Why do you need a hunting knife?
Other than the obvious joy of working with a really decent (sharp) knife, when you’re choosing a hunting knife, it’s important to consider how you’ll use it. You may not be hunting Deer or rabbits and just want a good quality knife, or you may indeed need a knife to skin and bone your game for the table.
Hunting knives are traditionally designed for cutting, and usually have a single sharpened edge. The blade is slightly curved on most models and some hunting knives may have a blade that has both a curved portion for skinning, and a straight portion for cutting slices of meat.
Folding knives typically aren’t as strong as fixed blade knives but they are lighter and easier to carry. When looking at a fixed blade, it’s also worth considering whether the knife is of full, partial or half tang construction, as this can impact on the strength, weight and durability of the knife.
When you’ve made the choice between fixed and folding, it’s time to choose the blade for your needs. There are several types of knives available, and the choice boils down to personal preference. There are three common types of blades; clip point, drop point and skinning blade.
The clip point knife blade is a good all-around knife, thin with a well-defined point. The blade itself is relatively flat. This knife is versatile enough to be used for general camp chores and specialised hunting jobs, including field dressing and skinning.
The drop point knife is a specialised hunting knife. It’s used to dress the animal and skin it, but shouldn’t be used to cut rope or twigs, or do other general camping-related chores. The blade of a drop point knife is thick and curved. The point is not defined, which makes it easy to use the entire blade for skinning. Using the entire blade not only speeds up the process, but reduces the risk of damaging the meat. Because it doesn’t have a distinct point, you’re less likely to tear into the meat while you’re skinning the animal. The blade’s robust design allows the hunter to use the knife for gutting and other field cleaning duties.
Skinning blades are designed to skin big game animals. The blade quickly and neatly separates the skin from the meat of large game. Although the blade is specifically made for skinning, the knife can also be used for other hunting chores.
Serrations allow you to use the blade for heavy jobs, such as splitting through a rib cage, and typically take up only a small portion of the blade’s length.
Quality hunting knives typically have either carbon steel or stainless steel blades. Each type of blade has advantages and disadvantages. Carbon steel blades rust, so they require special treatment. Regular use is the best way to prevent rust from forming on the blade, but you can also coat the blade to prevent rust. To coat your carbon steel blade, clean your blade thoroughly, allow it to dry completely, then apply a wax that contains silicon. Carbon steel blades tend to be easier to sharpen and remain sharp for longer than a stainless steel blade.
Stainless steel knife blades are rust resistant. This makes them extremely popular with hunters who hunt in areas with rainy conditions. However, stainless steel knives can be more difficult to sharpen and more expensive than carbon steel knives.
Whether you choose a fixed or folding blade knife, the handle should be sturdy and feel relatively heavy in your hand. Examine the area where the knife’s blade enters the handle — this can be a point of weakness. If you choose a folding blade knife, check how the blade folds into the handle. Does it line up and move relatively easy, or do you have to force it? A quality knife should move with ease.
Proper care will extend the life of your hunting knife. You’ll normally store your fixed blade knife in a leather sheath, but if you don’t plan on using it for a while, you’ll need special long-term storage solutions. For long-term storage, wrap your clean and dry knife in plain paper, and store that package in a plastic bag. Add a package of desiccant to the bag to absorb any moisture.
It’s also important to keep your knife sharp. A sharp blade cuts easily, which will prevent you from accidentally cutting yourself by trying to force a dull blade. You can have your knife blade professionally sharpened, but it’s actually an easy project to complete yourself. Just get a knowledgeable person to show you how to sharpen your hunting knife for the first time (or watch one of the hundreds of YouTube videos out there), and you’ll be able to do it yourself after that. It’s important to learn how to do it from an expert because the wrong technique can actually dull your hunting blade.
Day-to-day care is the best way to extend the life of your hunting knife. Clean the blade and handle thoroughly after use, using a product made specifically for the job. A quick wipe down in the field is a good idea after you use your knife, but it doesn’t replace a thorough cleaning when you arrive home. Use a product made specifically for your knife’s material. There are many multifunctional cleaners that can be used on metal, wood and leather. These products make it easier to clean your knife because you don’t have to worry about ruining your handle when you clean your blade.
Often these commercial cleaners also work as a lubricant and protector. Using all-in-one products can save a great deal of time for you in caring for your knife. Proper care of your hunting knife will extend its life and reduce your risk of accidentally cutting yourself. A sharp blade that’s securely set in the handle is the safest blade to use.