How to Choose the Right Hunting Knife

5 minutes

Hunting knives are essential tools for hunters but for many they are extensions of a personality and a sentimental keepsake passed down for many generations. For this reason purchasing a quality knife is key to not only handling tasks efficiently but also strong enough to stand the test of time.

Finding the right hunting knife doesn’t have to be difficult and should often depend on several factors.

Intended Use

First you need to ask yourself what type of game you’re going to be hunting and dressing. Are you going to be cutting through many layers of animal tissue and muscle? Do you need a knife that will cut branches around your deer stand? Perhaps a knife for waterfowl? These are all significant questions to be addressed before purchasing.

If you’re hunting larger game like deer or elk then you don’t want a smaller knife used for rodents and such. You want to make sure you choose the appropriate knife for the tasks at hand. For example, specialty knives can be great for their respective tasks but not for multi tool use or camping per se.

For many, choosing and carrying one knife is just not possible and for that reason many hunters will tell you they carry at least two or three.

I personally like to have a traditional fixed blade knife with a durable handle for dressing deer and skinning as well as handling various cutting duties like kindling, fire wood and cutting up food to eat. The blade can be important as well.

For instance a drop point blade is a great skinning blade and one with a sawback spine is great for cutting through bone, wood and branches around the camp.

However I prefer a folder with a clip point blade, fowl hook and a solid ergonomic grip with finger grooves when hunting smaller game such as squirrel, duck and rabbit.

Blade Type

When it comes choosing a blade, design and strength are key factors in choosing the right one. There are three types of blades that most hunters rely on, clip point, drop point and skinning blade.

  • Clip point is a flatter and thinner blade with a well defined point and a good all around work knife. Many hunters choose this type because it will handle many more tasks than just hunting.
  • Drop point has a less defined and fatter tip but is is an excellent skinning and gutting blade with great efficiency.
  • Skinning knives are obvious great choices for skinning larger size game and a go to for hunters looking to dress their game in the field. They feature a sweeping blade that separates bone and flesh on the fly.

Gut hook

One thing to consider when buying one of these three blades is the option for a gut hook. The gut hook is an added feature that allows hunters to open up game much easier after the initial cut from the blade without damaging the entrails of the animal. A great quality to have for dressing big game in the field.

Blade Material

The type of steel used on a knife can be crucial to it’s effectiveness in the field, ie., how easy it is to sharpen, hold an edge and how it endures many years of use. Corrosion and wear resistance along with edge retention and durability are deciding factors for most hunters and me as well. Here are the best blade materials used in hunting knives today.

  • S30V is a common stainless steel used with great corrosion resistance, wear resistance, durability and edge retention though it is tougher to sharpen than other materials.
  • 420HC a medium carbon stainless steel with a lower hardness for easier sharpening, mid range edge retention and great corrosion resistance.
  • 154CM a high carbon stainless steel with great wear resistance and edge retention. A better material for smaller knives due to its brittle nature.
  • VG-10 a high wear stainless steel comparable to 154CM with a mid range edge stability, lower hardness for easy sharpening and excellent corrosion resistance.


The term “bigger is better” applies to many things in life but when talking about a hunting knife bigger is not better. We all loved watching Rambo scour the wilderness with a 13 inch bowie but let’s face it, that is overkill and simply not practical.

Most hunters opt for a smaller pocket friendly knife for hunting smaller game like birds. For bigger game like Elk a slightly larger knife is appropriate as long as it is durable, more sturdy and with a comfortable ergonomic grip.

Handle Type

One thing I never take for granted when choosing the right hunting knife is the handle material. It is easy to gravitate toward an eye catching leather or bone handle but what I consider is the grip when wet. These days synthetic materials are where it is at due to their lightweight and indestructible prowess. When choosing a handle look for Zytel, ABS or the popular Kraton.

There are three questions I always ask when deciding on a hunting knife.

  • Is it easy to sharpen in the field?
  • Is it durable and sturdy?
  • Is the handle non slip?

Top Brands

There are many brands out there to shop but I have compiled a list of top 5 brands on the market.

Finally when it comes to choosing the right knife for hunting, personal preference is always priority number one but by having the above information on hand you can at least make the decision process more thorough.

Leave a Reply