Meet John Dudley: Olympic Medalist, Archer, and Bowhunter
John Dudley is a lifelong hunting enthusiast, a decorated professional archer, and the founder of the Nock On brand. He’s won several Olympic medals and worked with some of the archery industry’s most iconic companies.
John is one of Montana Knife Company’s most enthusiastic ambassadors. We sat down with him to learn about his life, philosophy, and passions.
Where John Dudley Started
John first started hunting for sustenance when he was 10 years old and living in southern Mississippi. Learning archery was a tradition and a “rite of passage” in his family.
His first few kills were with guns, but John says his grandfather — a staunch bowhunter, and a proponent of taking only what you can consume — didn’t approve. His grandfather’s lessons unleashed a real passion for, in John’s words, “watching arrows fly.”
John moved to the Chicago area as a teen and admits he focused more on sports than bowhunting through much of his school years. However, archery reclaimed his attention in young adulthood when he stumbled upon a 3D archery course on a backcountry road.
John’s rekindled passion led him to an archery shop owned by a man named Mike Donovan. Mike pulled John aside and asked him to fletch a few arrows, which led to a strong working relationship. John says he made only $4.10 an hour, but Mike’s lessons about the anatomy of bows and arrows were priceless.
John received several athletic scholarships, but his work at Mike’s shop led him to decide to pursue archery as a career instead. He started competing in archery competitions shortly after. He concedes that he was “pretty horrible” when he started, but within two years, he made his rookie debut.
Representatives from Mathews contacted John soon after he started competing. They promised him a contract if he won Rookie of the Year, which he did. He ended up working with Mathews for 10 years.
John also partnered with Hoyt and Canada Wild TV for the making of the television show “Nock On TV.”
Holding Himself to a High Standard
John says his passion for archery is “a double-edged sword.”
At the age of 47, John still practices every day. That’s nearly 40 years of dedication. However, he says having a family has shifted his priorities. While he’s still passionate about archery, he now makes time for his home life.
“If my younger self was competing right now, I would outwork [myself] on a shooting level,” he says. “I just had a lot more passion, and I wouldn’t be at an event thinking about my family. Whereas now, if I went to an event, the first thing I’d be doing is trying to [verify] what’s the first flight out of here.”
Even so, John says his heavy involvement in the archery industry keeps him going. There are always new bows to test, new feedback to give, and new products to design.
Even when he’s not competing, John strives to be archery’s number one businessman. He has 10-year partnerships with Hoyt, Mathews, and PSE under his belt, in addition to collaborations with podcaster Joe Rogan.
Life Lessons From Archery
John says archery taught him the value of goal-setting. “You’ve got to prep, you’ve got to plan, and you’ve got to be prepared,” he says about his future engagements. “Otherwise, you’re going to go there and make an idiot of yourself.”
John never stops training because he says having the training to fall back on is invaluable on the hunt, in a competition, and in everyday life. “I started competing because I didn’t like it when I went hunting and I got so excited. I couldn’t control it,” he says. “You fall back on your training.”
John Dudley’s Favorite Hunts
John Dudley says he tends to hunt in places that are “stunning” to him; the success of the hunt doesn’t matter. A scenic location is the one place where he can detach from the rat race and “sleep like a rock every night.”
John lists British Columbia as his favorite hunting destination, with Northwest Alberta as a close second. This past year, he also enjoyed a trip to Colorado, where he shot a bull at a 14,000-foot summit made of nothing but gorgeous stone.
John says the most important part of working with any company is his relationship with them. Initially, he was reluctant to commit to working with Montana Knife Company because he had already collaborated with other knifemakers. Josh’s “terrifyingly sharp” knives eventually won him over.
In the process of building that relationship, John offered to build a bow for Josh. Josh met John’s family, observed his lifestyle, and listened to his ideas. From this collaboration came MKC’s Triumph series.
Most of the knives John received throughout his early years were collector’s pieces meant for decoration, but John says MKC’s Triumph knives are fantastic working knives. “It’s important that I don’t slip...because [my] hands are always full of fat and blood and whatever else,” he says. “If I’m using Josh’s stuff, I’m in the blood.”
John says the Triumph series is a celebration of “being triumphant” — because when you’re using it, it means you’ve made the kill.
What’s Next for John Dudley?
John didn’t give specifics on his plans. We figure he’ll be hard at work teaching archery, testing new products, writing content, podcasting, and spending time with his family. John mentioned that he “punches out” from August 24 to October 1 every year for the elk hunting season, which is fast approaching.
We wish him the best of luck!
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