There are two features common to all knives — a handle and a blade. Beyond that, knives can get very specialized depending on their ultimate use. For example, so-called survival or camp knives typically feature large, stout blades meant to help tackle the most common outdoor cutting tasks. “Everyday carry” knives or versatile flipper knives are usually more svelte and foldable so they’re comfortable to carry in a pocket all day.
Even more specialized are hunting knives. As the name implies, they’re purpose-built for processing game meat after a kill. For that reason, hunting knife blades are roughly 3.5 to 4.5 inches long. Anything much longer or much shorter might make the knife a bit difficult to control. The handles are typically about 4 inches long, with a grippy texture for when things get messy while processing game.
The blade material is similar to other types of knives, with steel formulations such as D2, M4, and Crucible Industries’ CPM series being very popular. Most modern steel blades can be sharpened relatively easily and the best hold that edge for long enough to get through hunt after hunt.
You don’t have to go far and wide to find the best hunting knives for you. We’ve rounded up here the most popular hunting knives available now.
Buck Knives 656 Pursuit Pro Hunting Knife
The 656 Pursuit Pro is a fresh design from the industry stalwart Buck Knives. It features premium S35VN steel for excellent edge retention and durability. A key feature that we like about this knife is the high-visibility orange handle. Hunts don’t always end in daylight hours, so being able to easily see and manage your knife after dark is a great safety feature.
Benchmade 15006 Steep Country
Designed for multi-species versatility, Oregon-based Benchmade’s Steep Country is relatively compact with a 3.54-inch blade and an overall length of 7.76 inches. This, coupled with the deep drop-point, makes it easy to process anything from big game to upland birds. The updated blade thickness and jimping location are also designed to ensure that every cut is effortless.
CRKT Homefront Hunter
The hunting community is polarized around folding knives — some love ’em, some hate ’em. They’re compact and easy to carry, but their mechanisms are vulnerable to getting gunked up while processing game. The Homefront Hunter from CRKT (Columbia River Knife & Tool) is a worthy attempt to solve this issue. The included Field Strip technology makes it easy to disassemble (and reassemble) the knife in the field without tools.
Cold Steel Finn Hawk
The Finn Hawk from Cold Steel is a newer knife based on an older design. With a blade made of easy-sharpening German 4116 stainless steel, it can handle whatever processing tasks you need it to. What we like about this hunting knife though is its simplicity. It’s devoid of unnecessary bells and whistles, perfect for the rugged dependability you need in the field.
ESEE-4 Fixed Blade Hunting Knife
ESEE has developed something of a cult following, thanks to the brand’s obsessive design skills and customer service. The ESEE-4 is one of its most popular knives with a perfect blend of cutting efficiency and overall thickness that make it ideal for a wide range of wilderness and survival tasks.
Gerber Exo-Mod Drop-Point
A member of Gerber’s Exo-Mod series of outdoor knives, the EXO-MOD Drop-Point is a hunting specialist. Gerber maximizes usability with this knife — and it’s evident in the skeletonized full-tang design, which reduces weight while keeping strength high. The sheath can be attached to the sheaths of other Exo-Mod knives and bone saws, allowing hunters to carry multiple tools together on their hips. This versatility and ease of use help to reduce game processing time.
Gerber Vital Pocket Folding Knife
If you’ve ever done heavier-duty work around your house, you’re probably familiar with the replaceable blades of a utility knife. When the blade you’re using gets dull, it’s easy to swap it out for a sharp one and immediately continue working. Gerber took a similar approach with its Vital folder. It features replaceable, scalpel-like blades that ensure you’re always cutting with the most precise edge. Included with the knife are six spare blades and additional blades are available separately.
Morakniv Garberg Full Tang Fixed Blade Knife
Hailing from Sweden, Morakniv has been designing and manufacturing knives since the 19th century. The Garberg is the company’s first full tang knife and it’s well-suited for hunting. The tough polyamide handle is impact-resistant and designed for a secure grip in all conditions. The carbon steel blade holds an edge well and is easy to re-sharpen. Most importantly, at a sub-$100 price point, a Garberg won’t break the bank if you lose or damage it.
BigCat Roar Handmade Wolverine Hunter Hunting Knife
Most hunting knives are durable and functional, but BigCat Roar elevates the knives in its catalog to be damn handsome too. These aren’t your typical pocket knives every man owns. The Wolverine Hunter is big, chunky, and built from hammer-forged Damascus steel to take a beating. Coupled with a solid walnut handle, it’s a beautiful design that feels heirloom-quality to boot.
Smith & Wesson Search & Rescue Knife
Gear up for any outdoor situation with the Smith & Wesson Search & Rescue Knife. The blade is crafted from 7Cr17 high carbon stainless steel that is powder-coated for anti-wear and anti-glare benefits. It comes with an aluminum rubberized handle for a secure grip, a ballistic sheath for carrying convenience, and a sharpening stone to keep the knife ready for any action.
Kershaw Camp 5 Fixed Blade Hunting Knife
Kershaw’s Camp 5 Fixed-Blade is a thick, Bowie-style knife with a versatile blade that’s ideal for everything from camping and backpacking to survival and hunting. The handle is glass-filled with a solid grip so it stays put in your hand no matter the task. Plus, the included sheath is custom-molded for a perfect fit that keeps the knife in place even when worn upside down.
KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife
The KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion is a big, no-frills fixed-blade knife that’s built for just about any backcountry task. The full-tang design means it’s tough enough for everyday camp chores (like chopping onions), splitting out kindling, or even skinning game. The included sheath keeps the knife secure with a thumb spot at the back that quick-releases with the right pressure.
Perkin Custom Handmade Damascus Hunting Knife
From slicing through thick bushes to field dressing an animal, this Damascus steel knife from Perkin can handle it all well. It’s made with a fixed blade that’s balanced and strong and it stays sharper for longer. A high-grade handmade leather sheath and a sharpener are included in this set, which offers cut protection, preparedness, and easy access.
Cutco Gut Hook Hunting Knife
This Cutco hunting knife combines the function of a knife and a gut hook tool in one compact form. Its blade comes in two variants — straight edge and double-D — both of which are great for skinning. The gut hook, on the other hand, offers precision for neat and effortless field dressing. The hunting knife comes complete with a sure-grip handle for superior control and a sheath and lanyard for added convenience.
Hunting knives are just like any other tools and need to be maintained to work correctly. With proper maintenance, a high-quality hunting knife can serve you well for years of hunts. Sure, we all know knives need to be sharpened, but here are some other essential hunting knife maintenance tips to keep your blade in the best shape possible.
- Clean the blade regularly – You should wash your knife after every use. Clean it under running water, but never let your knife soak in the sink. After cleaning the blade and the handle, make sure to dry everything thoroughly to avoid rust.
- Lubricate the knife – Even if it doesn’t have moving parts, a knife needs to be lubricated to perform better and resist corrosion.
- Dry storage – When you’re not using your hunting knife, make sure to store it in a cool, dry place that is free of humidity. If you’re going to store it for an extended period of time, don’t store it in the sheath. Wrap it in acid-free paper and put it in a plastic bag to stop mold and make sure it stays dry.
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