Portrait of instructor Jason Drevnak, dressed in hand-tanned buckskin clothes

Learning to Thrive: Survival & Outdoor Living Skills with Jason Drevenak

Meet instructor Jason Drevanak, joining us for his 8th year at the Gathering this summer. Inspired by the joy of figuring out how our ancestors learned to thrive in their perspective environments, Jason is here to share survival and outdoor living skills for beginners and experts alike!

Meet instructor Jason Drevanak, joining us for his 8th year at the Gathering this summer. Jason has some 15+ years of teaching survival and outdoor living skills like friction fire, bow building, hide tanning, stone tool production, and leather craft. Inspired by the joy of figuring out how our ancestors learned to thrive in their perspective environments, Jason is here to share survival skills for beginners and experts alike. Read more about Jason below, and join him at the Firefly Gathering, June 20-25 2023: Annual Gathering Registration.

One question that we are always dying to know with our instructors is- how did you fall in love with your skill? For Jason, it started with trips to visit his grandparents’ farm in West Virginia. Coming from a fairly domestic upbringing, during his time with his grandparents he learned about homesteading first-hand. In time, he would learn to live simply in the cabin his grandparents built while serving as the President and head instructor at the North American Bushcraft School on this very property.

Besides time at his grandparents’, Jason recalls the Early Man exhibit at the Smithsonian in 1977 as an ah-ha moment on this path. This exhibit showed Neanderthals and Australopithecines, and how early humans used sticks to make fire and animal hides as clothes. “I guess I saw creatures that look like me truly being a part of their surroundings,” Jason reflects. “It totally hooked me, and 45 years later and much more researched, I am still in awe of how they figured it all out.” 

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Brain-tanned top, walnut-dyed buffalo leather bag and a beaver/muskrat hat made by Jason
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Jason at work on a log cabin foundation

Jason went on to study with long-time Earthskill instructors such as Dr. Errett Callahan, Nancy Basket, Richard Cleveland, Doug Meyer, Ishi, Otzi, and Russel Cutts. This path also led him to become the Manager and Head Instructor for The Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Wilderness Survival & Primitive Skills School for several years, as well as the Lead Instructor for the Outdoor Leader Degree’s Primitive Living course offered at Southwestern Community College in Bryson City, North Carolina. In addition to teaching at skills gatherings, Jason currently teaches small classes in Harper’s Ferry, as well as at Foxhaven Farms and summer adventure programs at Bretton Woods outdoor recreation department in Maryland. 

Today, bow building and hide tanning are his most frequently practiced outdoor living skills. “I absolutely LOVE learning how different wood behaves while making bows,” Jason says, alongside “perfecting my craft through traditional hide tanning methods.” 

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Utility knives with Pau Amarillo and Osage handles made by Jason.
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Knives with Black Palm, Osage, and Bison leg bone handles and repurposed band saw steel blades; two Ulu knives.

For Jason, time at skills gatherings is a reminder that people can come together for several days and live peacefully, and an opportunity for reconnecting with our human past. Firefly Gathering has always been a favorite of his for its sheer size, and the diversity of classes and activities offered. His favorite memories from Firefly are formed around getting to see people return the year after year.

We are excited to have Jason and the instruction he brings to our Gathering. Information about Jason’s 2023 Annual Gathering classes will be available in the coming months. In the meantime, you can follow Jason and his current work Instagram @bushcraftforbipeds and his website Bushcraft for Bipeds. 

Ready to dive into Firefly Gathering and get hands-on experience with the many skills offered by our expert instructors? Click here to learn more and register today. We can’t wait to see you there!

Portrait Credits: Angela Luna

WRITTEN BY

Firefly Gathering

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Lily Harlin

Bookkeeper

Lily is an artist, creator, and dreamer. Since a very young age, she has been immersed in the natural world and draws heavy inspiration from the wild. Though her medium changes frequently, Lily’s art and expression always incorporate an element of the organic and unpredictable. She got her associate in fine arts in 2023, and now volunteers at her school as a ceramic studio monitor. She hopes to open a studio of her own one day to have a place to teach and inspire others. In addition to doing commission work, Lily has been creating many graphics for The Firefly Gathering since 2019. Lily grew up in the Earthskills community from the time she was eight years old, so having the opportunity to grow and give back in so many ways has been incredibly fulfilling. No matter where she ends up, this group of people and ideas will always hold a special place in her heart.