Choosing the best Hunting Knife or Butchering Knife

Choosing the best hunting knife or butchering knife  challenge

The primary decisions or things you get to choose from are:

  • Fixed Blade versus Folding Blade
  • Gut Hook – Yes or No?
  • Drop Point or Clip Point
  • Skinning?
  • Handle Type
  • Blade Length
  • Serrations – Yes or No?

If you choose wrong you end up with a paperweight that is more likely to be in your “junk drawer” than on your hip when you need it. First ask yourself a few questions: What type of hunting do you do? Do you go after big game or small? Do you trophy hunt or are you a meat hunter? What is the largest animal you envision using the knife on? The smallest? How often do you hunt, are you looking for a knife you can carry when you’re not hunting? Seems like a lot of questions but if you don’t know what you want the hunting knife for you will never choose the correct one for your personal preferences!

 

Folding Vs Fixed Blade
Lets start with the two basic knife styles: fixed blade and folding. Fixed Blade knives is just that, meaning the blade is designed permanently fixed in the open position. Due to this design, this style of knife comes with a sheath, that allows for carrying in a safe manner. These knives are typically stronger than folding knives, because the blade’s material runs through the center of the handle.

Fixed Blade Hunting Knife
Marble’s Fixed Blade Hunting Knife
There are generally no moving parts with a fixed blade so they are very reliable, one exception in the SOG Hunter Revolver which technically is a moving fixed blade that happens to have two knives in one handle. Gerber, Case, Kershaw, and several other knife manufacturers also produce hunting knives that allow the user to swap out blades quickly and easily.

Folding knives have a pivot point and lock mechanism, which allows the blade to close into the handle. These are excellent for the occasional hunter, whom may also want a knife for everyday use. Folding knives are naturally, by design, not as strong as fixed blade knives. However, they are much easier to carry in a pocket or in a small sheath on the belt.

folding hunting knife
Browning Folding Hunting Knife
If you are looking for a dedicated hunting knife, I personally would go with a good quality fixed blade. If on the other hand, you are only going to use it on the occasional hunt, go with a folding knife. They will provide you with an knife for multiple uses, rather than just hunting.

 

THE BLADE DESIGN
The next issue is blade style; this is where you really have some decisions to make! The three main hunting blade designs are the drop point, clip point and skinning designs.

 

Drop Point Knives
 

Drop Point hunting knife
The drop point hunting knife is an excellent design for the big game hunter. This design generally features a robust, curved blade of relatively thick steel. These features allow the user to cut the skin off the animal using the entire edge of the knife, rather than just the point. This allows for quick skinning and very little damage to the meat. The design of the drop point, also allows for other field cleaning tasks such as gutting and the splitting of the rib cage and pelvis, although a saw or hatchet is the preferred tool for the latter to tasks.

 

Clip Point Knives
 

Clip Point hunting knife
The other main hunting blade design is the clip point hunting knife. The Clip Point has a thinner blade than the Drop Point and has a much more defined point. The flatter blade is more utilitarian and will fit the needs of the majority of hunters, especially those wishing to use the knife as a general duty work knife and not as a dedicated hunting knife. The clip point blade design will perform all of the tasks the drop point will, only not as efficiently. For the occasional hunter this is the perfect design.

 

SKINNING
 

Skinning Knife
Skinning knife is designed to aid in the removal of the skin of big game animals. They tend to have highly sweeping blades that are designed to effortlessly separate the flesh from skin. A dedicated skinning knife can be a real time saver for those big game hunters that do the butchering themselves. An added bonus is that the skinning knife can do most of the other game cleaning chores as well as the clip point and drop point designs.

GUT HOOK
 

Hunting Knife with Gut Hook
Many of the hunting knives you will see will come with a gut hook. The gut hook is used by making a small incision with the main blade, then by using the hook to cut open the abdomen. The hook prevents the hunter from “paunching” the animal and possibly affecting the quality of the meat. They do work, it is a strictly a personal preference as to the need for one. In the event that you do want the added security that the gut hook provides, they are very similar in price to non-gut hook knives.

One thing to consider before purchasing a hunting knife with a gut hook design is the occasional need to sharpen the hook. The actual cutting part of the gut hook is enclosed in a “hook” machined into the top of the blade. You can’t sharpen this area with a regular flat stone, so you will need to eventually purchase a round file. Because manufacturers use hooks of different sizes I recommend waiting until you get your knife, then go to your local hardware store and purchase a high quality, fine grit, round file closely matching the shape and size of your knife. Please note, that unlike the main blade of your new hunting knife, the gut hook is only sharpened on one side not two. Don’t sharpen the flat side, you will ruin the knife!

Another alternative to purchasing a hunting knife with a built in gut hook is to purchase a separate unit. Gerber offers a relatively inexpensive, easily transported unit, which has the added feature of having easily replaced blades, that negates the need for sharpening. Using standard utility blades, the blade is easily replaced at the beginning of each season and is ready when needed.

 

THE HANDLE
Many hunters put a lot of thought into the blade design of their hunting knife, but very little thought into the handle’s material. The classic wood, leather, or bone handles are very functional and appealing to the eye. However, don’t overlook the newer handle materials, although not as appealing to the eye as the classic materials, rubber and the other composite materials merit a look. The newer handle materials, offer greatly enhanced control in adverse conditions. Even a little blood on the handle of a hunting knife can lead to a trip to the emergency room. Rubber and composite grips afford the hunter an added degree of safety.

 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Another nice addition, is serrations, they add to the blades “rough cutting” ability and generally only take up a small portion of the blade. Serrations allow the knife to do some really tough chores like splitting the rib cage or pelvis.

A knife that is overlooked is the Caping Knife, used for caping big game animals for mounting. When preparing a trophy for the taxidermist, it is important that the hide is preserved for a neck or shoulder mount. Some beautiful trophy animals have been ruined by a hunters using the wrong knife to prepare the animal. Caping knifes are dedicated to this task. They are relatively small knives with very fine blades.

A note about caping is in order, do not wait until you have a 225 lbs. 12 point buck down to attempt caping for the first time! Practice on smaller animals before you do it on your trophy! It would be a shame to have to go to an antler or skull mount instead of a shoulder mount, because you messed up. Caping is not hard, but to do it well you need to practice!

 

Final Thoughts
Choosing the correct hunting knife has more to do with personal preference than anything else. By making an informed decision, you can guarantee that the knife you chose is the very best hunting knife for you and your needs.  If you have a question, chances are others do to, and I can use your suggestions/questions to improve this guide!

After all of these options and much research and discussion among hunters, campers, butchers and survivalists, the best overall knife is the Buck Knife. You can find both fixed blade and folding blade Buck knives and will be happy with them for years to come.

When you find the right hunting knife or butchering knife cherish it and keep it for the rest of your life!