Before setting out to buy a good hunting knife, there are things that you need to consider and research on. Yes, hunting knives tend to look the same and can be confusing, but don’t let the knife’s looks be the determining factor in your selection. This is especially true if it’s your first, as you will most likely make a mistake. With hunting knives, there’s more than meets the eye.
There’s a vast selection of hunting knives in the market with a different price range. Hunting knives also come in different types, materials used for the blade (stainless steel, carbon steel), length, grip, sheath and knives for specific applications.
What Makes the Best Hunting Knife?
The primary purpose of a good hunting knife is to cut game into manageable sizes for easy transport. It includes skinning and cutting through cartilage as well as bone.
To perform these tasks, the hunting knife needs to be sharp and sturdy. A hunting knife cutting edge must be sharp; the grip should be comfortable to handle and easy to use.
Different Types of Hunting Knives
There are several kinds of hunting knives, and each knife serves a different purpose. There are two main knife types – fixed blade which tend to be sturdy and reliable; and folding blade for easy carry. This is the reason most hunters use two or three knives when going out in the woods.
Best Hunting Knife: Bowie Knife
The Bowie knife is a large hunting knife that was designed by American James Bowie. It has fixed blade ranging from 4 to 12 inches and its handle grip is bone. The Bowie knife has a raised point that is useful for cutting hide off an animal. As for the other side of the blade, it will be perfect for cutting pieces of meat.
Best Hunting Knife: Skinning Knife
The skinning knife or the Skinner is used to cut the game skin without tearing it. The fixed skinner blade is usually made of 440 stainless steel, with a wood or horn grip and has a rising tip that’s fine enough to go between skin and meat. It is also important that the knife’s cutting edge be sharp to avoid damage to the skin.
Best Hunting Knife: Skinning Blade for the Head
The head skinning knife is best in tearing the skin of the game but also to keep the neck, shoulders, and chest intact to make it a hunting trophy.
Best Hunting Knife: Boning Knife
The boning knife is designed to remove the meat from a carcass (deer, elk, wild boar, etc) without causing damage. The blade material is thicker compared to conventional knives, short and rigid.
Best Hunting Knife: Eviscerating Knife
Evisceration knives are for removing the internal organs from an animal without puncturing them. The knife blade is curved for gutting game and fish and usually made with wood grips.
Best Hunting Knife: Cutting Knife
The cutting knife is usually made of carbon steel or stainless steel. It’s basically a large butcher knife that you can use in the outdoors. That makes it great for chopping up meat into manageable chunks, so you can cook it at camp, or carry it home.
Best Hunting Knife: Hunting Dagger
Daggers have long and fine double-edged blades measuring 20-30 inches long. These knives are used to pierce the heart of deer and boar without damaging the skin and the viscera.
Best Hunting Knife: Multipurpose Knife
This versatile knife is also known as a Buck knife and can be used to perform several tasks such as cutting, drafting or boning an animal.
What to Consider When Buying a Hunting Knife?
Let’s dig deeper into what you need to consider when selecting the best hunting knife.
When choosing your knife, know what type of hunting you’ll do. Be aware that there are different kinds of game hunting and below are the common hunting types:
Large Game. Large game hunting includes large animals. Among these are wild boar, deer, elk, and others. Large game requires the biggest knives except when processing the carcass. That requires the right sized knife to prevent from of damaging the meat.
Small Game. Small game includes rabbits, pheasants, partridges, wild turkeys, hares, and woodcocks. These little animals do not require very long knives.
Knife-Material. The blade is commonly made of steel. Stainless steel is known for its durability and strength. Stainless steel needs to be sharpened longer using a sharpener, but it also remains sharp for a more extended period making it fit for regular use.
Carbon Steel. Carbon steel is known for being easier to sharpen and precise cutting. However, if not well maintained, carbon steel blades are likely to rust.
Folding or Fixed. Folding knives are most often pocket knives. They are easy to carry since they are more compact and lighter. However, by choosing a folding knife, your performance is limited since these are very simple and small knives.
The Sheath. Not all knives come with a sheath but still have a belt clip directly on their sleeve. Materials can be leather, plastic or nylon.
How to Sharpen a Hunting Knife?
Depending on the type of whetstone you’re using, you need to lubricate it with honing oil or water.
Start by holding the knife by the handle and placing the cutting edge against the whetstone at a 10-degree to 30-degree angle. The angle will depend on the thickness of the Primary Bevel. Slowly move the entire length of the knife’s cutting edge across the whetstone while maintaining the angle. Do the same action for the opposite side. Continue doing this until the cutting edge reaches your desired sharpness.
You can also do this using a sharpening stone or the best hunting knife sharpener you can get.
The Best Hunting Knife for You
Choosing the best hunting knife is a very personal decision that is largely based on the needs of the user. Here are three great hunting knives that you might consider when selecting that perfect blade of your own.
The CRKT Onion Skinner:
Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) makes this special hunting knife from master designer Ken Onion. Onion calls the Skinner knife “the ultimate hunting knife.” Whether this is true is ultimately up to the user, but the Onion Skinner has a lot going for it.
First, the knife is not just a theoretical design. Onion developed and tested the design for more than five years. He would make custom prototype knives and send them to Alaskan hunting guides with the intent they would be used, and he would get feedback about what did, and did not, work. Only after this rigorous testing process did he finalize the design.
Second, the knives use high-quality components. The K110 stainless steel blade has a hollow grind and plain edge. The hardness rating is 58-60, which makes for a sturdy knife that can be made very sharp. Blade length is 3.75 inches, which is just about the perfect length for many hunters.
Lastly, the Onion Skinner is an excellent value. It gives the hunter a single knife that can handle skinning, yet is precise enough for caping cuts as well. This eliminates the need for a second knife. When you look at the budget friendliness of this knife, it is easy to see why this high-quality tool ranks as one of the best hunting and survival knife on the market.
The Infamous Gerber Gator:
The Gerber Gator is a folding hunting knife that comes in a variety of configurations. My preferred version is the drop point, fine edged model. The drop point gives the folding hunter blade more strength and a fuller belly for skinning operations. While some people make an argument for a partially serrated blade, I much prefer the plain, fine edge for cutting.
The Gator has a blade length of 3.76”. It uses a lock back mechanism for securing the blade in the open position. Many hunters are concerned about a folding knife collapsing onto their hand while field dressing an animal. Many users have run their Gators extensively since the early 1990s and have never experienced any problem.
A soft rubber grip with an alligator skin-like texture covers the handle of this knife. It is very grippy, and a hunter is not likely to lose his or her grip during the field dressing process.
At a pretty reasonable cost, the Gator folding knife is affordable to nearly every hunter. It comes with a nylon belt sheath and a lifetime warranty. Gerber is also one of the top producers of more practical EDC pocket knife models.
The Original Wyoming Knife:
The original Wyoming knife is a specialty hunting knife designed for field dressing big game from deer to moose. It uses a razor-sharp gut hook-type blade to make short work of all aspects of skinning and gutting an animal.
The knife handle is an extremely tough glass-filled polymer. It has two round holes that the user inserts their first two fingers through. This will give the hunter enough control over the sharp blades to efficiently skin an animal, and still avoid cutting themselves.
The front of the handle curves into a horseshoe shape, which is where one of the surgical steel blades resides. The hunting knife design with the blade, the gut hook, is perfect for ripping the belly without damaging the organs.
A second blade, similar in appearance to a bear claw, is opposite of the gut hook. This additional blade is also razor sharp and is excellent for cutting the skin from the body of the animal.
The Original Wyoming Knife is purpose-built, and for skinning a deer, you would be hard pressed to find a more efficient tool. For this reason, it finds its way onto this list of the best-hunting knives. You can usually get this knife for an excellent price depending on what kind of case (nylon or leather) you want.
For more information on properly using your hunting knife in the field dressing of a game animal, be sure to check out these detailed guides from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Penn State University.
Lesser Known Uses for Hunting Knives
There are so many uses for hunting knives that exceed what you would normally use them for. When you are out in the wild especially, hunting knives can really help you as you come across issues along the way.
1. For Cutting Down Trees
Carrying around axes is a whole lot of work and so is building one, so having a simple hunting knife will do the trick just fine! A good rule of thumb is to tackle the smaller trees that are more dead, not a large live tree. There are many tutorials on how to use a hunting knife online.
2. To Start Fires
This may not be the best way to start a fire, but it helps when you are in a pinch! With a hunting knife, you can start fires with nothing more than a rock and some wood.
3. Sap Tapping
One thing you may not be fully prepared for is a cut or an even worse open wound injury. Sap is an incredible tool for the wilderness setting because it can be used as an antiseptic or an anti-inflammatory. Not only is it good for these uses, but sap can also be used as a waterproofing agent is needed, or as glue. If all else fails with your knife, timber, and rock, you can even use sap as a fire starter. Lastly, sap can be a food source.
4. Cutting Zip Ties
The most common way to remove most types of zip ties is by cutting them. These fasteners are mainly used with cables, and a hunting knife will free whatever the zip ties are holding together.
5. Cutting Meat
We’ve all been to restaurants that have such dull steak knives you may just want to pick up the meat and eat it with your bare hands. Although people around you may give you a look of disgust, taking out your hunting knife to cut your steak will make your meal more enjoyable and the same goes for any food you’ll eat in the outdoors.
In a hard situation, like when you are outdoors overnight, a sharp hunting knife makes an adequate razor for your face. A razor and knife are two different things, but it can get the job done if you are in a situation where it is necessary.
7. Bottle Opening
Found yourself outside, celebrating a catch, with no bottle opener in sight? Just whip out your hunting knife.
8. Defending Yourself from Rabid Animals
Animals are unpredictable. Dogs, cougars, sharks, bears, hogs and many other species have all killed people at various points in time. With a hunting knife in your pocket, you can turn certain death into a daring escape.
9. Making Rope out of the Grass
You can also make your own rope out of the grass with a hunting knife. Online tutorials show you how to make rope with just your hands and a knife. This can really help when you’re in a pinch in the woods! The hunting knife is mainly used in cutting the grass, but you get the idea.
10. Cutting Bait
The hunting knife can also be used for cutting up pieces of bait (or fishing line) into more manageable portions. Sometimes, to get certain fish, you will need to use chunks of bait.
11. Gutting Fish
After you’ve caught your fish during a hunting session, it’s time to clean it up by gutting it. Gutting it with a hunting knife is quick and easy.
12. Filleting Fish
There are fillet knives with flexible blades out there, but a hunting knife will also work when filleting smaller fish.
13. Making a Tourniquet
If you hurt yourself on a hunt and the wound is exceptionally bad, you may need to apply a tourniquet until help arrives. Ripping clothes into neat strips for bandages seems easy on television, but is a little more difficult in real life. A small hunting knife helps you make bandages or tourniquets in a hurry.
14. Cutting off Clothes to Access a Wound
Whether you’re an EMT at a site or a simple, good person helping someone who fell down a cliff, sometimes you will need to remove clothing to access a wound. This is when the hunting knife comes in.
15. Cutting a Fishing Net
Fishing nets can be a great way to catch fish, but sometimes whales, dolphins, and other creatures get trapped inside. Grab your knife and cut the animals free.
16. Spear Making
There are a couple of ways to make a spear with a hunting knife. One is to actually attach the knife to the end of a long stick. This is much less time-consuming, but it will put some wear and tear on your hunting knife. You can keep your knife and make a reliable four-pronged spear (fire hardened is even better). A hunting knife can be an essential tool in the job.
17. Gutting Game
Hunting knives are useful in a large number of hunting issues. The knife can be used to gut an animal such as a deer or really any smaller creature that you catch on a hunt.
18. Game Skinning
Skinning game is a common activity for a hunter to partake in. A fixed blade with a hook is commonly used, but a simple hunting knife works just as well in a pinch.
19. Killing Small Aggressive Creatures
There is possibly nothing worse than waking up in your tent to a scorpion staring at you? Not having a knife nearby is! Hunting knives make quick work like killing small dangerous critters easier. A hunting knife is excellent for removing the poisonous parts of animals as well, so no one steps on them later.
Final Thoughts on Best Hunting Knives
Hunting knives come with all different types of features as well as serve tons of purposes. Choosing the best one to fit your preferences can be an enjoyable endeavor. We hope our suggestions will help you to choose one best for you!
Hey, look at that! You found me! Lucky for you, because when I’m not writing articles all about the wilderness life, I’m out in the bush. Camping, fishing, canoeing, and sometimes even getting lost. You know the drill.