Having shot down the savage beast is only one part of the hunting game. Skinning and field-dressing the dead animal is how you take back home your freshly harvested meat accompanying the ‘fur trophy’.
But that comes with its own set of challenges. Skinning a dead animal is not a walk in the park. You need to have the ‘right’ hunting knife to get the job done neatly and effectively.
But, choosing your go-to knife can get hard, especially with the overwhelming number of options available in the market.
Fret not! With over a decade long experience under my belt, I curated this list of the 10 best-hunting knives that I’ve used over the years.
Yes! literally, the best.
1) KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
The Ka-Bar BK2 is a multipurpose knife that comes with a huge blade and is really thick, weighing just over a pound. It is sized well at around 10″ in length, of which, 5 1/2″ is the blade itself.
The reason why I feel it’s the best knife out there is due to its versatility. If you’re looking for that one beast knife that can help you do anything from skin game to splitting the woods, this is the one you should go for.
Although a little too heavy, it discards the need of carrying 2-3 knives as it will serve all your purposes, justifying the extra weight. It is meant to withstand heavy abuse and if you ever manage to break this thing, you’re probably doing something wrong!
Overall, it’s a great knife for the experienced hunters, lads might not be able to take up its weight so look out for an alternative if you’re a novice.
1) A heavy-duty knife that can withstand the test of time. It’s built to last looooooooooooooooooooong (Yes, that long!)
2) Built with ergonomics in mind, it has a nice in-hand feeling.
3) Full tang and extended pommel add to its overall strength.
1) The quality of the sheath is not up to the mark.
2) The weight can be too much to handle for some.
3) It is sharp but not razor-sharp out of the box.
2) ESEE 5P Fixed Blade Knife
I am a big fan of the ESEE lineup and 5P is no different. Made out of high-carbon 1095 steel, this clip-point knife has a nice heft to it and is loved by everyone in the hunting community. The prime reason for that is its handle, which is very grippy, all thanks to the Micarta canvas finish.
This knife is a thick and brute monster that can do everything you please to. The pommel serves as another functional tool that can break glass when necessary. Unlike the BK2, the quality of its sheath is amazing.
It is no less lethal than the BK2 but the only reason why I rank this lower is its hefty price tag. It is not the most affordable option, but totally worth your investment.
1) Indestructible, it is going to last a lifetime.
2) Comes well-oiled and razor-sharp out of the box.
3) The choice of Micarta canvas for the handle makes it stand out.
1) It may rust or stain if not taken care of.
2) The edge retention is pretty average, all thanks to the 1095 carbon steel. But, on the flip side, it’s quite easy to sharpen.
3) Buck 124 Frontiersman Fixed Blade Knife
I’ve always trusted Buck to deliver high-performing quality knives backed by a lifetime warranty and the 124 Frontiersman has been one of my favorites.
With 6 ¼” long blade, this looks more like a small sword than a knife but also gives some functional advantages to it. The extra length helps in some fine chopping. However, it can also handle more delicate jobs, for which you’d generally use a smaller knife.
The knife comes razor-sharp out of the box with a nice and even finish. It is a full tang and perfectly flushes with the handle scales. Not to forget, the included leather sheath is just amazing!
It is a fine-tuned version of the Buck 119 with a bulkier handle and a broader blade. I personally like this one more.
To sum up, this thing is a BEAST. It’s truly a bang for a ‘Buck’ knife. With reasonable care and maintenance, this knife can hold up for generations to come.
1) Crazy sharp and well polished, has a nice shine to it.
2) Can be used for a broad range of applications.
3) Comes with Buck’s lifetime warranty coverage.
1) Does not come with a rubberized grip.
2) It’s massive! This can either be a pro or con for you, depending on your usage and preference. If you prefer a smaller knife, do check out Buck’s 119.
4) Gerber Myth Fixed Blade Pro Knife
Designed by professionals, the Gerber Myth knife sets a new standard for midrange knives. The full tang blade is attached to a soft rubberized handle for safe operation.
The sheath comes with a dual-lock mechanism which seems more like a marketing jargon to me but it does the job anyway. It comes with a carbide sharpener built-in but I find the conventional sharping methods more efficient.
I could not find more about the mystery metal used in the blade but it seems reliable to me and stainless, too.
If you’re buying a knife solely for the purpose of field-dressing, I’d highly recommend going with a gut hook knife like this one. A gut hook makes skinning more like opening your game with a zipper which is quite fun to do if you ask me.
1) The gut hook comes handy while field dressing.
2) Decently sized knife for those who find Buck 124 or BK2 too big.
3) A go-to knife for those on a budget.
4) Backed by a limited lifetime warranty in North America.
1) Made in China but a quality product nonetheless.
2) The factory edge is somewhat dull and the sharpener, too, is not so helpful.
5) Buck 113 Ranger Skinner Hunting Knife
Buck is an American icon in the knife industry but the Ranger Skinner is a relatively new introduction in its lineup. This, by no means, makes it any less attractive of an offering. The knife brings to you the best from the 113 Ranger folding knife and their Vanguard series, combining them into one.
It comes with a well rounded 3 1/8” full-tang blade made out of HC420 stainless steel. The overall construction is ergonomic and the outer appearance is eye-catching, too!
The knife is specifically meant for skinning and it does the job well. You can easily skin a beefy pig at once without the need of resharpening it often. The fit and finish are near-perfect and it comes with a high-quality sheath for carrying around.
1) A very good profile overall; nice edge retention.
2) Built for some serious skinning.
3) Genuine leather sheath; made in Mexico.
4) Lifetime Warranty
1) The sharpening process is quite cumbersome if you don’t have the right sharpener.
2) The handle is a bit smaller, especially for people with big hands like me.
3) Good for slicing flesh but not practical for heavy use. Go with BK2, ESEE 5P or Buck 124 if that’s what you’re looking for.
6) Buck 119 Special Fixed Blade Knife
By this point in time, you already know how big of a Buck fan I am. However, that doesn’t cloud my unbiased judgement. The quality of their knives is amazing and so is the case with the limited edition: Buck 0119.
It is a beautifully crafted knife with a 6″ long clip point blade made out of HC420 and comes with a concealed tang. The steel used is very durable and also corrosion-resistant. The weight distribution and center of balance are on point.
It has a beautiful cocobolo wrapping around the handle which makes it more of a collector knife but it’s equally worthy of being a hunting knife. The included sheath is made out of leather and has a plastic insert.
As mentioned earlier, the Buck 124 and 119 have a lot in common. What differentiates them is their overall build and especially, the weight. If you have bigger hands and want a knife that has some satisfying heft to it, go for the 124 Frontiersman. On the flip side, people with smaller hands might prefer the 119, which is also equally good.
1) Backed by Buck’s lifetime warranty.
2) A lightweight alternative to the 124 Frontiersman.
3) Razor-sharp out of the box.
4) Aesthetically pleasing.
1) No lanyard hole
2) Concealed tang; not to be mistaken by full tang.
3) Hard to grip in rain or with sweaty hands.
7) Benchmade – Hidden Canyon Hunter 15016
Benchmade’s Hidden Canyon Hunter is another great offering which I often find myself recommending to my pals. It’s for those who are in search of a compact knife as the overall length is about 6 1/3″ only with the blade coming at 2 2/3″.
The CPM-S30V steel blade is curved to some degree for the ergonomics as it helps skin through animals in a breeze. Not just skinning, the knife holds well in other field tasks as well.
The full-tang, fixed blade construction provides it with enhancing stability and better structural integrity. The edge retention is above-average and the steel used is corrosion-resistant. It is built for longterm use.
It is a compact knife with a slim profile. If that’s what you are looking for then definitely consider adding Benchmade Hidden Canyon Hunter to your collection.
1) Suitable for skinning and field dressing.
2) Perfect to compliment to a larger knife.
1) The included sheath is of poor quality.
2) Better alternatives available in this price range.
8) Havalon Piranta Z Folding Blade Skinning Knife
So far, I only covered fixed blade knives as I personally find them more practical to use while hunting. But, some of you may prefer to carry a secondary, folding blade knife as well.
For those of you looking for a folding blade knife, do have a look at the Havalon Piranta Z. It takes almost no space but comes handy when you’re on a small game hunt. It has a 2 3/4″ retractable blade with special emphasis on skinning and field dressing.
The fact that it’s so small yet so effective is overwhelming. It comes razor-sharp out of the box and can slice through anything with utmost precision. The blade retains its edge well and you get 12 replacement blades when it gets dull.
1) Comes with 12 extra replacement blades.
2) Ultra-compact folding knife.
3) Shaving-sharp out of the box.
1) Not suitable for prying.
2) Require regular changing of blades.
3) Blades don’t hold well during heavy use and are prone to break.
9) MTech USA Xtreme Knife
The MTech USA Xtreme Knife is an entry-level knife that I highly recommend to every beginner. Although priced just under $30, the product doesn’t cut corners in terms of strength and durability.
It features a 5 1/2″ long 440C stainless steel blade which is a steal at this price point. It allows the knife to have excellent edge retention and hardness during prolonged periods of use.
The handle is quite grippy and I faced no problems even in when my hands were sweaty. The finger grooves make it even more comfortable to use and to grip.
It has a lanyard hole on the end if you look forward to attaching an additional para-cord. The included nylon sheath is of decent quality. However, many users complained about the leg strap is too small and that was the case with me, too.
Apart from that, the knife can stand the test of times and help you get into hunting without burning a hole in your pocket.
1) Value for money. Great for beginners.
2) Unique design which serves multiple purposes.
3) Removable handle helps while cleaning.
1) Paint comes off easily when scratched.
2) Leg straps are not long enough.
3) More of a tactical knife than a hunting knife.
4) Made in China product.
10) Elk Ridge – Outdoors 2-PC Fixed Blade Hunting Knife Set
Elk Ridge bags the last spot on this list, mainly because of the insane value it provides. For a fair price of $15, you get not one but two decent quality knives, serving different purposes
The knives are made solely for hunting and they work exactly as they should. You get a 7″ long straight edge knife for skinning and a 6 1/2″ gut hook knife for field dressing. Both of the knives form an essential part of any hunting kit. They come with a textured handle which makes it grippy to hold when in action.
Despite being priced so low, they haven’t made any compromise to the sheath, except for the fact that it doesn’t have pockets for replacement blades. You’ll have to carry them separately. I personally, however, recommend carrying an inexpensive pocket sharpener instead.
If you are just starting out with hunting and want to explore more without burning a hole in your pocket, the Elk Ridge knife set will be an excellent option to consider.
1) Insane value for its price.
2) Lethal yet lightweight.
1) Handles are a bit small.
2) Factory blades are a bit dull. They require professional sharpening.
3) No pocket in the sheath for replacement blades.
I’ve tried to cover a wide variety of knives in the list so that there’s at least one for everyone. But, which one, out of these 10 is perfect for you? I get asked this question a lot of times and it gets cumbersome to reply to each of those emails.
Therefore, I’ve also explained the various components of a knife and what to look for when selecting one for you. The rest I’ll leave on you to decide.