“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well.”
A good knife is an essential tool for a hunter. And like any other tool, there's a right one for a job.
Here's our guide to buying the right hunting knife.
This is your go-to. Your main man. The all-in-one friend at your hip. You'll be using this bad-boy for your everyday wear and tear. Cutting rope, unjamming rounds from the cheap .22/shotgun you decided to under-spend on, and probably cutting steaks from animals you didn't kill.
The key to picking the right all-purpose cutter is durability. This knife needs to stand up to the worst kind of battery. You're going to also want to make sure it can hold an edge. With the vast amount of materials you will no doubt be cutting with this knife, edge retention is big.
How much should I spend? What are some good brands? Well, given that this will be your go-to, you're probably going to want to spend a little more on this one. We like to think that somewhere in the range of $85-$200 is a solid investment. Brand wise? If you just want a general, good knife, Gerber is always a solid bet and so is SOG. However, if you want to step it up and get a good quality, hand-crafted knife, you can special order from BasecampX or John Neeman Tools. You won't regret those choices.
Field Dressing Deer, Elk and Moose
Let's get one thing straight: skinning dulls knives. Big time. That said, all you really need in that situation is a good sharpener. For field dressing and skinning you don't need a heavy duty cutter, but you need one that will hold an edge and one that's long enough to do the job.
We've found that having a softer steel makes this less painful because you're sharpening often.
Size and shape are the next thing you want to pay mind to. A good curve helps with the feathering cuts you need to make to separate hide from meat.
Most field knives may not be long enough to successfully field dress a large animal like an elk or moose. Make sure you have a blade at least 5 in. long. Skinning knives tend to be better if they have a bit of a curve to them as you will mostly be using the first inch of the knife to do all the work.
Some people use their general purpose knife for field dressing, which is fine, just make sure it has the length and you don't mind getting guts all over it. You should definitely have a separate blade for skinning.
This is a bit of a weird one. It really depends on the bird. For your basic uplanders (pheasant, grouse, partridge) you don't need anything fancy. Your general purpose knife will be more than suitable.
Once you get into the larger birds (turkey, goose etc.) you are better off using your skinning knife or a nice filet knife, as you will most likely be either de-breasting or you will need greater precision and control with field dressing.
But the one thing, above all else, is simple: make sure there's a serrated portion of the blade. Getting the joints apart - wings from breast, legs from hip - is slippery business. Serrated edges catch cartilage so you dismember the bird, not yourself.
Image from Buck Knives