Best Skinning Knives 2024: Tested and Reviewed By Guides

Hunting Guide Ryan Skinning a Bull Elk in Colorado Mountains
A sharp knife makes quick work of big game. Here Ryan uses his Randy Newberg DTS knife to skin an elk in the field. 

Wise hunters looking for 2024’s best skinning knife know that having the right tools once you harvest an animal is vital to successful meat care. A primary tool like a top-notch skinning blade can make all the difference in making your work safer and more efficient.

In the fall, I can be found in the backcountry of Colorado, guiding hunters on deer, elk, moose, and bear hunts.  By the end of the season, it’s not uncommon for me to have skinned over 20 big game animals.

We’ve tried every knife on this list and jotted down our thoughts. That’s right; bonified hunting guides are testing and reviewing 2024’s best carbon steel, so you don’t have to.

What will be the top list this year? Will the Buck Knife hold onto its top spot like it has for several years (generations)?

Or will it be dethroned by more modern entries to 2024’s list? Hint – Montana Knife Company. 

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

Read on for more insight and my rock-solid reviews of the best of the best in the skinning knife game. And who knows? You might walk away with one or two (or 10) from this list!

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

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Quick Picks

Best Skinners Of 2024

Best For The Money

Sharpening a fixed blade skinning knife with a smith knife sharpener
Buck Ranger Skinner

Best EDC Skinning Knife

Kershaw folding knife held in hand
Kershaw Blur

Editors Choice – Best Overall Skinning Knife For 2024

 Montana Knife Company Stonewall Skinner

Over the past two to three years, Montana Knife Company has created a ton of buzz in the heavily saturated hunting knife market. But, as with any competitive niche, there’s always room for someone to create a “skyscraper” product that stands high above the rest.

This year, I had a client rocking a Stonewall Skinner. After watching him make quick work of his share of a beautiful 5×5 bull elk, I just had to give it a spin. Even after a small sampling, I could tell this blade was special.

Montana Knife Company makes high-end tools for professional hunters (in the USA, to boot.) I particularly like MKC’s weight-saving design that uses thinner steel at the spine. The ability to move with less friction inside a chest cavity is unparalleled.

I can’t wait to really put this knife through its paces and get it dirty in 2024. I don’t usually use skinning knives this long (4-3/4″), but I’m willing to give it a go as my #1.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best For: Hunters who demand the absolute best gear, professional high-capacity hunting professionals, all-around hunting applications, ultralight hunters
Drawbacks: Get your pocketbook out; you’ll have to pay for Made In The USA best-in-class equipment; also, it’s a bit bulky.
Compare To: Benchmade Raghorn– I’ve used both of these knives, and the difference in quality is negligible. Montana Knife Company is the hot ticket these days, and I like their design a little better.

VIEW ON MONTANA KNIFE COMPANY

Best Skinning Knives For The Money

You’re looking for the best blade 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.

113 Buck Ranger Skinner

No list of the best 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 results from its unwavering quality that lasts forever. I recommend the Ranger as the best bang for your buck for several 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. But I’m mostly impressed with its sturdy design that makes popping hip sockets and cutting cartledge a breeze.

I always carry this knife in the field.  I can personally attest to the Ranger being a great “go-to” option. One minor drawback is that I typically need to sharpen it 1-2 times while working on an animal to maintain a razor edge. If you don’t like the fixed-blade knife, consider grabbing the Buck 110.

Pro Tip: Buy through BuckKnives.com, and they’ll laser engrave your knife with custom text for an extra $9.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: all-around skinning knife, contours, big game, getting backstraps out in one piece
Drawbacks: Edge retention is a little lacking, but not by much.
Comparisons: Old Timer Heritage Series – If you’re after a slightly longer blade but still want a fixed blade drop-point, check out this one from Old Timer, another old-school brand.

Outdoor Edge RazorLite

The RazorLite was my top choice for skinning knives as of 2023. But, after further field testing in 2024, I have to change my opinion. Yes, it’s lightweight and compact and uses surgical-grade steel, but (a big but) I cut myself twice this year with this blade, and I think it may have to do with the slippery handle.

One drawback of this knife is that if you get too much blood on your hand, it’ll slide out of your grip very easily. Both times I injured myself, I was inside the chest cavity, and it was almost impossible to stop my hand from slipping on the grip.

Why am I still including it on this list? Well, it still makes a damn good skinning knife in certain situations. I.e., when you have a deer or elk (or other game) already gutted and hanging from a gambrel. It’s affordable, and the replaceable blades are easy to swap.

Just keep it away from the blood as best you can, and you’ll be alright.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: all-around skinning knife, big game, trappers, small game
Drawbacks: Slippery handle, blades super sharp but dull easily
Comparisons: Tyto 1.1 Cerakote (Check this knife out if you prefer a fixed blade. Tyto is a bit pricier, but they’re the bee’s knees)

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The Sharpest Blade 

Piranta Z by Havalon

The sleek and thin style of the Piranta Z is by far the most popular among hunting guides I know. We love to use this replaceable blade because it’s foldable, slender, and made with surgical steel. Although Havalon’s Piranta is sharp as all get out, it’s unsuitable for prying or popping out stubborn hip sockets and other game-dressing applications.

When it comes to getting a hide off an animal quickly, this blade does the trick. Its design makes long strokes along the hide cut like butter. To me, it feels like I have a straight razor in my hands when I use it. Essentially, that’s what the Piranta Z is: a long razor blade.

If you plan on skinning several animals in 2024, this knife is a stellar choice to have in your pack, but it isn’t going to be the best as a standalone hunting knife. One potential drawback is that I have to switch blades 1-2 times when skinning larger animals like elk (pretty standard with this style and across all replaceable blade skinners.)

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: skinning hanging animals, fur-bearing animals, intricate skinning, trappers
Drawbacks:  Not very durable. You must exercise extreme caution when replacing these blades, especially with bloody or wet hands. 
Comparisons:
 Kershaw Lonerock RBK 2 – Kershaw may be the better value, but I prefer the Piranta because of its handle.

Best Deer, Elk, and Big Game Skinning 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 on the field. Having a more durable setup can be useful for 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.

Kershaw Blur

Kershaw has been my go-to EDC for a while now. It’s what I carry in my pocket at all times, without exception. Although I can probably attribute it to my own stupidity rather than poor craftsmanship, this is the only knife on the list that I’ve broken. I used it to pry on some tractor equipment and broke the connecting link to the handle. Wrong tool for the wrong job.

Don’t be dissuaded because of that; The Kershaw Blur has a high-quality, smooth, and thin blade. I can effortlessly cut through an elk hide with this knife, and it’s compact enough 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 / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: All-around skinning knife, all-around utility, big game, use in the field
Drawbacks: Holds a decent edge, but make sure you have a good sharpener with you in the field.
Comparisons: Benchmade Taggedout. Benchmade is obviously going to be a little pricier, but I love the tagged-out knife for skinning animals. Kershaw, though, is a better value.

Knife with wooden handle for skinning deer and elk

Benchmade Grizzly Creek

The Grizzly Creek by Benchmade is for the discerning hunter who isn’t here to play games. The Grizzly Creek 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 (if that’s your thing) and a reliable SV30 steel blade with zero problems holding an edge.

The quality of a Benchmade knife speaks for itself. You can feel the difference the moment you use one. It’s probably not news to you (unless you’ve been living under a rock), as they’ve been at the top of the game for a hot minute. The best thing about this steel is its warranty: Benchmade will inspect, repair, oil, clean, and adjust your blade at no cost to you – for the life of the knife.

Yeah, we get it, it’s expensive. But, it’s a buy once, cry once situation.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: All-around deer hunting knife, all-around utility, use in the field, pro hunters who like to use pro tools
Drawbacks:  It can be cost-prohibitive for the casual hunter.
Comparison: Randy Newberg Gerber DTS – You may not like the gut hook. This Gerber knife, designed by world-renowned hunter Randy Newberg, is an excellent alternative at a more digestible price point.  Benchmade is much higher quality.

Best Budget Skinning Knife

Hunting is an expensive hobby. When you factor in all the gear you must buy, the gas, and the time off work, you are likely paying a prime Wagyu beef price 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.

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 about as well as the Outdoor Edge when it came to cutting and skinning. My only gripe is that it was hard to replace the blades, and it doesn’t hold an edge as well as my Outdoor Edge.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: hanging animals, fur-bearing animals, intricate skinning, trappers, hunting on a budget
Drawbacks: The blades were a bit snug, making it difficult to get in and out. It doesn’t hold an edge well, so make sure you have replacement blades on hand.
Comparisons: Outdoor Edge Razor EDC – If you’re not in a time crunch, the Razor EDC is a bit higher quality and only a few extra bucks.

VIEW ON AMAZON

Best Skinning Knife With Gut Hook

If you want a dual-action hunting knife that has both 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 gut hook. The Gerber name has been synonymous with quality for generations, and this knife is no different. Although I haven’t always been able to afford a top-of-the-line setup, Gerber has been part of my kill kit for years.

Obviously, edge retention is pretty lacking with Gerber. Compared to high-end steel we’ve reviewed, like Montana Knife Company, the quality just doesn’t come close. However, the difference for the casual hunter isn’t enough to justify the premium cost of MKC.

I keep this set at camp for skinning animals from a gambrel, and sharpening my knife is convenient. The Gerber Myth comes as a knife set, and the smaller dagger is my go-to when deboning animals for clients. I can remove all the meat from a quarter in less than a minute with that small straight blade.

I swear, You can time me!

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: big game, hanging animals, intricate skinning, frugal hunters on a budget
Drawbacks: Needs to be sharpened frequently. Be sure to keep it dry and clean, or it will dull fast.
Comparisons: Gerber Gear Moment – Same as the Myth, except it has a lower profile and is better for caping and getting into tight spots.

Best Blade For Skinning Small Game

You want a nimble tool for small game or for situations where you need to be really accurate with your cuts. When skinning pelts, for example, the ability to remove pelts without ripping holes in them can significantly affect the final product. Having a proper trapper’s knife is non-negotiable.

Buck 501 Squire

The Buck Squire 501 is our top pick for the best all-around small game and trappers knife of 2024. This tried-and-true option can do it all, from taking the pelt off a coyote (without making Swiss cheese of it) to getting a squirrel skin off quickly.

Because it has a nice thick drop-point blade, it makes for a great everyday carry as well. You can’t go wrong with this little fella from Buck Knives. I keep one with me when I’m skinning out bear paws, where there is little room for error.

I shot my black bear this year while checking on a treestand and didn’t have my full kill kit with me. Fortunately, I had my Buck Squire on my belt. With this trusty and timeless skinning knife, I got my bear completely dressed down in 30 minutes.

Pro Tip: Buy through BuckKnives.com, and they’ll laser engrave your knife with custom text for an extra $9.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: fur-bearing animals, small game, intricate skinning, everyday carry
Drawbacks: Its to find any shortcomings in this timeless classic.
Comparable Knife: Case Trapperlock – I prefer the Buck Knife’s shorter blade, but Case Cutlery makes excellent small game skinners.

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 who 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.

Caping blade with a blue handle for deer, elk, and big game

JERO Butcher Series Deer Skinner

If you’re a guide or professional meat processor, look no further than the JERO Butcher Series Deer Skinner for all of your caping needs. It’s easily our top budget choice for high-production settings. Said another way, the full tang long blade will trim significant time from removing large hides.

The high-grade composite handle is easy to grip and helps with slipping from, even where there’s blood on the handle. Overall, this is a sturdy blade for high production settings that’s also versatile enough to be a useful all-around camp knife.

Best For / Drawbacks / Comparisons

Best for: guides, those who plan on skinning multiple animals, professionals who skin animals quickly, skinning on a gambrel
Drawbacks: It doesn’t come with a sheath, so it’s better suited for skinning animals back at the main camp than in the field.

VIEW ON AMAZON

Factors We Consider When Reviewing Skinning Knives

There’s a lot to take into account when you are considering which skinning knife to purchase. The type of animal you’re skinning is going to be the biggest determining factor when it comes to which selection you make.

Take into account the following when purchasing a new skinner.

Blade Length

Blade length should be determined by the type of animal you plan on skinning. For small game, I prefer a small, nimble knife like the Havalon or a trapper knife like the Buck Squire 501, which measures in at 2-3/4 inches.

When skinning big game, I prefer a bit more size, as anything less than 3.5” will take you significantly more time and may not be large enough to get into certain areas of the hide. With that said, I’ve skinned several animals with the Kershaw listed above, and it has performed just fine.

Blade Material

Almost every knife manufacturer uses a different type of steel, and for that reason, we’ve only included the best and most reliable steel in this list. The thing to remember here is the hardness, or, as it’s referred to in the knife world, its Rockwell scale.

Rockwell Hardness is an international scale for material hardness between 1 and 99. On the one side, think of a silly putty; on the ninety-nine side, think of diamonds. You will typically find this displayed as “RC.”

Cheap knockoffs from the corner store won’t hold an edge no matter how often you sharpen them. Don’t even think about using one. You don’t want second-rate crap in the field, trust me. You want top-notch carbon steel.

Disregard this section for replaceable blade skinners. Since you won’t be resharpening these, the RC score isn’t really a factor.

Here are a few common blade materials that you’ll run into with skinning knives:

  • 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: This stainless steel doesn’t bend or break but gives you a sharp edge repeatedly. Wow, it’s 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. It’s as tried-and-true as they come. RC = 56 – 58
Blade Style

The three skinning knife styles we like most are foldable, replaceable blades, and fixed-handle blades. Each has advantages and disadvantages, depending on the type of game you are chasing.

We tend to prefer replaceable blade skinning knives since you won’t ever have to worry about sharpening your blade in the field. Just make sure to bring a couple of extras along to ensure you’ll be able to get through even the toughest of skinning jobs.

Fixed-blade skinners are great for those seeking an all-around hunting knife to serve multiple roles. They’ll allow you to cut through tendons and muscles and provide a way to cape your animal.

The same goes for the foldable skinners on this list that don’t have replaceable blades. They can serve multiple purposes, from skinning to caping to use as an everyday carry. Consider what you expect from your skinning knife when deciding on which blade style to go with.

Blade Grind

A skinner’s razor-sharp edge results from a specific type of grind that the manufacturer puts on the belly of the blade when sharpening it. I personally prefer a hollow grind as it’s the sharpest and most practical for cutting meats. It also allows for a nice slicing motion when skinning an animal.

Here’s a quick visual of common blade grinds that you’ll see:

Eight different shapes that demonstrate blade grinds

Handle Style

The handle style is another personal preference I discussed with the blade style above. Whether you choose a fixed blade or foldable, ensure you have a solid, non-slip grip. Hold the handle firmly at home and note how it feels before you use it in the field.

Your blade should always be extremely sharp, meaning poorly designed handles can be dangerous. I heavily considered this attribute when choosing knives for this list since one slip of your grip in the backcountry can cause a trip to the ER (or worse).

Choose handles that don’t absorb blood or slip in your hand.

Why Choosing The Right Skinning Knife Matters

Why Choosing The Right Skinning Knife Matters

Hunter with a skinning knife reading "Josh Riley EAT ELK MEAT" field dressing a mule deer

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

As my good buddy always says:

To spend time in elk country is lucky enough.

But let’s get real here: you’re after nature’s bounty. Game meat. Hunting and harvesting success is the culmination of two things: preparation and hard work. And that work isn’t over if you’re skilled or lucky enough to put all the pieces together at the right time to drop an animal.

As you know, that’s when the work begins.

Second-rate steel isn’t going to cut it, bubs. Only the sharpest, toughest metal can be relied upon to get the job done right.

A reliable skinner that doesn’t let you down in the field can make the difference between getting that elk or deer meat safely back to your cooler or struggling to remove the hide as it spoils.

Which Skinning Knife Will You Bring on Your Next Hunt?

Hunting guide skinning an elk with a knife surrounded by fall foliage
When the moment comes, Ryan is prepared with the proper skinning knife.

The best skinning knife for your 2024 hunts 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 hunting style.

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 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 sound purchasing advice to help them become better hunters, and today our focus has been on getting you the best skinning knife 2024 has to offer.

Now get out there and put your knife to work.

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Last Updated on February 1, 2024

4 thoughts on “Best Skinning Knives 2024: Tested and Reviewed By Guides”

  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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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