Blades and Knives

The Hunting Knife

A sharp pocket knife on a tree stump and rope. Top.

During deer season, there is one tool that is nearly as important as your rifle or bow when it comes to harvesting that trophy buck. While a rifle or bow are critical tools for making the shot, the real work begins after the shot.

Once you’ve located your downed quarry, only one tool will do the work you need and it’s one that many hunters overlook: the hunting knife.

The first step after locating your prey and confirming that it is dead is to field dress the animal. Having a good well-balanced hunting knife with a well honed edge is critical here. Without a very sharp knife you can easily damage the meat with rough tearing cuts.

A dull knife requires more effort to use, making it more likely that the knife could slip and puncture the gut and have the contents spill out into the body cavity. It’s important to note that bigger is not better when it comes to skinning knives.

Properly field dressing and skinning a deer is a delicate process and being able to maintain precise control of a sharp blade is very important. A bigger knife simply becomes unwieldy. A good skinning knife should have a blade measuring 3-inches-5-inches long with the knife not exceeding 12-inches in overall length.

The hunting knife is a multipurpose tool. Though primarily intended for use skinning and butchering game animals, it can be pressed into service as a machete or hatchet. Most people think of the traditional Bowie knife as a hunting knife, although more modern drop blade designs have taken it’s place.

The first evolution of the Bowie knife was the clip-point blade. Designed for better piercing, as opposed to slicing, the clip point is not particularly suited for processing meat, though it works in a pinch.

The drop point blade has a spine that also drops down to meet the edge at the point, although unlike the clip point the curve is convex. More versatile than the clip point, drop point blades are usually thicker and stronger than the clip point and gives you enhanced control and precision when making a cut.

The skinning blade is generally broader and more curved than a drop point blade, although either style can be used for skinning game and animals. The skinning blade is designed so it doesn’t pierce or tear the meat while you are skinning the animal.

Using a highly swept blade lets you easily separate flesh from skin. Though intended primarily for flaying, a dedicated skinning knife can also perform other tasks, such as cleaning and gutting, as well or better than a drop point.

A gut hook, while not strictly necessary, can also make opening up the body cavity much easier while reducing the risk of puncturing the gut itself. Gut hooks can’t be sharpened with a traditional whetstone; they must be kept keen with a thin round file.

Folding skinners are much more convenient to carry around, yet rarely have the wider curved blade found on most fixed blade skinners.

For the ultimate in skinning knives, look no further than the razor sharp Wyoming knife. Fitted with a single, dual-edged scalpel blade, this knife easily slices through the toughest hides. The integral gut hook makes it very fast and easy to field dress your deer in record time. You can attach the convenient carrying case (included) to your belt for easy access when you need it and an included sheath keeps the finely honed blade protected.

The Wyoming knife is not designed to be sharpened. Instead it relies upon razor sharp scalpel-like blades that can be replaced when dull. When it comes time, blade replacement is quickly accomplished

  1. Remove the single screw holding the blade in place.
  2. Pull out the old blade.
  3. Insert the new blade.

The Wyoming knife is truly a specialized tool and is not well suited for any other task, so if you choose to carry this knife it should only be in addition to a more traditional hunting knife.

Regardless of what style hunting knife you choose, it should always be well cared for. Frequent cleaning and oiling will prevent dullness from corrosion while honing the blade will increase the length of time between necessary sharpening.

Unlike sharpening, honing doesn’t actually remove any material from the edge; it merely straightens and aligns the thin metal on a microscopic level.

For more information on caring for your hunting knife, see our articles on sharpening and honing a blade.

What’s your favorite hunting knife? How did it get that honor? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.