Let’s set the scene for you. You’re out camping in your usual spot, you’ve got the portable grill
going and you (and your family) are hungry; you’re all ready to eat and
you’ve even managed to catch yourself a rabbit. All you need to do now is skin it, pop it on the grill and you’re good to go. For this, you will need a very specific type of knife. Your average kitchen knife
will not do. You need a hunting knife
The first step in choosing the best hunting knife is to ask yourself what you intend to do with the knife. There are two types of hunting knives:
This knife is designed to perform a particular task. You might not be able to use it for tasks other than its specialty.
General Purpose Knife:
As the name suggests, this knife is designed to perform more than one task.
If you're looking for a knife that will perform one specific task well (skinning a deer, for example, or cutting branches around your hunting stand) then you may want to choose a specialty knife made with one particular purpose in mind. On the other hand, if you buy a specialty knife to use as a multi-purpose tool for backcountry camping, it probably won't perform many of the tasks you might need it for. The first thing you need to do when making a selection is choose a design that will suit the task ahead.
Before you choose a general-purpose knife that can be used for a variety of tasks, you have to ensure that it is designed with all the features you need. For example, the common fixed-blade hunting knife is suitable for skinning game, field-dressing, whittling tinder for fire-building, cutting rope or twine and cutting up food. You can get the most out of any knife you choose if you ensure that it has all the necessary features you need.
You might decide you really need more than one knife. This will be dependent on the type of hunting you do. For instance, if you're hunting big game such as antelope, you can carry a fixed-blade knife with a rugged synthetic handle. The drop-point blade is suitable for skinning, and a saw-like edge on the spine of the knife is suitable for separating bone. It can also be used for trimming tree branches and cutting kindling around your camp. If you will also be hunting small game, such as squirrels and rabbits, you can go with a bone-handled pocket knife with a clip-point blade and a fowl hook that can be used for gutting small game. It's lightweight in case you take long walks in the field.
Let us now look more deeply into the factors to consider when choosing your hunting knife.
Though it should be one of the factors to consider, price should not be the only consideration when choosing any product. Several factors determine the price of a product, and one of them is the brand. Other factors that affect a hunting knife’s price are the design, functionality, materials, and extra features among others. We recommend that you consider these factors before making your choice of a hunting knife. Top-end knives have features that you can’t find on more affordable ones, so something has to give sometimes for more affordability.
There is a wide range of prices for hunting knives, starting from as high as $60 to as low as $6. There is definitely an explanation for this wide range. We trust that you do not want to get a cheap hunting knife that will not serve the purpose for which you got it, because it doesn’t have the features you need or is made of a less durable material.
Apart from the brand name, the other factors that determine the cost of a hunting knife are centered around the features it bears. Most brands ensure that their hunting knives come with many irresistible features that cannot be ignored. Here are some features to consider when shopping for your hunting knife:
- Fixed or folding blade
- Blade design
- Blade material
- Knife handle
Construction and Design
Hunting knives can either have folding blades or fixed blades. The blades of the fixed-blade knives are designed and fixed permanently in an open position. Folding knives have a pivot point that allows the blade to fold closed into the handle. Fixed blade knives are stronger than folding blade knives. This is because the blade material reaches into the handle of the knife. It is very suitable for heavy-duty work. The fact that it has no moving part makes it more reliable and durable. It is also easier to clean. On the downside, a fixed blade knife is longer than a folding knife. Due to the exposed blade, it must be carried in a sheath, which makes it bulkier and not completely safe for transport.
A folding blade knife, on the other hand, is convenient to carry in a pocket because it becomes smaller when it is folded. It is safer because the blade is usually tucked in after use. It is not as strong as a fixed blade knife, and it can be a little inconvenient to always release the latch on blade folders. It is also difficult to clean, because the area that holds the blade can collect and trap dirt from the environment.
It is important to consider the type of material used to make the blade when buying a hunting knife. The ability to hold its edge after sharpening it, how well you can sharpen your knife, and how it will look after years of use in the field will be largely dependent on this. The characteristics of the best blade materials are corrosion resistance, high edge retention, wear resistance and toughness.
Performance and Ease of Use
Knives with huge blades, though macho and imposing, are not practically useful for hunters. They can be used in place of hatchets or machetes, but they are hardly useful for skinning game or other common hunting tasks. This realization will make you very critical about the size of the knife you choose, which should only be based on the task you wish to use the knife for. You will have to be very practical about this. If you are hunting big game, go for a sturdier and bigger knife so you can easily quarter the game. When hunting for small game, get a small and light knife that can fit into your pocket. Whichever you choose, do ensure that the size fits into your grasp comfortably, as you will not want the knife to keep slipping when you are busy with it.
Most hunting knives will have one of three blade designs: clip point, drop point or skinning. The game you hunt should determine what blade design to use. The clip point blade is flatter and thinner. The point is well-defined, more than the drop point. Though it is not as efficient as the drop point blade when skinning or gutting, it can perform the same tasks. If you’re looking for a knife that will perform tasks other than hunting, the clip point knife is suitable, because it looks more like the generic work knife.
The drop point design has a curved blade that is usually stronger than the rest. It is suitable to use a drop point hunting knife when hunting big game. It is the most appropriate for skinning animals. You can ensure maximum productivity and ease by using the edge and not just the point. It also ensures that less meat is lost in the skinning process.
Skinning knives are designed to specifically perform one task: skinning of game, especially big and medium game. They are very effective for those hunters that butcher their own game. It makes separating skin from flesh effortless with its high sweeping blade. As a plus, this knife can also do other chores that are centered on game cleaning.
A gut hook is a feature to look out for. You can find it in many blades. The gut hook is used to extend an incision from where the regular blade stopped. This prevents the puncturing of the animal’s entrails. If you are going to be dressing the game in the field, this feature will be very useful to you.
Some hunting knives are made in such a way that you can swap blades. This is very convenient for when you are involved in different tasks. You can simply attach the blade made for any particular task. This means you won’t need to carry more than one knife.
When considering the handle, focus more on durability than aesthetics. Leather, wood or bone handles are very functional and more pleasing to the eyes, but they do not have the durability you are looking for. They are also difficult to grasp when wet with water or blood. Zytel, Kraton and ABS are handles made with synthetic material, which combine sure grip and economy and are hard to break. They are also lightweight.
Most hunting knives come with a handle that have a contour or a finger stop between the handle and the blade. This stops the hunter’s hand from sliding onto the blade of the knife. This feature is about your safety. Ultimately, a knife handle should fit perfectly into your hand. This fit should largely determine what knife you should get. You do not want to buy a knife with a handle that is too small for your hand, because it will make you grip it too tightly, and this will make your forearm weary when used over an extended period. On the other hand, you also don't want to purchase a knife with a handle that is too big for you to grip and control.
Our buying guide has given you sufficient information on the features of a good hunting knife. Now that you have a good understanding of what to look for in a hunting knife, let us look at some of the best hunting knives that we have picked out for this review, with their various prices and features.
You now have a good dose of information on what the best hunting knife for you should be, and you are well on your way to making your purchase. If, however, you did not find the exact hunting knife of your choice, feel free to check out other products from the selected brands above.