Updated Sep 15, 2022 11:19 AM
Perhaps the most important task of hunting knives is field dressing and processing game. For that a hunter needs a knife that slices and holds an edge. However, it also has to hold up to tasks like splitting kindling and cutting rope. Top knife companies provide specific features for different tasks and game. Among the many different new models is the perfect knife for everyone. Here you can find the best hunting knives for your style and type of hunting.
Spyderco is known for pioneering the modern pocket-clip, one-handed opening, EDC knives. However, the company also produces impressive fixed blades, including the new Bow River. This is a straight-forward trailing point, skinner-style blade that is long enough to do double duty as a slicer on the processing table as well. The flat-ground blade, made from the budget friendly 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, should hold an edge reasonably well, it will be easy to sharpen, and should prove to have good corrosion resistance. A contoured black and white G10 handle is a comfortable, pleasant surprise on a knife at this price point. Spyderco also did a nice job on the sheath, which is a leather pouch-style scabbard that securely holds the Bow River and is nicely finished. If I had anything to nitpick, it would be that I’d like to see some jimping on the blade and some texture carved into the G10 handle for some added grip because the smooth finish might get a little slick when it’s time to get down to business. That being said, the Bow River punches above its price point. MSRP is $60. Specs: Blade length 4.36 in.; Blade thickness 0.10 in.; Overall Length 8.14 in.; Weight 3.8 oz.
Replaceable blade knives seem to become more popular every year. Maybe it’s the versatility of having different blade-types readily available or the ability to swap-out a dull blade with a razor-sharp replacement. Either way, the genre is here to stay and for good reason, some of the best knife brands are making blades in this category. Cold Steel has an interesting, utilitarian take on this concept. The Click-N-Cut is a non-folding design with a polymer safety orange handle and three interchangeable blades of different styles. These are not disposable like the scalpel blade type versions. Included with the Click-N-Cut are a traditional fine-edge clip point, a gut hook knife, and a utility-style serrated blade. The great thing about having the utility style serrated blade is it can be used for tasks that are tough on a fine edge blade, thus saving the gut hook and clip point for more hunting-specific tasks like skinning a big-game animal. The blade changing system is great. It has a lever just like a lock back knife, simply depress it like you would fold a knife, but instead of folding, pull the blade straight out of the handle. Reverse to reinstall. The Click-N-Cut comes with a molded hard plastic sheath that carries the two extra blades, which at only 2.5” long may be a tad short for some uses, but it does keep the overall package compact and lightweight. MSRP is $31.95. Specs (knife only): Total length: 6.5 in; Blade length: 2.5 in.; Blade thickness 1.5mm; Weight 2 oz.
If you’re a hunter who thinks the best hunting knives should be in an EDC style, the Browning Primal Folder–Medium will be worth a look. The feature list reads like a solid, no-frills pocket clip folder, but with a few design elements that make it useful to hunters. To keep the knife at a price that won’t damage your wallet, the Primal Folder uses proven materials that are not exotic or lightweight: mainly stainless steel and polymer. A narrow, shallow drop point made from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel has ambidextrous thumbstuds for opening and is well suited for EDC or hunting. Stainless steel liners add a pleasant heft as well as strength. The liners are covered by polymer scales that are overmolded with a rubber material that provides excellent grip. The downside? The Primal Folder is somewhat difficult to get in and out of your pocket. Be prepared to have your pocket turned inside out if you remove the knife too quickly. On the positive side, the chance of this knife accidentally falling out is remote, which good thing. Overall, the Primal Folder–Medium is a nicely designed and executed knife that’s comfortable to use, has a versatile blade shape and comes in at an extremely affordable price. MSRP is $22.99. Specs: Blade length 3.5 in.; Blade thickness 0.09 in.; Open length 7 7/8 in.; Closed length 4.4 in.; Weight 3.25 oz.
I was so impressed with the pocket clip EDC knife Giant Mouse sent for a previous review that I was excited to check out one of their fixed blades for use as a hunting knife. Unfortunately, they’re out of stock, but given the features and price point it’s not surprising why. The GMF2 is an old-school style, full tang fixed blade with profiled green canvas micarta scales attached to the side with fasteners and spacers. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just a tried and true way of putting together a solid, no frills fixed blade. Made from Bohler N690 Cobalt steel, the shallow drop point blade will be a great general purpose field knife as well as hunting knife. The blade shape is well suited and could be used for a gutting knife, a skinning knife, and some processing. In keeping with the old-school motif, the sheath is a leather pouch style setup with an integral belt loop. With an MSRP of $195 it’s no wonder this knife was sold out at the time this was written. That’s okay though, we’ll wait. MSRP is $195. Specs: Blade length 3.62 in.; Blade thickness 0.157 in.; Overall length 8.12 in.; Weight 4.1 oz.
Best Hunting Knife With a Replaceable Blade Kit: Gerber Randy Newberg EBS
Another entrant in the change-a-blade genre, Gerber’s Randy Newber EBS has replaceable blades meant to be cared for like any other knife rather than discarded. The EBS setup is more like a kit than a knife. When not in use, the blades ride in a box cleverly designed to prevent rattling, and the handle nests into the back of the case. Toss the whole setup in your pack and you have three blades and a well-thought-out handle ready to go with minimal fuss. There’s no provision for strapping it to your belt or pack or putting it in your pocket, but why would you? This hunting knife set is meant for taking apart critters or for using around camp when rapid access isn’t necessary. The EBS comes with three 440C stainless steel blades that are advertised for “backstrap, caping/breakdown, and multi-purpose.” Basically, there’s a serrated blade and two drop point blades, one about an inch longer than the other. Accessing the blades in the case is easy and installing the blades in the handle is simple once you stop over thinking it. The handle, made from a rigid polymer overmolded with a rubber-like coating, is narrow but surprisingly comfortable. Hopefully Gerber will introduce some other blade shapes like a gut hook, and perhaps a “zipper” type blade. MSRP is $60. Specs: Blade length 3.25 -4.25 in.; Overall length 9.3 in.; Weight 4 1/8 oz.
Best Compact Hunting Knife: CRKT BIWA
The BIWA is one the smallest knives of the group, and certainly the most svelte (yes, “svelte”). This is a fixed blade harkening back to the “trout and bird” knife days when people occasionally kept trout without being called heathens. Designed to offer good performance and economics, The BIWA has a 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, slender profile, full tang blade with a thin handle profile and nicely contoured G10 scales. This helps keep the weight of the knife to a mere 1.6 ounces, which is nice if you’re watching your weight on a backcountry hunt. While not necessarily designed with survival-type knife tasks in mind, the 3-inch blade length any hunting tasks you throw at it. The hard plastic, molded sheath holds the BIWA securely and it even comes with an optional belt loop that can be attached to the sheath if desired. Other than an included lanyard that’s too small to actually get over your hand, this is a great little knife. MSRP is $49.99. Specs: Blade length 3.02 in.; Blade thickness 0.11 in.; Overall length 6.63 in.; Weight 2 oz. (with sheath)
No, these are not duck hunting knives, they’re blades for big game with a “duck’s head” profile at the back of the handle. This combination knife set comes with two full-tang, fixed blade knives, each with a safety orange rubberized non-slip TPR handle. The larger of the two knives is a skinner/guthook while the smaller knife of the set is a drop point suitable for fine cutting tasks as well as caping if desired. Both blades are made from 8Cr14MoV stainless steel heat treated to 57Hrc. The “beak” of the duck’s head design slips between your pinky and ring finger, with your middle digits curling around the rather slim handle. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is comfortable and provides plenty of control. It would be nice if the “beak” were not quite so pronounced, but that’s a minor gripe. For carrying the knives, Outdoor Edge provides a pouch style sheath lined with a safety insert that retains the knives well. This handle style might not be for everyone, but it’s worth handling one a bit to see if it works for you. MSRP is $54.96. Specs: Gut Hook Blade Length 3.7 in.; Drop Point Blade Length 3.2in.; Blade Thickness 0.112 in.; Gut Hook Blade Overall Length 7.2 in., Drop Point Blade Overall Length 6.8 in Total Weight 5 3/8 oz.
When Benchmade told us about the Meatcrafter, a high-end knife for processing game, did we want to include it in our round up of best hunting knives? Well yeah. The real work begins after the shot, right? And part of that hard, albeit rewarding work, is the final cutting required to put the meat on the table. This isn’t a rugged backcountry survival type fixed blade. It’s not supposed to be. Ultimately, this is a boning knife that has the right qualities to debone, trim, and break down primal cuts. Made from a new steel for Benchmade, powdered metal technology CMP-154, the 6-inch trailing point blade is relatively thin and somewhat flexible, which is why it lends itself so well to most meat processing tasks. Processing can be messy business. Fortunately, the handle is made from over-molded Santoprene, a rubber-like material which helps maintain a great grip even with wet or bloody hands. Even though this may not be something you strap to your hip or pack, the Meatcrafter still comes with a molded Boltaron sheath worthy of a rugged field trip. This will be a great knife to have in camp, the kitchen, the shop or wherever you butcher your game. MSRP is $160. Specs: Blade length 6.08 in.; Blade thickness 0.09 in.; Overall length 11.06 in.; Weight 3.24 oz.
While known for their traditionally styled 110 lockback folder, Buck does make some more modern looking knives, including this new 659 Pursuit Pro. This is an updated and modern looking version of a classic lockback folder with a nod to ergonomics and newer blade steels. Built for hunting, the 659 has a wide 3 5/8-inch drop point blade made from S35VN stainless steel. Being a lockback, the stainless steel back locking bar snaps into place upon opening, holding the blade in place. Black glass filled nylon handles are overmolded with black and blaze orange Versaflex, a rubber like material to provide a comfortable and secure grip. Opening the blade is easy with ambidextrous thumb studs. At 5 inches when closed, this is no pocketknife. Fortunately, it comes with a nylon sheath with a belt loop. MSRP is $105. Specs: Blade length 3.6 in.; Blade thickness 0.12 in. Overall Length 7.19 in. Closed Length 5 in. Weight 3.8 oz.
This knife carries the Outdoor Life name and it’s part of a larger set of knives and camping tools. The Camping Fixed Blade Knife fits nicely in with the theme of this roundup because it’s a general purpose blade that can serve in multiple capacities well such as a utility knife, hunting camp knife or even skinning and processing. It has a 7cr17MoV stainless steel drop point blade. 7cr17MoV has good corrosion resistance, holds an edge reasonably well and will sharpen easily. The handle has made has a glass filled polymer frame that is overmolded with a rubber like texture providing an excellent grip. For carrying or storing the knife, the Camping Fixed Blade comes with a molded friction retention sheath. A nice touch is the multi-position clip that can be oriented as needed to accommodate packs, belts, etc. This is not a small or lightweight knife, so it may not be the first choice for a backcountry hunt where ounces seem to all to quickly equal pounds, but it would be a great addition to have in camp or the processing table. MSRP is $40. Specs: blade length 4.75 in. blade thickness 0.13 in. Overall Length 9 5/16 in. Weight 8 5/8 oz.
- Top wood cutter
- Scandi grind and full tang makes this durable and strong
- 4-inch blade
- Scandi grind
- 12C27 steel
Helle of Norway is a family company that’s been making high-quality knives for three generations. They excel at creating knives with razor-sharp scandi grinds, which are excellent for carving wood. While they make several capable models, I prefer the durability of the full-tang Utvaer. Its curly birch handle is functional and fits very well in medium sized hands. The stainless Sandvik 12C27 steel is thin, which makes for a very good slicing knife, while still durable. All that adds up to a survival knife with a good handle, rust resistance, and great blade performance. —Rick Spicer
Q: How long should a hunting knife be?
Plenty of folks think you need a big knife for hunting big game animals, but that’s simply not true. A small, maneuverable, ultra-sharp blade is more effective for breaking down animals than a giant, unwieldly blade. A 3-inch to 3.5-inch blade is about perfect. Bigger knives with 5-inch blades and up are useful for handling camp work and bushcrafting tasks.
Q: What is the best hunting knife to gut a deer?
The best knife to gut deer with will have a sharp fine blade and a grip that won’t get slippery when it’s covered with blood. The all-time classic deer gutting knife is probably the Buck Knives’ Buck 110 folder, but the modern version many hunters choose is Havalon’s Prianta or a knive of a similar design.