Last Updated on March 20, 2023
I see you there, all eager for hunting season, searching for the best hunting knives of 2023. Want to know how I know you’re getting excited? Not because you ended up on this post, but because I’m also getting pretty pumped up for the upcoming season.
For us hunters, hunting season is always right around the corner.
Whether you’re a big game, waterfowl, upland, or predator hunter, there’s always some sort of critter just begging to be chased through the woods.
That’s why it’s vital to be prepared with the best possible gear, from your waders to your walkie-talkies to your sleeping bag to your hunting knife. We made this buyer’s guide for the hunters who work to get their setup dialed in long before hitting the field.
Your hunting knife won’t be what makes or breaks your hunt, but it could be what makes or breaks your harvest. Having the right tool for the job is crucial, especially when you’ve taken down an animal and need a quick and clean field dressing.
Here you’ll find a pretty darn good list of blades from top brands like Benchmade, Bear and Son, Kershaw, Buck, SOG, and many more. We made sure to include options for every budget and hunting style.
We’ve done our research in regards to the best hunting knives for the 2023 season. Ready to do yours?
Table of Contents: Best Hunting Knives of 2023 [Show/Hide]
- Why Picking The Right Knife Matters
- What Makes a Good Hunting Knife?
- Best Overall for 2023: Buck Ranger 113
- Best for the Money: Buck Folding Pursuit 659
- Best High-End Blades
- Affordable & Reliable Blades
- Top Fixed Blade Options
- Best Duck Hunting Knife: CKRT Biwa Bird and Trout
- Best Skinning Knives
- Damascus Steel Blades Made in the USA
- Best Guthook Knife for Big Game: Buck Pursuit Pro 657
- Best Foldable Drop Point: Boker Solingen Davis Classic Hunter
- Randy Newberg’s Choice: Gerber Randy Newberg DTS
- Steven Rinella’s Choice: Benchmade Meateater Essential
- Knife Sharpening Systems
- Factors to Consider When Picking Your Next Blade
- Final Thoughts: 2023’s Best Hunting Knives
- More Hunting Gear & Resources
Why Picking The Right Knife Matters
I don’t remember too much from the Boy Scouts aside from sitting around the fire and singing “Kumbayah.” Oh, and I also remember the scout’s motto, “Always be prepared.”
If you’re lucky enough to drop a game animal, the work has only just begun. Heading into hunting season with a second-rate blade just ain’t going to cut the mustard. (It ain’t going to cut the hide, meat, or tendons, either.)
Be prepared, and bring a hunting knife that’s up to the task. It’s that simple.
Beyond dressing wild game, hunting knives are great all-around tools at camp. You never know when you need to cut some rope, slice some apples, or sculpt a little figurine out of a stick when the animals are nowhere to be seen, and the fish aren’t biting.
A cheap knockoff knife likely won’t be helpful, so grab a quality selection from this list that best suits your hunting style. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to your blade. You might just regret it if you do.
What Makes a Good Hunting Knife?
That’s a great question, and I’ll do my best to answer it. First off, a crappy knife isn’t only ineffective, it’s downright dangerous. Having a dull and poorly designed blade is just asking for trouble. Reason being when your edge isn’t sharp enough, it’s liable to slip from using too much force and then:
*Slash* – You just earned yourself a ticket to the ER!
But enough with the scare tactics. I’m sure you already know your blade needs to be sharp. Here are a few other essential standards required of all of the knives on this list:
Durable and Long-Lasting
If you’re running out and buying a new knife every hunting season, you’re doing it wrong. You don’t want some cheap Chinese imitation from Walmart letting you down in the field. Let’s find you a blade that lasts a long, long time.
Easy there, Rambo, with your 18-inch survival blade. That bulky and cumbersome knife is overkill and better suited for the Marines than you, Steve, from Tulsa in an orange hunting vest.
(Sorry, Steve. That’s just my opinion, but to each his own.)
That cheap gas station knife in your center console is slippery as an eel and is liable to hurt you in the field. Ergonomic handles on fixed-blades and rock-solid lowers on foldable blades are what you should be after. Get that sad excuse for a blade the heck out of here!
No matter which blade you land on, always have a quality sharpener with you wherever you go. Even the sharpest knives will lose their sizzle after a while, so do your best to keep that blade in tip-top shape. A razor-sharp blade is far safer than a dull blade, after all.
Best Overall Hunting Knife for 2023
Buck 113 Ranger
The year could be 1923 or 2023; it doesn’t matter. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better hunting knife than the Buck 113 Ranger.
Even though this is likely the same knife your grandpappy gutted deer with, it’s still just as functional as the top blades of today. Buck’s consistency, year after year, has once again put the 113 Ranger at the top of our list.
Its rock-solid S30V steel blade means that you won’t need to resharpen its edge constantly. And, though it has a smaller profile overall, it sports a fat, contoured belly, which is perfect for quartering up big game or getting into those delicate areas behind the hide.
These full-tang beauties have some serious longevity. I’ve had the same Ranger for eight years, and it’s still just as good as the day I bought it. Time tested and hunter approved, the Buck 113 Ranger stands tall.
Best for: All-around skinning and quartering, camp utility knife, a gift that will last forever
Best Hunting Knife For The Money
Buck 659 Folding Pursuit
I scoured through knife after knife to find the best bang-for-your-Buck selection, and I landed on the 659 Pursuit. (Horrible pun intended.) This foldable knife has durable medium-strength steel that won’t ever let you down when holding an edge.
Buck bills this knife as an “everyman’s blade,” though it should work just as well for the expert hunter as it would the novice. It’s easy to use, rugged, and stays sharp when you need it most. What’s not to like?
One last thing about Buck Knives: they provide their customers with a forever warranty. If one of their products ever breaks, send it in, and they’ll fix or replace it free of charge. This guarantee provides tons of value if you’re looking for the best hunting knife for the money.
Best for: Those who want a top-notch hunting blade at a reasonable price
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The Best of the Best High-End Hunting Knives
You’re the discerning hunter who leaves nothing to chance, and you aren’t in this for a participation trophy. We get it; you’re here to win. The following knives are among the highest-quality options on the market, though their excellence comes at a cost. (They’re expensive.)
Snag of these premium blades, and you’ll be sitting pretty for the 2023 season and beyond.
Benchmade Crooked River
Benchmade consistently makes the best blades for hunting, and they do so right here in the US of A. Their Crooked River model is one of the best all-around options on this list, whether it serves as your everyday carry, fishing, hunting, or camping blade.
This large and in charge blade features hard S30V steel that’s sharpened to a razor’s edge, meaning it’ll make quick work of whatever you throw at it, whether it be a lake trout, bull moose, or black bear.
Every Benchmade knife comes with a lifetime warranty, meaning your foldable little investment will be more or less insured, season after season. On top of repairing and replacing broken knives, Benchmade will tighten, oil, sharpen, or adjust their products back to the factory standard for the life of the blade free of charge.
The Crooked River could be the last hunting knife you ever buy.
Best for: Hunting, fishing, everyday carry, skinning, and quartering
When I used to think of Gerber, I pictured a quality low-to-mid-range knife that gets the job done but doesn’t win any beauty contests. I wouldn’t typically compare them to the high-end blades on, say, a Benchmade.
But my opinion has changed after checking out Gerber’s newest EDC, the Savvy. I picked it up before my archery hunt this fall on a whim, and while I wouldn’t typically drop this much coin on a Gerber, I took a stab at it anyways.
Agile enough to skin a deer but strong enough to cut kindling, the Savvy has true utility, and I’m proud to say that it now graces the inside of my pocket daily. Don’t sleep on this extremely hard 20CV steel blade that will stay sharp and go the distance. I didn’t have to sharpen it once all month!
PRO TIP: Order the Savvy on GerberGear.com, to customize your knife any which way you please. From colors and logos to custom TOPO map lines, you can create a one-of-a-kind pocket knife for yourself or someone you love.
Best for: Everyday carry, all-around camp utility, processing meat at camp
SOG Kiku SR LTE
Wow, this nimble little fella is making me drool. I’ve loved SOG since my days in the Army when I rocked a very similar EDC while in the service. This model boasts an XHP steel blade, making it among the market’s hardest and most easily maintainable edges.
I’m a sucker for a lightweight, compact blade, which is one big reason I love the Kiki SR LTE. It weighs only 4.1 ounces, sports a meaty 3-inch wide belly blade, and is 7 inches top-to-bottom when you count the handle. Its ergonomic design is perfect for getting into intricate contours, though it’s also tough enough to slice through an elk hide easily.
This beast would make for a perfect backcountry hunting blade, and a formidable everyday carry for those looking to maintain a lightweight setup. A few ounces may seem negligible to some, but every ounce counts when you hike 25,000 steps a day up and down rugged terrain.
Best for: SOG loyalists, backcountry hunters, everyday carry, challenging skinning
Benchmade Raghorn Fixed Blade
Hot off the presses! The Benchmade Raghorn ultralight hunting blade just hit the market. Well, kind of. It won’t become available until mid-June of 2023, so take a deep breath and practice patience. Check back this summer, as we’ll update with release details and hunter feedback once it’s getting out into the world.
This knife was engineered for big game backcountry hunters who crave a fixed drop point at a fraction of the weight of its competitors. Elk, deer, moose, caribou, you name it — they’re no match for this bad boy’s durable and robust CPM-CruWear steel.
Benchmade gives this blade its Select Edge treatment, meaning it’ll have the sharpest and finest edge of anything they manufacture. Sizewise, it’ll fit perfectly inside a chest pack, but it’s also compact enough to put on your hip or in your pocket.
And if you needed a gentle little reminder, Benchmade guarantees their blades for life. They will oil, sharpen, tighten, and adjust your knife forever, free of charge. Now, that’s quite the investment.
Best for: Big game backcountry hunters in search of a lightweight and compact fixed blade
Case & Sons Cutlery BoneStag XX-Changer
When William, Jean, John, and Andrew Case started selling knives out of the back of their wagon in 1889, they probably never imagined they’d be a staple in the hunting and cutlery industry 130+ years later.
Lo and behold, after all these years, Case & Sons knives are still among the most sought-after hunting blades in the world. Why? Because their TruSharp high-carbon steel lasts a lifetime and will never let you down. Case & Sons Cutlers is known for its unwavering quality and design standards, and we don’t think that’ll ever change.
This BoneStag features a large 3.5” foldable blade adorned with beautiful ivory and an amber-colored antler handle. Not only is this knife gorgeous, but it’s also sharp enough to cut through a mule deer hide like butter.
I highlighted the XX-Change version since the main drop-point can be switched in and out with three other blades, including a gut hook, clip-point, and bone saw.
That, my friends, is the whole kit and caboodle.
This versatility makes for one of the best all-around hunting knives you can wear on your belt for the 2023 season. And, thanks to Case & Sons Cutlery’s time-tested quality, that same knife may be on your hip for the rest of your life.
Best for: Hunters that want a long-lasting, versatile, and beautiful knife
Affordable Options for Hunters on a Budget
Hunting is an expensive sport, so give your ol’ pocketbook a rest and grab one of the inexpensive options from this section. Just because these knives aren’t made from the finest high-grade carbon steel doesn’t mean they won’t make for an effective hunting tool.
KA-BAR Folding Hunter
When I think of the KA-BAR name, I typically think of their giant bushcraft-style knives and their large-and-in-charge Marine Corps combat knife. I think of the Crocodile Dundee’s massive Bowie knife. Nowadays, KA-BAR’s catalog includes a mess of smaller blade styles, some of which make great hunting knives.
The KA-BAR Hunter is lightweight, foldable, and would make for a great standalone everyday carry or a solid companion to a larger fixed-blade. Either way, it’ll fit conveniently in your pocket or pack and is worth bringing along, considering its affordable price.
Its high-strength carbon steel can be sharpened often and holds an edge surprisingly well. If an expensive blade isn’t in your budget, but you still need a knife that won’t do you wrong next season, this is a great option to consider.
Best for: Those on a budget searching for an all-around lightweight hunting knife or backup
SOG Field Knife
If you’re tough on your gear, the SOG Field Knife was made for you. It rings in at an economical price point and is made with a strong steel blade that can hold an edge as well as some other higher-priced counterparts.
The SOG Field-Knife is the perfect entry-level, low-budget blade for a beginner hunter or anyone searching for a backup blade for everyday tasks that might otherwise ruin their expensive hunting knife.
It sports a 4-inch clip-point blade and a sturdy and slip-resistant ergonomic handle to ensure a smooth slice. Buyers will also receive a nylon sheath and belt clip (usually standard fare for fixed blades of any price). This SOG field knife isn’t going to break the bank, either, which is an essential feature for many hunters.
At 8.5 inches in overall length, some might consider this blade a bit on the bulky side. I wouldn’t recommend it to fast-moving backcountry hunters, as I prefer something more compact and lightweight.
Best for: Big game hunters, survivalists, those on a budget, beginners looking for an entry-level hunting knife
Kershaw Emerson CQC-10K
Rounding out the budget section is the Kershaw CQC-10K, which will run you about 50 bucks; Not bad, considering it was designed by legendary knifemaker, Ernest Emerson. He engineered it to be a hunting blade, but it would also work well as an everyday carry or camp knife.
Strong enough for quartering but agile enough for caping and removing hide from big game, this versatile knife is perfect for anyone that puts their blades through the wringer. It features an ergonomic, full-hand feel and a perfectly shaped belly. This bad boy is ready to go to work.
You don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on a reliable field blade, and this Kershaw Emerson CQC-10K is living proof. No, it is not the cheapest knife in the world, but it’s definitely worth shelling out a couple of extra greenbacks.
Kershaw provides a pretty decent limited lifetime warranty. I broke a Kershaw Blade a few years back while prying on some tractor equipment, and they replaced the connecting link for free. Good on them, considering it was my fault.
Best for: Hunters who put their knives to work, those that want a good hand grip for tough jobs, those in search of an affordable everyday carry
Top Fixed Blade Options
I prefer a fixed blade knife over a folding knife when I’m on the stalk, but the truth is, I usually have both with me. I attach my fixed blade to my bino harness or my belt loop for ease of access, and I typically stash a foldable knife in my pocket or pack.
If you can swing it, grab one of each, as both styles have their advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some of my favorite fixed blade designs:
If you’re the hunter who likes to push yourself harder, get deeper into the backcountry, and craves the lightest gear, consider the Argali Carbon fixed blade. It has one of the lightest edge-to-weight ratios of any product on this list.
Made from tough-as-bones CPM S35 steel, this little beast sports a high-strength contouring belly. Translation: You won’t need to sharpen its edge often, and it’ll make quick work of a mule deer or elk in the backcountry.
I’ve had my eyes on this knife for a couple of seasons, and I might buy it for my 2023 September Colorado archery hunt. I plan to get up into the high-elevation of the dark timbers, so I need to keep track of every ounce in my setup.
Best for: Backcountry hunters, those who obsess over ultralight gear
Knives of Alaska Alpha Wolf
Knives of Alaska are as tough as they come. Made to stand up to the brutal conditions Alaska is known for, these blades are built for the outfitters, hunters, and outdoorsmen who can’t afford to get let down in the wilderness.
The Alpha Wolf model is an absolute beauty; it features S30V steel and is tumble-finished in a convex method that creates tough-to-beat performance. It’ll stand up to the most demanding game you can throw at it, whether it be moose, caribou, or red stag. This could be your go-to knife big game fixed blade for years to come.
Its durable leather sheath is easy on the eyes, as its vegetable tan gives it a classic old-timey look. It comes in six different handle finishes, but I prefer the stag bone look above all others.
Best for: Any hunting or camping use you can throw at it, hunters who rely on their equipment in life or death situations
TOPS Tom Brown Tracker
“This is the highest quality knife I have ever held in my hand.” – Amazon Reviewer
Tom Brown’s name is synonymous in the survival and tracking world, and his signature knife is among the most recognizable in the industry. His unique blade is built to help you endure the harshest conditions imaginable when hunting in the backcountry.
And just in case you had any doubts, know that this hoss was featured in the movie “The Hunted” and even made an appearance on the cover of Blade Magazine. Tom has trained elite special forces and survivalists for decades, so he’d know better than anyone how to design a survival blade.
TOPS Knives hired Tom Brown to design this knife to his exact specifications and not theirs. They’re a company that takes pride in gathering input from their customers, and they seek out expert designers to create products that fulfill these needs.
So if you’re a hunter, tracker, survivalist, serviceman, you name it — they have a blade explicitly built for you.
Built with a large 6.25-inch blade, this beast is up to any hunting task you can throw at it, from bush crafting to skinning an animal. This is the ultimate fixed blade for rugged outdoorsmen who get deep into the thick of it.
Best for: Hunters in search of a burly knife that can do it all, survivalists, preppers
Best Duck Hunting Knife
CKRT Biwa Bird and Trout
If you’re unfamiliar with Bird and Trout knives, don’t fret. They’re a lot like the other hunting knives on this list, but slightly different. Same, same – but different.
The most significant difference you’ll notice on the CKRT Biwa is its long and slender blade. While it won’t work great for big game, it’s perfect for the small and intricate cuts you’ll need to make on a duck or game bird.
You don’t need a large knife with a big belly when dressing waterfowl, so this small and slender fixed blade will do the trick. It has a long and full-tang edge capable of slicing open any honker or mallard you can throw at it.
Although it’s a strong, reliable, and full-handle knife, it only weighs a meager 1.6 ounces. No knife on this list is lighter. It also comes standard with a sturdy sheath, belt attachment, and paracord band, which allow you to carry it in a multitude of ways.
Columbia River Knife & Tool is respected by hunters long and far, as their affordable blades are known to hold an edge very well. As a duck or waterfowl hunter, you can’t go wrong with this knife, especially at its price.
Best for: Waterfowl hunters, anglers, those looking for a lightweight but sharp full-tang bird blade
When it comes to hunting, you’ll always have an endless list of tasks to complete. From cutting twine off the hay bale for your mules to slicing up a backstrap after it comes off the fire, you’ll never run out of things to do. To that end, all the knives on the list are capable of getting the job done.
But skinning knives are a whole different breed. Many specialized skinners feature replaceable blades and are engineered specifically for the delicate caping and skinning of an animal. While many of the knives in this post excel at skinning, there are a bunch of excellent skinners that didn’t make the list.
Lucky for you, we’ve written up a guide on 2023’s best skinning knives. Click the button below to check it out.
VIEW 2023'S BEST SKINNING KNIVES
Damascus Hunting Knives Made in the USA
If you’re searching for a Damascus steel blade forged by fire and made right here in the good old US of A, look no further. The following two knives are not only sharp and rugged enough for hunting, but they’re also eye-catching one-of-a-kind showpieces. These blades are absolute works of art.
Bear & Son India Stag Drop Point Skinner
The Drop Point Skinner is like a fine wine or a grand piano; it gets better with time. Crafted from Damascus steel in Jacksonville, Alabama, each Bear & Son blade is handcrafted to perfection. The fine details in both the blade and the handle ensure that each knife is one-of-kind.
Looks aside, this razor-sharp tough-as-nails 3.6-inch Damascus steel drop-point-style blade is tough enough for any job yet elegant enough to display on your mantle between seasons.
A beautiful blade like this is likely to trigger storytelling sessions, so get out there, put this craftsman blade to the test, and give yourself something to talk about.
Best for: Those who want a Damascus steel knife made in the USA, those looking for quality and beauty
Custom Fiddleback Forge Knife
When Andy Roy started making knives in his garage back in 2007, there’s no way he could have imagined that his company would become one of the top custom knife producers in the world over the next 15 years.
Since his humble beginnings, Andy’s company, Fiddleback Forge, has scored a couple of cover features on Blades Illustrated magazine and has even acquired a few other small custom knife makers. Fiddleback Forge is now one of the premier custom Damascus knife producers in the USA.
If your goal is to own a best-of-the-best one-of-a-kind hunting knife, look no further than these incredible custom blades. Each knife is entirely unique and handcrafted from scratch by Andy himself in his Buford, Georgia shop. You’d be hard-pressed to find a blade that isn’t perfectly crafted with the utmost attention to detail.
I’ve got my eye on several models, but because of the nature of Andy’s company, his stock is constantly changing. Every Friday, he posts their new lineup of knives, which are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Best for: Knife connoisseurs, those who want handcrafted quality showpieces
Best Guthook For Big Game
Buck 657 Pursuit Pro
My buddy, Glen, was gutting a buck last season and nicked the innards. A bunch of nasty stomach bile leaked all over the meat, and Glen started dry-heaving. What a rookie move. If you’re not 100% sure you can gut an animal with a standard blade, grab one of these trusty Buck 657 Pursuit Pro guthook knives. Don’t be like Glen.
If you haven’t noticed already, I love the Buck Knife brand; this guthook knife is a big reason why. It features an oversized contoured drop point belly on one side and a capable razor-sharp gut hook on the spine. Make quick work of your kill and do your harvest justice with one knife, the Buck Pursuit Pro 657.
It has a nice fluorescent orange handle which helps if you lose track of it while field dressing. I can’t tell you how many knives I’ve lost in the excitement of harvesting big game in the backcountry.
This knife is pretty large, so it would work best in your kill kit or stashed away in your pack. You don’t necessarily need to carry it on your person as you would an everyday carry.
Best for: Any big game kill kit, big game hunters
Best Foldable Drop Point
Böker Solingen Davis Classic Hunter
Böker Solingen is the premier hunting knife manufacturer outside of the United States, so I had to find room for a blade of theirs on this list. Yes, these run a pretty penny, but they’re certainly among the best blades in the world.
Every Böker Solingen knife has a story behind it. This specific knife was forged from 180 layers of Damascus steel taken from a transmission wheel in Solingen, Germany. To make its history official, each blade comes with a certificate of authenticity. Wild, huh?
Check out the Davis Classic Hunter if you need this knife right away since the Damascus version is often on backorder. This non-Damascus version is still a top-notch blade, and its N690 steel is sure to hold an edge for a long, long time.
Best for: Knife collectors, those with a few extra greenbacks to burn
What Hunting Knife Does Randy Newberg Use?
Gerber Randy Newberg DTS
Randy Newberg knows one thing much better than you and I, and that is how to get the darn job done. What job, you ask? Harvesting big game, of course. He’s a leading name in the hunting industry and collaborated with Gerber to create his ideal tool for quartering deer, elk, and other beasts. That’s how the Randy Newberg DTS was born.
Randy is an expert in the gutless field dressing method, and this specialized blade is explicitly built for the task. It features a razor-sharp contoured belly, which works perfectly for the quartering process.
Sometimes a non-serrated blade isn’t enough to get through the rough tendons near the hip joint. Luckily, this knife features a convenient serrated edge on its back end, specifically designed to slice through tendons like butter.
Make quick work of your harvest this next season by getting your hands on one of these bad boys. It’ll only run you around $65, which is an excellent price considering how much utility it offers in the field.
Best for: Big game hunters, those who prefer the gutless method
What Hunting Knife Does Steven Rinella Use?
Benchmade Meateater Essential
One celebrity knife wasn’t enough, so we wanted to show you a blade designed by the big man himself, Steven Rinella. You’ll probably notice just by looking at it that it’s much different than Mr. Newberg’s creation.
That’s because it’s a trailing point-style knife that doubles as a deboning or filet blade. It’s strong enough for the field and good enough for the processing room.
This beautiful Benchmade will surely impress your group back at camp as you’re effortlessly slicing up tenderloins with its durable and flexible blade. It has almost a steak knife feel, and it should work well for deboning whole hindquarters in the backcountry or the kitchen.
I may grab one of these Meateater Essentials this year and add it to my kill kit. It comes super highly rated, and if you know anything about Steven Rinella, he would never sell his soul for a buck. If he stands behind it, you know it’ll be a perfect tool for your field dressing kit.
Best for: Deboning big-game in the field, processing meat, camp kitchen knife
Best Hunting Knife Sharpening Systems
Now that you’ve got that new blade let’s keep it nice and sharp before, during, and after your hunting trips. As I mentioned earlier, dull blades are more dangerous than sharp blades, as they’re more likely to get caught up and cause slips. Keep your knives sharp and your hands slice-free.
Here are a couple of my favorite options for at home and in the field:
Worksharp By Ken Onion
The Worksharp is Outdoor Magazine’s top pick for an electric knife sharpener, and I can see why. With multiple grind grits, you can get that hunting knife dialed in for the toughest challenges in no time at all. Beyond your hunting blade, this would also be great for keeping your at-home cutlery razor-sharp.
Smiths Hunting Knife Sharpener
This pocket-sized sharpening system is perfect for backcountry hunters who don’t want to lug their big sharpening kit around. Grab one of these and tune up your edge quickly and efficiently while you’re deep in the thick of it. At 3.5″ x 1″, you’ll never even notice you brought it along. I carry one of these in my pack at all times.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Hunting Knife
Hunting knives aren’t as simple as they may seem, so we wanted to cover all the bases when putting together this guide. There are a lot of factors at play, so I hope to break them all down to make your decision easier. Keep the following five considerations in mind as you pick out your next blade.
This may be a point of contention to those who rock the Buck 120 and its 8-inch clip-point blade, but I recommend a smaller and more nimble blade for ease of transport alone. I can quarter an entire elk with a 3-inch edge, so I think anything more significant than 5 or 6 inches is complete overkill.
Remember: smaller blades are my personal preference. You do you. But if you insist on bringing a larger fixed blade, also pack a foldable pocket knife as a companion to access those hard-to-reach areas behind the hide without tearing up too much of your meat.
The list of different types of steel that knife manufacturers use is as extensive as the day is long. That said, high-strength carbon steel is always my litmus for knives that I purchase. Every blade I invest in must have a Rockwell scale rating of at least 55.
Rockwell Hardness is an international scale for the hardness of a material between 1 and 99. On the one side, think of a feather, and on the ninety-nine side, think of diamonds. Often displayed as “RC.”
Cheap stainless blades from the corner store simply won’t hold an edge no matter how you sharpen them. Don’t even think about it.
Here are a few common blade materials that you’ll run into:
- CruWear Steel: Some of the best steel in the business. Used often by high-quality knife companies like Benchmade, This tool steel is up to the task. RC = 60 – 65
- CPM-S30V: Wow. This stainless steel doesn’t bend or break but gives you a sharp edge time and time again. Highly recommended. RC = 59 – 60
- XHP: This is a tough and competent material for top-end knives. SOG Knives often use XHP steel. This is one of the best-in-class blade materials, in my opinion. RC = 65
- 420 HC: This is Buck Knives’ signature steel. It’s easy to sharpen and is still very hard and durable for the cost. Tried-and-true as they come. RC = 56 – 58
Blade Styles Explained
“Pick the right tool for the right job.” That’s what my dad used to say, anyway.
But is his saying valid for hunting knives? Absolutely. There are plenty of tremendous do-it-all blades, but some designs will outperform others in certain situations.
If you’re unfamiliar, here are a few common hunting blade styles you’ll run across:
- Drop Point: This style features a reasonably straight spine that dips ever so slightly to the curved belly of the blade. This allows for a sharp tip and a more pronounced belly, which is helpful for stabbing, piercing, and sweeping motions.
- Straight Back: A perfectly straight spine that eventually meets up with the curving belly creating a point. This usually makes for a shallow belly that isn’t that great at stabbing and piecing without using considerable force.
- Clip Point: Clip point refers to the back “clip” on the spine that concaves towards the point of the blade. It allows for a pronounced belly and more intricate filet-style cutting. This style is typical on a KA-BAR knife.
- Spear: This features a blade in which the belly and the spine start straight but meet up somewhere near the middle of the knife to create a spear point. These are ideal for piercing and thrusting motions as the blade’s strength lies in its point.
- Trailing Point: This is much like a steak or filet knife in that it has a long slender blade with a lot of surface area on the belly to allow for long cuts. Steven Rinella’s Meatcrafter is made in this style.
A knife’s sharp edge results from a specific type of grind that the manufacturer puts on the belly of the blade when sharpening it. I prefer a hollow grind as it’s the sharpest and most practical for cutting meats.
I prefer a full-feeling grip on my knife when I’m putting it to the task of hunting, camping, and other outdoor-related uses. Some gimmicky knife companies are trying to do away with handles altogether and use finger holds instead. Don’t fall for the latest trend; get a knife with a sturdy grip if you want to have a decent handhold.
Which Knife Will You Choose for Your 2023 Hunt?
Well, there you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed our complete buyers guide to the best darn hunting knives of 2023. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on a suitable blade for the upcoming season. “Pick the right tool for the right job,” as my dad used to say.
With a list full of top brands like Buck Knives, Benchmade, Case & Sons Cutlery, SOG, Fiddleback Forge, and others, we hope we’ve given you enough top-notch blades to make a decision. If you’re struggling to choose between one and the other, grab both, pick a favorite, and send the other one back.
The time to fuss with hunting gear is right now, not when you need it to perform during the stalk. We hunters wait far too long just to thrust unproven gear into action at the last minute. Do your research and get a blade that suits your style.
Always be prepared, from your socks to your binos to your bow sight.
Comment below if you think we left out a worthy addition to this post, and we’ll review it and consider adding it to this list. There were too many great blades to choose from while choosing 2023’s best hunting knives, so we inevitably left some stellar choices off the list.
Thanks for stopping by! We hope to see you out there in the wilderness, field dressing your next kill.
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The USA is a great place to hunt! Can you tell me which place is best for hunting in the USA?
I have been able to go on many hunts there, and it’s so much fun.
I love the outdoors – especially when that means exploring new areas for game animals or just getting out of town with friends who are also looking forward to an adventure.
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