When it comes to hunting gear, the hunter’s knife is an essential part of every arsenal. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing, using, and caring for your hunting knife.
The two basic types of hunting knives are fixed blade knives and folding knives. While folding knives are very portable, fixed blade knives are more reliable, stronger and affordable. For jobs that require intensive work, a fixed blade is the only way to go. If you do decide to purchase a folding knife, keep two things in mind: they aren’t rated for extra heavy duty work and the cheaper knives aren’t worth your time.
A good knife’s handle and blade will be one piece of steel (a full tang design). These knives are durable and made of two main types of steel: stainless steel and carbon steel. Basic carbon steel knives are easier to sharpen and less expensive than stainless steel knives. Stainless steel knives are the most popular choices among game hunters.
You should pick a knife that is comfortable in your hand and that provides a firm grip. The best knives have sturdy, synthetic handles.
- Keep your knife in a sheath. A synthetic material is best and will keep you and your knife protected.
- Always cut away from your body. To avoid injury, do not pull the blade toward yourself.
- Your blade is extremely sharp, so handle it very carefully and concentrate on the task at hand. Always maintain focus.
- Hunting knives are not throwing knives, so don’t throw them or use them for any friendly play. These are tools that can be very dangerous when misused.
For a razor sharp edge, you’ll need two things: a bench stone (whetstone) and a blade guide. The best bench stones for sharpening hunting knives are 8-inch stones with diamond or synthetic surfaces. One side should be coarser, around 400 grit, with the opposite side around 600 grit.
Begin by placing your knife against the stone at the appropriate angle (usually 20 degrees). With gentle pressure, push the blade away from you. Count the strokes as you sharpen this edge of the knife until you feel a burr (thin ridge of steel) raised up on the opposite side. At this point, turn the blade over and use the same number of strokes. Your knife is now sharp enough for field dressing, cutting rope and butchering. For skinning and whittling, you’ll need to get your knife even sharper. At this point, you’d need a finer stone of around 1200 grit. When you’re in the field, you can keep a stone with you or fashion a makeshift stone from glue, sandpaper and a board. This way, you can keep working if your knife dulls while field dressing your game.
Hand wash your knife with soap and water and wipe with a non-abrasive cloth. Don’t use strong chemical cleaners. For persistent stains, you can use a mixture of diluted vinegar and salt followed by soap and water again. Keep your knife in a clean, dry environment to prevent damage.
Keeping your knife oiled is a must, especially if you opt for a carbon steel knife. Use an all-purpose oil for knives and firearms. Use a small amount of oil. If you have a knife with a wooden handle, oil the handle with a wood-safe oil like linseed oil.
Hunting knives are pretty tough and should last you years, if not decades. With the proper care, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to hand your knife down to your grandchild one day when they’re old enough.
Know that you’re all set with hunting knives, make sure that your hunting gear arsenal is updated and ready to go! If you’re running low on base layers, durable camo gear or waterproof camo outerwear, drop by a trusted outfitter like Carhartt before you head to the deerstand!