories, Bushwacker is as well-known as the men who take the bumps, breaks and bruises the 8-year-old bull dishes out.

"He's done everything but the swimsuit issue," Moreno said.

The lone man to last 8 seconds atop Bushwacker in more than four years is J.B. Mauney, who ended pro bull riding's most impressive streak Aug. 17, 2013, in Tulsa, Okla. Bushwacker had bucked off the last 56 attempts to tame him, including a record 42 in a row on the Built Ford Tough Series, the top collection of PBR riders. Mauney's score of 95.25 was the best by any rider in five years and 1.25 points shy of tying the all-time best mark. The ESPN story, published six weeks earlier, called Bushwacker "unrideable."

"Everyone was saying it couldn't be done. I mean, I'd been on him eight times before, and he'd made me look stupid every time," said Mauney, who will miss this weekend's event with a wrist injury. "It meant a lot to be the one to ride him. It'll be a long time before another like him comes around."

Since that night in Oklahoma, Bushwacker is 12-0, with riders lasting an average of only 2.98 seconds. As dominant a bull as Michael Jordan, Bushwacker's final season is going much better than His Airness fared in a Wizards' uniform.

"It's been a little nerve-wracking, because you want him to perform to the standard he set, especially since this will be the last time a lot of people see him," Moreno said. "He's done great, and it's been a lot of fun for a farewell tour."

Mauney, for one, said, "I won't miss him," because he got his qualified ride on the legend, but others are jockeying for their last shot. Moreno said he is hopeful another rider can do what Mauney did last August, adding that the 95.25-point ride was one of the best things to happen to the sport, a mutual incredible performance by bull and rider.

So why is 8 seconds on Bushwacker an eternity?

Moreno says it is partially the docile demeanor the bull keeps in the chute, making riders wonder what he's thinking before bursting out into a frenzy of twists, jumps and kicks. But he and Mauney both chalk it up to calculated intelligence and unpredictability.

"He keeps them thinking, then once he gets out, he never does the same thing twice," Moreno said. "He went to the left four weeks in a row, then went right last week. Now they're probably thinking, 'What's he going to do in Idaho?' "

Moreno said he has turned down offers as high as $800,000 for Bushwacker. Those that likely could pay more know him, and they know Moreno won't let him go. His prized bull has already earned him more than $500,000, but breeding rights could earn him even more. He has already begun raising Bushwacker's next generation, saying a pair of 1-year-olds have excellent promise, and even a 2-week-old named Ambush is showing the same tenacity as its father.

"I'll take him back to (Oakdale, Calif.) after the season, give him a nice big pasture, probably a few girlfriends," Moreno said. "I don't want to part with him. I really want to see his babies buck."

On some nights, Bushwacker gets louder cheers than many of the riders. T-shirts with the bull's image are popular, and there are even plush Bushwacker replicas. Maybe the riders would be a bit resentful, but going 68-1 in the last four-plus years makes Bushwacker worthy of those accolades.

"He deserves all of it," Mauney said.

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