Cape, Cut And Dress In The Field With The Best Hunting Knife

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Why opt for a hunting knife over a pocket knife? Well, when you’re in the midst of skinning game or carving meat, a bigger tool is typically more handy than a compact folder that fits in your pocket. Despite its larger size and weight, a hunting knife doesn’t compromise on sharpness, grip or durability—virtually every seasoned hunter would emphasize the importance of having one in your kit. The real challenge comes when trying to source the best hunting knife because, realistically, a lot of options exist. That said, there’s a blade in this world that’s well-suited for your needs, and we’re here to help you find it.

Skin, gut, bone and prepare in the field with one of the best hunting knives.

Illustration: Forbes / Photo: Retailers

Your choice of a hunting knife should serve as a versatile companion, not only enhancing your fieldwork but also proving invaluable during camping, hiking and even survival scenarios.

So, what essential qualities should you seek in a multi-purpose knife like this? Well, it should provide a comfortable and secure grip; it ought to maintain a sharp edge while remaining easily sharpened; and it should rise to the challenges of various tasks, from breaking bones to slicing through hides. Contrary to what you see on television, it doesn’t need to be a large, heavy-duty weapon for covert assaults—it should prioritize usability over proportions.

Below, you’ll find an assortment of hunting knives that adopt these essential qualities, each one built for a specific person or purpose.

  • Best Hunting Knife Overall: Benchmade Saddle Mountain Skinner
  • Best Budget Hunting Knife: Buck Knives 119 Special
  • Best Ultralight Hunting Knife: Montana Knife Co. Speedgoat
  • Best Replaceable Blade Hunting Knife: Havalon Piranta-Edge
  • Best Folding Hunting Knife: Buck Knives 110
  • Best Hunting Knife With Gut Hook: Gerber Moment With Gut Hook

How We Chose The Best Hunting Knives

In our quest to discover the best hunting knives on the market, we leveraged our extensive familiarity with traditional blades to find those that meet the specific needs of hunters. Delving into each knife’s specifications, we scrutinized a plethora of data to separate the wheat from the chaff, poring over grip materials, blade styles, steels and more. But we didn’t stop there; we also combed through a trove of user reviews and recommendations, curated from authoritative hunting forums. This meticulous blend of expertise and collective wisdom allowed us to crown a selection of the best hunting knives that embody precision, durability and an affinity for the craft.

What To Look For In The Best Hunting Knife

As similar as a hunting knife may be to a pocket knife, there’s a reason hunters prefer the former over the latter. Here’s what to consider when the time comes to invest in a hunting knife.

Blade Material

When reviewing the qualities of a steel, three important considerations come into play: edge retention, toughness and corrosion resistance. Ideally, any knife steel would maximize each of these attributes, but it’s difficult to get the most out of two without compromising the third. For example, CPM-10V steel retains an edge incredibly well and it’s moderately tough, but it’s difficult to sharpen. 420 steel, meanwhile, is tough and easy to sharpen, but it doesn’t hold an edge very well.

So what blade materials should you look for in a hunting knife? We can divide these into carbon steels and stainless steels, the two basic steel categories. Good carbon steels for a hunting knife include CPM-10V for its edge retention, D2 for its budget-friendly appeal and widespread availability and CPM-M4 for its edge retention and toughness. Good stainless steels include 440C that balances each attribute moderately well, CPM-20CV that holds an edge well and N690 that’s incredibly corrosion-resistant.

Blade Type

While different guides submit different figures, most indicate that 16 different blade types exist, each of which is suited for specific tasks. Common hunting knife blade types include drop point, clip point and trailing point. Choose one that suits your specific needs.

A drop point blade features a convex curve on the spine that drops from the handle to the point, resulting in a strong and versatile blade suitable for slicing and piercing. A clip point blade has a concave curve on the spine, which enhances piercing capabilities. And a trailing point blade has an upward-swept spine, extending beyond the tip, offering excellent slicing and skinning performance.

Handle

A knife’s handle material affects grip, comfort and overall knife aesthetics. Common handle materials include wood, synthetic materials (like G-10 or Micarta) and bone, though ergonomic handle designs improve comfort and control. While a majority of the best hunting knife handles are made with synthetic materials, some are made with wood and very few are made with bone.

Fixed Versus Folding

A fixed-blade knife is a blade permanently attached to the handle that does not fold. It’s a robust and sturdy cutting tool, offering superior strength and durability, making it ideal for heavy-duty tasks such as field dressing large game, survival situations and bushcraft.

In contrast, a folding knife has a blade that can be folded into the handle, making it compact and portable. Folding knives are versatile and convenient for everyday carry, making them suitable for a wide variety of tasks, including camping and general outdoor use. The key difference is that fixed knives are stronger and more reliable for demanding tasks, while folding knives offer greater portability and versatility for everyday use.

Intent

The hunting knife that’s right for you depends on the specific tasks you expect to perform while hunting and how you expect your knife to help accomplish these tasks. If you primarily engage in field dressing and skinning game, a knife with a trailing point or drop point blade is typically preferred for slicing and precise cutting.

If your hunting habits often involve more varied tasks like cutting rope, preparing food or general outdoor use, a versatile clip point or drop point blade might be a better choice. The size of the game and the frequency of your hunting trips can influence your decision as well.

What Is The Best Knife Shape For Deer Hunting?

Each of the three blade types listed above work incredibly well for hunting, but drop point blades are versatile and well-suited for the various tasks. Their curved, strong spine provides excellent control and stability, and the broad belly allows for efficient skinning and slicing.

What Brand Of Knife Does Steven Rinella Use?

While MeatEater host Steven Rinella uses any number of different hunting knives, he partnered with Benchmade to release the Meatcrafter in 2020. A fixed-blade trailing point knife, the Meatcrafter is a bit big for hunting purposes, but it excels when processing meat after it’s been harvested from the field.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>