Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series of three interviews with Mykel Hawke that began in our March, 2017 issue. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Mykel recently spent some time with our crew and ASG contributor Brian M. Morris at the ALTAIR Training Facility in the Florida Everglades. During some time off-camera, the two discussed Mykel’s background and training, what drove him to join the Army and why he believes it is important to pass his knowledge and advice on to others.

In this final of three installments of our exclusive interview with Mykel Hawke— renowned survival expert, TV survival series host, author and retired U.S. Army Special Forces combat veteran—he shares some key survival advice gained through a variety of experiences in the field.  Mykel is a very busy guy, so American Survival Guide appreciates the time he was able to spend with us. We’d also like to thank the great folks at ALTAIR Training Solutions, Immokalee, Florida, where Mykel’s training presentations were produced.

Be sure to read parts 1 and 2 of this interview at

American Survival Guide:  If you could sum up your survival philosophy into one sentence, what would it be?

Mykel Hawke: Above all, know why you want to survive; when all else fails, it can see you through.  For me, it’s love for my family.

Mykel Hawke— behind the wheel, going off-road in Botswana.

ASG: What was the hardest wilderness survival skill you have mastered?

MH: By far, making a primitive fire is the hardest, and no one has mastered it.  It’s one thing to live in the desert,  learn the best wood there and refine your technique, but try traveling all over the world and do the same with new and different woods and climates.  It becomes a new learning process every time.  I teach working to get good at one technique.  Then, you cut the battle in half so you only have to figure wood densities, climate factors, etc. I use the bow drill as my go-to method.

Mykel takes a moment to survey the area before deciding the appropriate route through the brush.

ASG: In a wilderness survival situation, if you could only have one item with you, what would it be?

MH: This is always the key question, and we all want a simple answer.

Usually, we think of a knife, but I can fashion a knife out of something almost anywhere. Another most-cited answer is a lighter.  It saves a lot of time and energy to make fires, which makes a lot of other great things possible. A tarp is a great one, because it means an easy-to-make portable shelter, sail, raft, rain catch, litter, etc.

But an often under-appreciated answer is …  a pot. Chemicals run out, sun may not shine, batteries may die, filters may fail, but fire always boils—if you have a thing to boil it in. Now, I can rock boil, so, I can get around that, too! So, it comes down to one thing, I’d lean more toward a knife.

ASG: How important is cross-cultural communication from a survival perspective?

MH: To me, what’s important about cross-cultural communication in survival is that it gets you to think out of the box, come out of your comfort zone and get into someone else’s head and heart space. This is a valuable skill that is applicable to all survival problem sets; but also, we are not alone in this country or on this planet. Inevitably, we are going to encounter others, and if we can figure out how to work it out with them, we might get a great, new survival team member—or, at the very least, we might negotiate our way out of getting killed that day.

ASG: Would you consider yourself a teacher or an entertainer?

MH: OK, it’s a good thing you’re not here—we’d rassle! Man, I am a teacher, first and foremost, dyed in the wool. The only reason I’m “entertaining” is simply because I’m creative in my approach and passionate about my subject.

ASG: Teach us something about survival in the next five minutes that we do not know.

MH: That’s a nice trick, but I don’t know what you know! (But I think I showed you a neat way to open a coconut, yes?)

ASG: What is your greatest professional achievement, and why?

MH: Saving a life. Bringing Special Forces Sergeant Major Lohse back to life after he died in El Salvador and keeping Sargento Gonzalo alive long enough to get back to the base camp after a bad ambush in Colombia. The reason is that these were people I knew and cared about and for whom my professional skills were able to make a difference.

ASG: How important do you think training and practicing are to being prepared for an emergency?

MH: There’s no way around it. Without some preparing, study, training and practice, the chances of survival decrease exponentially.  It literally is a life-and-death matter.

ASG: What is the number-one killer in an emergency situation?

MH: Fear! Call it panic, worry, doubt, concern—give it a name. There are three courses of action that usually result from fear: fight, flight or fright. The first two are useful survival strategies. The third causes folks to freeze or do nothing. You could die if you fight; you might die if you flee.  But for sure, you will  die if you do nothing. Even if you do something and it is wrong, it’s often better than doing nothing.

ASG: What is the most dangerous survival situation you have ever been in, and how did you survive?

MH: In Africa, surrounded by 30 rebels who were all drawn down and ready to shoot me. I managed to bluff them and get them to change their minds.

Ruth exhibits some courage, along with her scorpion-wrangling skills, while on location in Africa.
The film crew and Ruth take a candid photo … with a rhino watching in the background.

ASG: Mykel, what are you afraid of, and how do you keep your fear under control in order to meet the challenges you are faced with?

 MH: My biggest fear is losing my family in a disaster/survival situation. I manage it by focusing on prioritizing countermeasures and taking actions, one step at a time.

ASG: Your wife, Ruth, as we all know, has some survival skills of her own. How about your children? How much of your experience have you been able to pass on to them?

MH: My first two sons have now grown up and have their own kids. They were trained up. And my third son is doing his learning, too. I think we’ve got a lot of outdoor folks in America who teach their kids outdoor skills, but there are very few who have the skills or time to teach the kids all the primitive survival skills they need.  It’s been an area we have focused on for years.


Mykel and Ruth take a break from a walk in the snow with their son in 2008.

ASG: Would you consider yourself more a hunter or a gatherer?

MH: Hunter, for sure, but the gatherer is not far behind.

ASG: You are an expert at identifying edible and medicinal plants. How did you acquire this knowledge?

MH: I’m no expert; I don’t think anyone is or can be. I’m well studied in a handful of plants. For every region of the world, I try to know 10 edible and three medicinal plants that are plentiful, easily identifiable, have no poisonous look-alikes and that I can find in all four seasons.


Mykel and Ruth Hawke make their way through the bush on a shoot in Botswana.

ASG: What is your opinion of the Universal Edibility Test?

MH: As for the Universal Edibility Test, I modified the one the Army taught me, because I felt it wasn’t practical and took too long.  So, I made a simpler one, and it serves me well.  It’s in both of my books.

ASG: Everyone in the survival and emergency preparedness industry seems to be known for something; what is Mykel Hawke known for?

MH: Good question. I’d like to say I’m known for teaching some cool stuff or making some neat gear! But if I had to guess, I’d say I’m known for making a good book touching on subjects others haven’t, such as cannibalism and biological warfare, and for taking my wife out and breaking new ground teaching families to survive together.

Mykel and Ruth Hawke make the best of the limited food available in a semi-barren location.
TV work is not all fun and games. The Hawkes look less than enthused about chowing down on this morsel.

ASG: Several survival experts are either sponsored by someone or have their own line of survival tools. You have the Hawke brand line of survival items. Explain what makes your brand of tools unique or better than other similar tools sold on the market today?

MH: One thing I have taken pride in is the fact that I will not put my name on anything unless I designed it. Or, if someone sends me something to test, I won’t give my endorsement unless it passes muster and meets my standards.

All my designs are, very simply, time-tested things that work and are fused with modern science and tech that allow me to make them a little better. A good example is my Hawkchete. It’s the ugliest thing out there—and it’s the best machete I ever used. Why? I combined a kukri and a parang. They are both outstanding blades used for centuries in two different regions of the world. I fused them and added some angles that technology allows me to do with computer machining. The result is an outstanding tool.

Mykel at work with a machete on location in Botswana.

ASG: What is next for you? Where do you see yourself five years from now?

MH: I have some plans to keep teaching and keep helping others. I want to do some neat things for kids and for vets. I’d love to share more, but right now, even today, we’re being “stalked,” and anything I say or do gets copied. It’s freaky, weird and downright sick! So, sadly, I have to wait until the things are done to share them. I hope you understand. But, bottom line: I have always done good, and I always will do good, not letting a bad seed make me give up my beliefs and my faith in others. 

ASG: As a veteran, yourself, you are involved in several charities that support veteran groups. Do you have any charitable organizations you would like to share with our readers?

MH: Of course. The Special Forces Association helps a lot of Special Forces men. The Green Beret Foundation does some great things for our Green Beanie brothers, too, as does the Special Forces Charitable Trust. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation and Special Operations Wounded Warriors are good, too. I also work with Silent Heroes to fight poachers. But my favorite of all time is GSTA. Gold Star Teen Adventures is run by the wonderful Solheim family. They teach outdoor skills to the kids of fallen Special Ops warriors from all branches of service.

ASG: There seem to be millions of survival-related books in print and on the Internet these days. Other than your own book on survival, what is your favorite book on the subject?

MH: My favorite all-purpose survival book is Lofty Wiseman’s SAS Survival Handbook. Such a small book with such a big amount of good information makes it the one I keep in my ruck.

ASG: You are the author of several books. What are their titles, and where can people find and buy them?

MH: Thanks for the opportunity to plug some books, but I prefer to just be me! If folks want to read these, they’ll seek them out.  I wrote the survival books and language books we spoke about already. I have also written a lot of other books that talk about medicine, war, knives, guns, philosophy, adventure—even romance! So, just check me out on Amazon; there are a lot of my books there.

ASG: Do you have a newsletter, blog, website or other social media so people can contact or follow you?

MH: I have a few websites and some social media. Again, folks can find me if they want to. I always welcome good folks. 

ASG: What is the best place for people to contact you? Do you have a Facebook fan page? If so, what is it called?

MH: Thanks, Brian.  You rock! Folks can find me at Everything else is linked from there.

ASG: Mykel, thank you so much for this interview. American Survival Guide wishes you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors. 


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the May, 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.


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