HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — One local man recently joined 19 other men and women to follow the Great Wildebeest Migration across 200 miles of the Serengeti.
Jason Drevenak, owner of North American Bushcraft School in Hedgesville, will be featured in National Geographic’s newest survival series, ‘Mygrations,’ showing his primitive knowledge and skills in order to survive a wild migration across the African national park in northern Tanzania.
The show will premiere Monday at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. Check your local listings.
Drevenak and the group were among the first people to attempt the trek. Drevenak said he was approached by a casting agency to do the show.
“I got a phone call from a casting company in London for an adventure show last January, but I ultimately decided to do this one when I was approached with the opportunity,” Drevenak said.
Drevenak said he has never saw himself starring in a television show because of the “bushcraft” lifestyle he lives.
“For cultural reasons it wasn’t a priority, but it was more interesting to me because of where I got to go and the things I got to do,” Drevenak said.
He said he teaches at a lot of different venues around North America, which has led to a lot of networking. Drevenak said he got the impression that National Geographic was searching for people who live his type of lifestyle.
“We travel all around the U.S. and meet a lot of people. We also have a YouTube channel and from my understanding the network was searching for people who live a primitive lifestyle. I think they just searched and Googled for those working in the field and called us all and asked if we would be interested,” Drevenak said.
Drevenak said since being approach several times he has been considering doing a television show for awhile, but he wasn’t interested until now.
“I wanted to do something genuine and honest. That’s really what we are about here (North American Bushcraft School) This was really the first show that came along that seemed like a good fit. It’s not a competition, there is not a winner or loser. The only thing that would disqualify a person was their own choice to leave or if they got hurt, and some people did,” Drevenak said.
Drevenak said the show was a human experiment to see who could survive, rather than your typical reality TV series full of drama and competition.
Drevenak said the six-week trip consisted of the group walking from the south end of the Serengeti up to the north end at Mara River, which separates Kenya and Tanzania.
“We weren’t allowed to bring any equipment. We had about 30 minutes to figure out as a group what we wanted to take, which was really hard to do because we had no idea how long we would be there. They didn’t tell us what we were doing or how long we’d be gone,” Drevenak said.
Drevenak and the group ended up picking out a few key supplies they knew they would need: knives, a couple of large canvas tarps, big bowls to boil water in, gourd containers to store water and food, and some cord and rope.
The group of individuals is diverse, according to Drevenak. He said he believes each individual was chosen because of their specific skill set.
Drevenak considers himself and others like him to be primal skills practitioners. He said his specialty is “friction fire.”
“I believe I was chosen mainly for that reason because I am able to make fires naturally and with the resources around me and we had to have fire every night,” Drevenak said.
As for the group, Drevenak said there were primitive skills people, wilderness skills people, endurance athletes and people who specialized in various animal breeds.
Even though Drevenak said he enjoyed the trip, he acknowledged there were some tough moments.
“I lost about 40 pounds over the whole trip. By the end the food was scarce. But physically, it was not as demanding for me as it was for some of the other people. I mean, the way I live my life and run my business is very physical. I am always teaching classes, I’m outside every day, always doing things that require physical strength and activity,” Drevenak said.
“The mental aspect was the hardest. Not being able to provide equipment and food, and having to work with very strong personality people was hard,” Drevenak added.
Drevenak said he has always been an outdoorsman since he was young. He said his lifelong skills have developed from fire building, camping, hiking, among other things
The North American Bushcraft School about 3 1/2 years ago, which focuses on “re-wilding,” survival, homesteading and sustainable living.
Drevenak believes people should know how to make and find food; be able to find water and shelter anywhere we go; and should be able to make the things they need even if they don’t always do it.
All in all. his trip to the Serengeti was amazing, Drevenak said.
“Getting to go to that part of the world, that is the origin of mankind. And with wild animals, historical archaeology, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Drevenak said.
“It’s hard to put into words what a great personal experience it was. I think about it all the time. I miss it. I hope I get to go back,” Drevenak added.
Drevenak said that National Geographic and the people he met were wonderful to work with. He said is considering a couple other TV opportunities, but that they would have to be very similar to the type of show as this one.
“I want harmonious existence with all the natural elements. If all the variables were right I would,” Drevenak said.
Staff Writer Katiann Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182 or at Twitter.com/kmarshallJN.