The hunting trail is littered with traces of an elusive game. You have been on the hunt for hours and are starting to get tired. But at the sight of broken branches and paw prints on the soil, you felt a rush of adrenaline. Careful not to make even the slightest sound, you put your foot forward and observe your surroundings.
Something’s making some noise behind the nearby bushes. You aim your sights at the disturbance, while your finger touches on the trigger. Finally, a bewildered rabbit spots you and begins to scurry away. Before it escapes you once again, you pull the trigger and hit it dead on! At last, you bag your first successful catch for the day!
As you begin to prepare your catch to be cooked, you realize that you have been missing something. While focused on making your first catch, you accidentally dropped your hunting knife with its leather sheath along the way. It has served you well in many hunts and you are long overdue for an upgrade anyway.
In this article, we are going to walk you through the basics of a hunting knife, some considerations you should take when shopping for one, and the hunting knife best brands in the market. If this seems good to you, then read on!
What Is a Hunting Knife?
Many underestimate the value of a good hunting knife. They mistakenly think that as long as it can slice bread and cut tomatoes, it can also be used for any other purpose such as preparing animal game. Trust us, your tactical knife, pocket knife, survival knife, Bowie knife, and fishing knives won't be handy during your hunting trip.
Remember, hunting knives are designed and built differently so as to serve one specific purpose: to be used in hunting. But how is it exactly different from other kinds of knives?
Hunting knives are meant to accompany you during your hunting trips. They are designed to help you easily and effortlessly prepare your freshly caught game. They can be used in field dressing, skinning, gutting, deboning, and butchering. In addition, they are portable enough to be kept in a sheath on your waist or in your hunting bag.
Why Should I Buy a Hunting Knife?
Hunting knives are no marketing gimmick. They are different from other kinds of knives because they are meant to be used during your hunting trips in the great outdoors. As such, we have listed down the different situations where a hunting knife can really be useful. If you see yourself doing the following, then a hunting knife will be a crucial part of your hunting gear.
Tearing through an animal can be a daunting task. If you want to save the good parts of the meat and preserve it for later consumption, you have to do it with skill and precision. However, it’s not all about skill. You can be the best hunter in the world with the best knifing skills, but with a dull and rusty knife, you won’t be able to open up the animal’s carcass properly.
If you have a trusty hunting knife by your side, its sharp knife blade can easily rip through the carcass. Having an appropriately sized hunting knife is crucial if you want to do the job efficiently. A large fixed knife will be hard to use with small game like rabbit. Likewise, big game like deer should be butchered with a larger hunting knife.
When hunting for big game, you should be prepared to lug it across your back and bring it with you on your hike home. However, you can make the weight more bearable and lighter by taking out the bones. A big animal’s bones can add significant weight. As such, you would be better off if you remove them before you make your journey home.
Deboning, as the word itself implies, is the process through which you separate the bones from the meat. If you wish to take the most amount of meat, you need the proper equipment such as a sharp and thin hunting knife to help you do so. Surely, you wouldn’t want to waste the precious meat of your hard-earned catch!
Once you successfully kill an animal, the clock starts ticking. The decaying process will begin as soon as the animal stops breathing. If you have just begun your hunt and still have lots of hours to go, you have to make sure that the meat won’t be ruined and go to waste. To gut an animal skillfully and seamlessly, you must have the proper tool for the job.
Complementing your good gutting skills, a hunting knife is an extremely helpful tool when gutting an animal. Since the internal organs are delicate, you have to be careful when separating them from the animal’s body. You don’t want to contaminate the meat by puncturing the animal’s guts. With a quick hand, a trusty fixed knife, and a gut hook, you can gut the animal safely and quickly.
Usually done when back at the camp, skinning is the excision of the skin from the carcass. This is where a good-quality hunting knife will shine the most. Puncturing the skin of an animal demands the sharpest knife. If you have used a dull and rusty knife to skin an animal before, you will definitely appreciate an upgrade.
While most hunting knives can do the job, you can skin an animal easier and faster with a knife that has a sharp and slightly curved knife blade. A curved knife blade will allow you to get under the skin easily. Also, skinning is deemed one of the most time-consuming tasks that you have to do after getting a successful skill. As such, a good hunting knife will be your best friend.
What Should I Look For When Buying a Hunting Knife?
Now that you’re absolutely convinced that you need a new hunting knife, you should know what exactly you’re getting into. While they might all look similar, not all hunting knives are created in the same way. Some are sharper than others, while others might have better designs that can help you perform your tasks easier and faster.
Shape, Size, and Form
You wouldn’t use a bread knife to split a watermelon in half, would you? Likewise, the hunting knife’s shape and form are highly important when picking the right one for the job. For example, if you're hunting small game, a small hunting pocket knife might be more appropriate. On the other hand, if you’re hunting big game like deer, a large hunting knife can speed up field dressing.
Another reason why size is an important thing to consider is portability. As you hunt, you move around a lot with great speed and dexterity. You must pack light, carrying with you only the most needed essential equipment. So in this case, a smaller knife would be more preferable.
In addition, you can also have a hunting knife in two form-factors: a fixed blade knife and a folding knife. It's entirely up to you which of the two you end up with. However, do take note that both options have their strengths and weaknesses. Some purchase a hunting knife set for knives of different sizes and purposes.
After a successful kill, you have to conduct a series of tasks to properly prepare your catch. One of those tasks is field dressing, which simply means getting the guts out of the animal while still on the field. Despite being the most frequent task you will use your hunting knife with, field dressing is a skill that takes time to learn and master.
As such, you should consider the way you hold and handle the knife. A hunting knife without a proper grip can slip out of your hands in the middle of a field dressing. This can cause injuries and ruin the meat of your animal game. So if you’re looking for a hunting knife, you need to hold it in your hands first and see how it feels.
Before you set on a hike towards the hunting grounds, you have to pack your hunting day pack first. A day pack contains everything that you might need during your hunt. Your hunting essentials may include water, a first aid kit, rain gear, a headlamp, food or snacks, game bags, and of course, your hunting knife.
Depending on how long you plan your hunt will be, your day pack can become huge and bulky. As such, you need to trim down and lessen the number of hunting gear and related products you are going to bring. So in choosing a hunting knife, make sure that it’s both light and functional. While you do need to reduce the weight of your gear, you can’t compromise functionality.
Like we have mentioned before, not all hunting knives were made equal. Despite their similar appearance, the differences lie inside them. They are fabricated from different metal materials with varying strengths. Some materials can be stronger than others, but this benefit comes with a trade-off. The highest quality blades, more often than not, come with a high price tag as well.
Modern hunting knives are more complicated than their more primitive counterparts. While most of their composition is made of steel such as stainless steel, other materials are also thrown in like molybdenum. These added substances improve specific characteristics of the knife such as sharpness and corrosion resistance.
Some examples of hunting knife materials are:
- Damascus steel
- Carbon steel
- Cold steel
- Stainless steel
Saying that hunting knives are extremely sharp is a massive understatement. If they can pierce through an animal’s thick and firm skin, they can surely cut your skin even by accident. As such, you need extra measures to keep yourself safe from accidental cuts and injuries. That’s why you need a carrying case (e.g. leather sheath or horizontal knife sheath) to store your hunting knife.
Aside from protecting yourself from the sharp edge of your knife, a carrying case can also shield your knife from harmful elements. When it rains, you don’t want your hunting knife to be drenched in water. Oxidation produces rust that can diminish the strength of your hunting knife. So besides a carrying case, it might also be worthwhile to learn about rust stain removal.
Lastly, the carrying case can work in tandem with a pocket clip or a belt loop. A pocket clip allows you to easily access your knife from your pocket, while a belt loop or a belt clip attaches it to your belt on your waist. Some hunters also have custom knife sheaths that are suited for their specific needs and preferences.
Getting yourself a hunting knife with sheath will be a massive improvement for your hunting experience. After getting that successful kill and retrieving the animal’s remains, you have to give the animal due respect and make the most out of its body. To do that, you need a handy and reliable piece of equipment by your side: a hunting knife.
A high-quality hunting knife with a sheath can make an entire world of difference. There are plenty of brands to choose from, such as the Buck Knife, Ontario Knife Company, and a Bushcraft Knife. If this sounds confusing, you should head on and read our hunting knives buying guide.
What are you waiting for? Get yourself a hunting knife and begin the hunt! Check here for more information.