Jonathon VanDam, or JVD as he is also known, is a heck of a fisherman. The twenty-seven year old Kalamazoo pro competes in the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament trail. In fact, he is the second youngest angler to ever win a Bassmaster Elite series title. He turned pro at nineteen and qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic in 2013 at just twenty-four years of age.
So why are we talking bass fishing on a bowhunting website? We’re actually not. We’re gonna take a look at what becomes of the man when he trades bass for bucks each fall hunting season.
You see, if you dig a little deeper on this bass pro, you’ll discover that beyond the fishing tournament scene, VanDam’s real passion is bowhunting.
You might think that with the hectic schedules that professional anglers keep there would not be any time for bowhunting. Yes…and no. Sure, fishing certainly eats up a lot of JVD’s time. It is his full-time job. But the beauty in this business is that the fall season tends to open up, leaving ample time for bowhunting deer.
“I’m on the road a lot, and it seems like it’s getting to be more and more all the time,” says VanDam. “The tournaments themselves are a week to ten-day long process, and occasionally we have two in a row.” Between tournaments, promotional efforts and everything in between, VanDam is easily on the road 2-3 weeks a month.
While the tournament scene might tie him up during spring turkey season, it actually plays out quite well for the die-hard Midwestern whitetail hunter when fall rolls around. “You know, it actually works out pretty well,” says VanDam. “The end of September through January is pretty much our off-season on the fishing side of things, and it works out perfectly for plenty of time deer hunting.”
How Does a Bass Pro Prepare for Bow Season?
Jonathon has a pretty simple solution for staying sharp with his bow. When he is on the road with tournaments, you can expect him to have his bow along for the ride. Even when he needs to stay extremely focused and sharp for his tournaments, you can find him and his uncle, Kevin, and usually some of his mechanics and service and support crew flinging arrows at least a few nights a week while behind their hotel on the road. This is especially true later in the season as it gets closer to opening day. Hey, when you can’t hit the local 3D archery range, shooting a block target behind the Holiday Inn Express is where it’s at!
During his off-season, Jonathon spends the majority of his time chasing whitetails in his home state of Michigan. He also manages to sneak in some out of state hunts as well. He has been to Kansas the last three years and also makes it a point to hunt some of his favorite states as often as possible, including Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.
While his schedule opens itself up pretty well allowing him to pursue his passion for bowhunting big Midwestern whitetails, it is quite the contrary when it comes to chasing spring gobblers. That is when he is in the thick of things on the Bassmaster Elite Series. “I do get a few days here and there to turkey hunt around the house, but as far as getting to turkey hunt anywhere else, or a lot, my schedule just is not open enough for me to get to do it.”
What is it about bowhunting in particular that appeals to JVD more than hunting with a gun?
“It is relaxing and definitely presents a lot more of a challenge. It’s one of those things where you have to really hone your skills in order to be a proficient bowhunter. You have to be dedicated and stay on top of practicing and really becoming infinitely familiar with your equipment and how it works. There are just so many variables that come into play when bowhunting. There are so many things that just have to go right in order to be successful.”
Believe it or not, there are a lot of parallels in bass fishing and bowhunting. VanDam may know this better than anyone.
“Bowhunting is a lot like fishing, really. You have to do your homework. You have to find the areas deer are using and then plan and strategize to the best of your ability to put yourself in the right place at the right time.”
For the Record
JVD’s best archery buck to date is a Michigan monster main frame eight pointer scoring 157″. “That was actually the first big buck I ever killed with my bow,” says VanDam. “Man, with bowhunting, it seems like you can have a lot of opportunities but can never quite manage to seal the deal. Like I said, everything really has to come together just right for it to all work out.”
The end of hunting season is always a bittersweet time. It’s the time we get back to the grind and catch up on chores. It’s no different for this pro bass fisherman. When hunting season finally wraps up, he goes back to work…fishing.