A Conversation in the Woods, with Mykel Hawke
Mykel Hawke is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Officer with a list of documented accolades too long to go into here. He is also a major driving force — both on and off-camera — for television shows “Man, Woman, Wild” and “One Man Army” and has hit the screen again recently with his wife, Ruth England-Hawke in The Travel Channel’s “Lost Survivors.”
He is the author of several books, and the founder of SpecOps.com, a global support, training, and adventure company.
He exhibits a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for other members of the Special Forces, as evidenced in his work supporting that community.
He was also generous enough with his busy schedule to make room to chat with me about a few survival-related questions.
AWitW: You’ve said before that survival is in your blood, that it’s something you’re always thinking of. I think that passion is what makes people want to watch you and learn from you. Where did that passion come from?
Mykel Hawke: Great question! I think basically some folks are just born with passion. And if they are fortunate to find something they are passionate about, then it is always a bit magical to watch those kinds of people in action. My passion came from how I grew up poor and had to do a lot of survival as a kid. Of course, I didn’t see it as survival, it was just how it was. But when I got into Special Forces and learned those basic survival skills, I realized we do not learn anywhere near enough and that is what set me on a path to learn more—and over time, to begin teaching it; as surely if I felt we didn’t get enough REAL survival in training, then others must feel the same way.
AWitW: The will to survive is often cited as one of the most important things in an extended crisis. What’s your motivation to keep going when in survival mode?
Mykel Hawke: That is true enough but it comes with a HUGE quantifier- one MUST have the SKILLS, too. The will is what sees you through the hard times, helps you overcome failures, makes you not quit when everything else tells you to throw in the towel. But you must have some skills or you will perish, no matter how much will you have. The good news is that most skills are common sense and most folks can figure out a lot of things, so long as they don’t panic and don’t quit. The will is what sees you through that. For me, and most folks I teach, it is simple to find you will, ask yourself one question, what is it that you want to live for? Most folks will say their family and that is true for me as well. I WILL LIVE TO SEE MY FAMILY AGAIN is my mantra when times get tough and so far, it has seen me through.
AWitW: “Man, Woman, Wild” was one of my favourite shows, not because you argue with your partner, but because you treat your partner… like a partner. I get tired of seeing the arguments on TV all the time, and it was refreshing to see people that could disagree on something but still be caring and civil, and get on with what needed doing. How did the experience of doing a show like this with your wife differ from what you thought it would be?
Mykel Hawke: Hahaha! I am sorry to laugh, but it doesn’t differ, that is simply life in the Hawke Household, simply relocated to the woods and played out on TV. However, I will say surviving on TV is a lot harder than doing it for real by yourself.
AWitW: We’ve all watched Ruth become a competent outdoorsman over the course of MWW. How do you think Ruth’s greater experience changes your outings? Do you push her limits further now, the more you rely on each other?
Mykel Hawke: In actuality, Ruth was pretty good before. They edited a lot out to make her look more ‘girly’ than she was. I’ll make no further comment about that. However, she has learned a lot, and can help more with less discussion and debate. One thing we both learned was that the physical difference in men and women for strength, naturally lends itself to a certain stereotypical division of labor. And the surviving together has helped us learn better how each responds under duress when apart.
AWitW: Immediate adaptability and creativity is very important for your survival situations. Do you apply this flexibility to anything else in your daily life?
Mykel Hawke: Yes. I think I have always been like this but the survival has enhanced and honed my skills at dynamic improvisation as I like to call it.
AWitW: What’s your favorite piece of kit?
Mykel Hawke: It’s a hard call, but a lighter will always be my first choice, then a knife, then a canteen, canteen cup and a spoon, then a poncho. With these a man can conquer the world, haha!
AWitW: What do you think is your most important learned skill?
Mykel Hawke: Handsdown, fire-making. Then food procurement, then shelter building.
AWitW: I enjoy being in the woods, where I don’t really have to sweat the big stuff (well, except for an occasional angry moose in the rut). We know you’re good at surviving in the jungle, but where do you go, and what do you do to enjoy yourself?
Mykel Hawke: I simply go in my back yard and go fishing!
AWitW: You come across pretty fearless onscreen. What scares you?
Mykel Hawke: I am not really afraid of anything except letting my loved ones down.
AWitW: You’ve typically concentrated on stressful survival situations, where some other survival experts swing more towards bushcraft and primitive arts. Many skills overlap quite a bit, so do you have any interest in exploring that side of things (on or off camera)? I don’t think we’ve seen you in a canoe, yet.
Mykel Hawke: I do not focus on living off grid, end of the world, going green, reverting back to caveman, or gettin back to nature. I focus on getting through any environment and any situation and getting back home to fort living room and my family. That is my style and focus of study and teaching. I practice skills that I feel enhance that end state objective.
AWitW: Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans?
Mykel Hawke: We do what we do because we believe in it and want to share so that others may benefit. We couldn’t do it if they weren’t interested, so we see it as a two way street, and we appreciate their support.
AWitW: On behalf of my readers, thank you for your time today, and thank you for your service to your country and around the world.
Mykel Hawke: I appreciate that you care and take the time to share and so, thanks for what you do. All the best and happy holidays to you and your family from me and mine!
Lost Survivors premiered Tuesday, November 12th at 11 P.M. (EST) on The Travel Channel.