Choosing the perfect field knife
No matter what you are chasing, your ultimate goal is to harvest an animal and bring some meat home for your freezer. Whenever I am selecting the items I always bring in my pack, I am sure to include game bags, my license, a small first aid and emergency kit and a knife. A knife is an age-old tool that serves many uses in your hunting and daily life. A person can spend hundreds — even thousands of dollars — on a professionally forged, one of a kind knife or as little as $5 from the local Walmart or flea market. While that is true, there is a certain quality of knife that is required by hunters wishing to field dress and butcher animals multiple miles from the truck. The knife needs to be sharp enough to do the job, strong enough to not break and light enough that it can be carried deep into the mountains without its own pack. A few decades ago, most hunters carried a solid and dependable fixed blade knife; however, in the past decade, the replaceable razor blade style knives have gained momentum — and for good reason. Personally, I have used both fixed blades and replaceable blade knives over my 20 plus years of hunting and have seen the pros and cons of each. Together, we are going to explore some of my experiences, which can help you decide what knife is perfect for you and your next hunting trip.
Fixed blade knives
Fixed blade knives have been around as long as mankind and were originally made from sharpened stones, bones and, even, wood. Throughout the industrialization of our history came metal and forging better and sharper blades; however, today's knives are at a level of their own. With a major push for high quality blades, there have been a lot of companies that have delivered awesome quality fixed blade knives. These knives have better quality metal and superior edge retention compared to the knives of our fathers. Personally, I always remember growing up with knives that dulled easily, especially when cutting through hide and hardened meat. We almost always had one person dedicated to sharpening knives during the butchering process because working with a sharp knife makes quick work of any animal. Today, companies like Argali claim that their blades were designed to cut up an entire elk without having to be resharpened.
In my experience, I love carrying fixed blade knives for several reasons. First, a fixed blade knife is strong and not prone to snapping even when you are putting immense pressure on it. A fixed blade knife does not require you to bring any extra blades into the mountains. It can also be sharpened — either prior to your trip or with a field sharpening stone — to an extremely sharp edge. I only really see a few negatives pertaining to a fixed blade knife. The first negative is that when the knife gets dull — and it will eventually get dull — you have to stop working on the animal and sharpen the knife. This requires you to always have a sharpening mechanism (similar to the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener) in your pack. The other negative is that a quality fixed blade knife has an expensive short-term price tag. Some of these quality hunting knives are a few hundred dollars up front. However, most companies do offer a lifetime guarantee on the quality, but this guarantee doesn’t cover it if you accidentally lose it or leave it multiple miles from the truck. Losing a $300 knife hurts a lot more than losing an affordable replaceable blade knife. Trust me.
Replaceable blade knives
Over the past two decades, surgical steel replaceable blade knives similar to ones made by Havalon, Outdoor Edge, Gerber and other companies sold in the goHUNT Gear Shop have stormed the market. These companies have helped hunters by always guaranteeing them a sharp blade by allowing them to snap off the old blade and replace it at the first sign of dullness. Personally, I have a few of these knives and have cut up a lot of animals with them. Originally, I loved always having a razor sharp blade; however, slowly have had some small issues that have me heading back to fixed blades.
Overall, the idea of these knives is quite good and they are razor sharp, which can make short work of the butchering process. Their upfront price tag is also very inviting with most of them costing around $40 to $90. For a good hunting knife, this price tag is almost unbeatable. The blades come off relatively easy and even have other types of blades that can be attached, such as a saw, fillet blade or skinning blade. These knives have been designed for hunters, but I have seen some flaws as well. First off, the blades do not stay as sharp for as long as a fixed blade knife. As mentioned, they are made to be replaced, which also means you have to carry extra new blades into the mountains and then used blades off the mountain. I also have had a lot of these blades snap, when putting a small amount of pressure on them. When a blade snaps, I need to dig around to find the broken half in the meat, being careful to not get jabbed or sliced in the process. The final concern that I have with replaceable blade knives is the additional cost over a lifetime of use. Though the initial cost of the knife is significantly more inviting, by purchasing a replaceable blade knife I am also committing to purchasing additional blades down the road. These will not break the bank; however, after a few years, it might have been worth it to buy a fixed blade. Overall, replaceable blades can be an excellent tool at a low cost point when used correctly — even if they have some drawbacks.
Throughout my lifetime of hunting, I have used both fixed blades and replaceable blade knives to cut up and butcher animals from the mountains to the garage with good success. In the future, for the time being, I will be using a fixed blade knife for most of my hunts, but, also, maybe carrying a replaceable blade knife as a backup since I have them both. As mentioned, there are pros and cons to purchasing and using both knives, which is why goHUNT, stocks and sells both types of knives to sportsmen. I would encourage everyone to buy one of each and then try them out and find out which ones work good for you. If sharpening a knife is not your forte, then buy a replaceable blade knife. If you have the money and want high quality gear and know that you can take care of it for your life, then buy a high-end fixed blade knife. Thinking about the pros and cons of each knife is important before you purchase the tool that will be used to butcher your harvest this fall.