9 Best Skinning Knives for Deer, Elk & Wild Game in 2022

Hands holding a knife while skinning an elk

Best Skinning Knives for Deer & Elk in 2022 and Beyond

 

Wise hunters looking for 2022’s best skinning knife know that having the right tools once you harvest an animal is vital to your overall success. Likewise, a basic tool like a top-notch skinning knife can be the difference in making your work safer and more efficient.

In the fall of 2020, while guiding deer and elk hunts, I field-tested several different skinning knives. The buck knife ranks high on my list, as it has for eons of hunters before me. But, several more modern knives also make the cut.

We’ve included a little something for everyone on this list. Looking for the best deer hunting knife? We’ve got recommendations for you. If it’s the sharpest skinning knife you’re after, we’ve got you covered. Perhaps you want the best skinning knife with a gut hook? Yep, we’ve included that too.

Read on for more insight and rock-solid information and, who knows, you might just walk away with one or two from this list!

We strive to bring you unrivaled gear reviews and tips from experienced hunters, and this passion is reflected in each of the recommendations we make. Whether it be knives, shooting sticks, headlamps, pants, blood tracking lights, arrows, bone saws, or anything else that’ll elevate your hunting game, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents: Skinning Knives

Why Choosing The Right Skinning Knife Matters

Two hunters skinning and caping a deer in a field

A proper blade will help you get the job done quickly and efficiently

 

Personally, I measure hunting success in the amount of time I can actually take off work and spend time in nature the way God intended it.

As my good buddy always says:

To spend time in elk country is lucky enough.

But let’s get real here, you are after nature’s bounty: game meat. Hunting and harvesting success is the culmination of a lot of preparation and hard work. If you’re skilled or lucky enough to put all those pieces together at the right time to drop an animal, your work is not over. There are many more steps you must take to get that game animal back to the freezer.

One critical piece of gear in this process is your knife. Having a reliable skinning knife that doesn’t let you down in the field can make the difference between getting that elk or deer meat safely back to your home or struggling to get the job done as it spoils.

What Makes a Good Skinning Knife?

The old adage goes, a dull knife is a recipe for an injury. Why? Because a dull blade causes you to apply more pressure when cutting. This makes the knife either penetrate too far or not penetrate enough, and these actions can easily cause serious injury. Because of this, hunters should always have a razor-sharp skinning knife on hand, no matter what.

So, we know a good hunting knife needs to be super-sharp, but what other attributes should it have? We included these criteria when reviewing a skinning knife for deer, elk, and other wild game:

  • Must be razor-sharp (and either be reasonable to re-sharpen or have replaceable blades)
  • Must be durable and long-lasting
  • Must be fairly agile (meaning that it isn’t bulky and cumbersome)
  • Must have a non-serrated steel blade

Best Skinning Knives For The Money

You’re looking for the best skinning knife for the money, but what exactly does that mean to you? For us, it’s all about finding the happy medium of value and quality. We exhaustively scoured through skinning knives and came up with a couple of rock-solid recommendations.

Minimalist skinning knife with black handle

Ranger Buck Knife

No list of skinning knives is complete without representation by the time tested Buck Knife brand. In other words, it’s the same skinning knife your grandfather used on deer and elk. This test to time is a result of its unwavering quality. I recommend this product for a few reasons. First, its long blade and the small overall profile are best for finding contours behind the hide. Second, its razor-sharp edge helps to make clean cuts once the contours are found. Because of these characteristics, this Buck Knife could be dangerous for beginners. The bigger blade leaves more room for error as it’s not as precise.

Pro Tip: Buy through BuckKnives.com to custom laser engrave your knife for an extra $9.

Best for: all-around skinning knife, intricate contours, big game

Outdoor Edge RazorLite

The RazorLite is, hands down, my top choice when it comes to skinning knives. They’ve clearly been listening to customers as this skinning knife has brought out the best of both worlds. Its lightweight, compact, uses surgical-grade steel, and features a removable blade. Additionally, they recently broadened the blade on this model, which makes it a better all-around skinning knife. It can get through the tough hides but provide laser-like precision in the tough areas.

Best for: all-around skinning knife, big game, trappers, small game

Sharpest Skinning Knife

Be careful with this recommendation or you might be coming home with a little more meat than you hoped for. That’s because surgical steel is spelled S.H.A.R.P. Again, having a sharp tool in the field is the safe way to go, but must be used deliberately and safely. I have experience with this skinning knife and its ability to skin a hide fast and efficiently is unreal.

Folding hunting knife with orange and black handle

Piranta Z by Havalon

This style of knife is easily the most popular for skinning purposes among hunting guides I know. It has a foldable, thin, surgical steel replaceable blade. The blade, however, is not good for other game dressing applications, like cutting through an elk hide. If you plan on skinning several animals in 2022, this knife is a stellar choice. If you need an all-around dressing knife, this style of knife leaves a lot to be desired.

Best for: skinning hanging animals, fur-bearing animals, intricate skinning, trappers

Best Deer, Elk & Big Game Hunting Knives

Sometimes you need a little bit more from your hunting knife besides the ability to skin your deer or elk. This is especially true when you are dressing big game in the field. A more durable knife can be useful in multiple situations like cutting through cartilage and tough hide and skin. We went ahead and included a few recommendations for those looking for more utility from their skinning/hunting knife.

Black folding Kershaw hunting knife

Kershaw Blur Black

This has been my go-to hunting knife for a while now. It’s the knife I carry in my pocket at all times without exception. Although I can probably contribute it to my own stupidity rather than poor craftsmanship, this is the only knife that broke on me this year. I was using it to pry on some tractor equipment and broke the connecting link to the handle. Don’t be fooled because of that, because this has a very high quality, smooth, and thinner blade. I can effortlessly cut through an elk hide with this knife and use it to get into tough spots. Easy for beginners, this is a great all-around knife, but skinning is something it does particularly well.

Best for: all-around skinning knife, all-around utility, big game, using in the field

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Knife with wooden handle for skinning deer and elk

Benchmade Grizzly Creek

The Grizzly Creek by Benchmade is for the discerning hunter that isn’t here to play games. This knife has all the utility you need in a hunting knife, especially for big game like deer and elk. It features a tucked-in gut hook and an extremely sharp and reliable blade and is perfect for any field dressing application. The best thing about this knife is its warranty: Benchmade will inspect, repair, oil, clean, and adjust your blade at no cost to you – for the life of the knife! This could be the last deer and elk hunting knife you ever own.

Best for: all-around deer hunting knife, all-around utility, using in the field

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Best Budget Skinning Knife

Hunting is an expensive hobby. When you factor in all the gear you have to buy, the gas, the time off work; you are likely paying prime Wagyu beef priced for that elk or deer meat. We feel you. That’s why we included a recommendation for the budget-conscious hunter.

Black knife with five extra interchangeable blades

HME Clip-Point

It’s nice to be close to Cabela’s or to have time to order online, but if you are like most hunters you may find yourself needing equipment while out hunting. Oftentimes you’re far away from a Cabela’s or a specialty store, but you’re usually pretty close to a Walmart. This year I found myself in a bind without a blade before my elk hunt, so I stopped at Walmart for a last-minute skinning knife. I found the above-listed knife and it made a good impression on me. It performed as well as the Piranta Z when it came to cutting and skinning, for a fraction of the cost. My only gripe is that it was hard to replace the blades and I broke two in the process.

Best for: hanging animals, fur-bearing animals, intricate skinning, trappers

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Best Skinning Knife With Gut Hook

If you want a dual-action hunting knife that has both the gut hook and skinning capabilities, we’ve included a durable and reliable recommendation here that will work for both applications.

Two Gerber brand skinning knives, as part of a set

 

Gerber Myth Fixed Blade Set

This packable field dressing solution is perfect for those looking for a skinning knife with a gut hook. The Gerber name has been synonymous with quality for generations, and this knife is no different. Did I mention that you don’t get just one knife here, but rather TWO! In addition to the larger blade, they include a small skinning knife for those tight contours and hard-to-reach areas. The combination is all you’ll need for skinning and dressing big game.

Best for: big game, hanging animals, intricate skinning

Best Field-Dressing Knife

Wait a darn minute. Aren’t all these knives field-dressing knives? Well, yeah I guess they are. However, I included this recommendation for someone looking for a do-it-all field dressing knife. This hunting knife that I’ve included is good for all field dressing applications and not JUST hunting and gutting.

High-end skinning knife with leather case and gut hook

CUTCO Gut Hook Knife

I broke the rules a little bit and included a knife with a serrated edge. I couldn’t help myself. The reason I included this knife is that it’s hands down the best all-around field dressing knife for deer and elk that I’ve ever used. It has a certain craftsman quality to it that is amazingly smooth at cutting through anything I have thrown at it. I can skin two elk back to back — hide, guts, cartilage, bone, you name it — and this knife can get the job done. CUTCO is regularly described by knife enthusiasts as being America’s premiere cutlery company, and I am inclined to agree with them. Buy this knife and you too will see how it stands apart from the competition.

Best for: all-around hunting knife, deer and elk hunting knife, hanging animals

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Best Caping Knife

If you’re a professional animal skinner and looking for a fast and efficient caping and skinning knife, then this section is for you. These are great for people that anticipate skinning and caping lots of animals. These are a staple of professional hunting outfitters and big game processors. So, what makes the best caping knife? The one that helps you get your hide and trophy to the processors in one neat piece.

 

Six inch curved skinning knife with red handle

6” Bubba Chubby

If you’re a guide or professional, look no further than this knife for all of your skinning and caping needs. It’s easily the top choice for high-production settings. Said another way, the full tang long blade cuts significant time from removing large hides. The high-grade composite handle is easy to grip and helps with slipping from having blood on the handle. Additionally, the trigger grip helps protect you from slipping and cutting yourself.

Best for: professionals, big game, caping

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Which Skinning Knife Will You Bring on Your Next Hunt?

Hunter standing next to a dead deer with 2022's best skinning knife in his hand

When the moment comes, be prepared with the proper skinning knife

 

The best skinning knife for your 2022 hunt is sharp, durable, and long-lasting, but what’s most important is that this knife is inside your hunting pack when you need it most. As long as that knife you bring along is one from this list, you’ll be primed to get the job done. Ditch that old dull blade — it’s time to upgrade.

If you’re new to skinning deer, elk, and other wild game, we recommend grabbing a couple of different types of knives and testing them in the field to see what feels best. Because, until you thrust your knife into real-life action, you’ll never know what best suits your style of hunting.

Conversely, if you’re an expert at caping and skinning animals, many of the recommendations on this list will work for you too. There is a rock-solid blade on this list for every type of hunter.

We only write about what we know, and that’s our passion for hunting and the tools needed for a successful harvest. We strive to give our readers rock-solid advice to help them become better hunters, and today our focus is on getting you the best skinning knife 2022 has to offer.

Now get out there and put your knife to work.

EatElkMeat.com also looks to connect hunters with nature and its bounty: high-quality, sustainable game meat. Check out our trusted elk meat vendors page and buy elk meat online today!

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Josh,
    Have you heard of the Wyoming Knife? It has been around for 50 years.
    It is actually based in Fort Collins and has been in Colorado for 30 years.
    I won’t put the link in here but just google it. My dad invented it in the late ’60s when he heard of someone using a traditional knife and cutting their leg and bleeding to death in the field. Still manufactured in the U.S.
    Thanks for your time!

    1. Hey, Gailyn! Sorry for the late response. We hadn’t heard of the Wyoming Knife until you mentioned it. We’re going to look into it and could possibly add it to this post someday down the road if we think it’d be a useful addition. First impressions are that the knife looks simple and sturdy! Maybe we’ll order one for the upcoming season. Thanks for the suggestion.

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