Cutting to the chase: selecting the correct knife for your hunting kit

Photo credit: Brady Miller

They say selecting a premium bullet or broadhead is important since it is the only thing that makes contact with the animal you are hunting. If we are to see the merit in that notion, we surely can’t overlook the benefit of having a quality knife that compliments your hunting style and application. If the former puts the animal on the ground, the latter gets the meat to your freezer. With so many advances in materials and metallurgy technology, I don’t profess to be the Neil deGrasse Tyson of blades—what I am is a dedicated hunter who has spent lots of time in the field wielding different style knives and, through my testing, have found what works for me. Since gear can be a deep dive, here are four styles of knives you may encounter and consider.

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New-age fixed blade

A drop-point style blade is one of the most common shapes due to its versatility, including a sharp tip, robust belly, and plenty of edge. Typically consisting of a full tang handle, I find value in a bright color—less for the aesthetics and more for the practicality of relocating it quickly if set down or misplaced. Many companies offer materials in their handles like Santoprene, that aid with grip and added texture. The Benchmade Steep Country uses CPM S30V stainless steel, which has great edge retention and comes in at 3 oz. This is a solid choice for a do-all knife that can be utilized for many years to come.

Minimalist/skeletonized fixed blade

Simplicity can be a savior on the mountain, and ounces can be a burden. For those looking to consolidate the hardship, look no further than a few of these top-tier skeletonized offerings such as Benchmade’s Altitude, Argali’s Carbon or Tyto’s Ghost — all available in the GOHUNT Gear Shop. Made with high-quality stainless or carbon steels, these knives have minimal footprints and negligible weights that punch well above their weight class when it comes to performance. For the dedicated sheep hunter or Himalayan Tahr chaser, you could do worse. One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes in cooler temperatures my grip gets a little slippery or it feels like there’s a slight loss in dexterity (could be my hands not cooperating, but also the lack of a “traditional grip”). This is not a deal breaker, but something to mull over as you contemplate what style knife suits your fancy. 

Replaceable blade/scalpel 

If you like super sharp things that you don’t have to worry about after they go dull, this style is for you. The benefit to using replaceable blades is exactly that — when your blade no longer performs, simply remove it and replace it. Did I mention these things were sharp? Last hunting season I was cleaning up the burrs around my mule deer bucks antler bases and prepping it for a skull boil when my wife informed me about my profuse bleeding. I didn’t believe her, but when I looked down at the ground in the garage, I knew it was my blood. When I investigated my left pinky finger, I’d found that I sliced it from the top of the nail to the first knuckle (down to the bone). Didn’t even feel it when it happened, but it required nine stitches, and I’m glad there wasn’t more damage. I tell this story not to demonize scalpel blades, but to reiterate the importance of slowing down when you are field dressing and caping out your animals. You have razor sharpness on tap, essentially. One factor to consider is the design of the blade release. It would suck to be halfway through taking care of an animal and ready to switch blades only to have the button release fail due to fur and/or other gooey sediments gulling up the lever. I’ve been happy with my Outdoor Edge 3.5” Razorblaze as the release is more intuitive, toolless, and user friendly than the Havalon I tried previously. There are also many quality companies coming to market with improvements and design progress in this segment like GOAT Knives, Tyto and Gerber.

Grandpa’s trusty old timer

New tech and shiny things will always draw attention, but some tools stand the test of time. Knives will take care of you if you take care of them. A 70-year-old blade and sheath may not have the panache or perceived value as a newer, high-dollar replacement, but it has character, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” If it holds an edge and cuts well, it deserves to be deployed in the field. To say that my grandfather’s generation had to be frugal given the times is an understatement, but why did he choose to still use his “Old Timer” knife well into the 2000s? (Obviously, because it still worked).

Deciding on the right style knife is a personal decision that requires you to slice through marketing hype, analyze your predicted usage, and critique your current set-up to determine which route to go. Once you do, you’ll be well on your way to streamlined meat care and hide preservation with a tool you can grow with!

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