Charlie Dunning was born in Rosebud, Montana, where he was raised on several small ranches through the Depression. After high school he joined the Army, serving in Europe during World War II. He returned to Montana and attended college. After college he worked on ranches in Montana until 1966 when he became the cow manager on the Padlock Ranch for 10 years. He then moved to Encampment, where he became the General Manager for Big Creek Ranch. In 1990 he retired and purchased land in Cheyenne, were he has ran yearlings for the last 27 years.
He and Shirley reared four children. Charlie competed in various rodeo events and horse shows throughout his life and really enjoyed team roping. He competed in the first National College Finals at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA. Even though he always considered himself a cowboy first he really made his mark as a cowman.