Specialty Hunting Knives: Benchmade’s Hidden Canyon Hunter and Nestucca Cleaver

Hunters tend to have strong opinions when it comes to choosing a hunting knife. I’m no different and I like to keep things simple. For most of my big game hunting, I keep a fixed single blade knife like Benchmade’s Steep Country. in my package. And, for small game and birds, I like the Saddle Mountain Skinner’s thinner sheet.

Really, I could get by with either knife for all my hunting. I tend to avoid specialty blades that deviate from the standard model for a good all-purpose hunting knife. But I recently took a couple of Benchmade’s more specialized hunting knives out into the field and I’m glad I did.
Hunter of the Hidden Canyon
For many years I have used hunting knives with a blade about four inches long. A hunting knife of this size has always felt like the most versatile, with the ideal combination of dexterity and length of cut. So when I first held the Hidden Canyon Hunter, I was a bit wary of its diminutive size. With a blade length of less than three inches, it seemed too small for the slaughter of large game. But it turns out that the Hidden Canyon is now going to become my favorite hunting knife. It may be short, but it did a quick and easy job of gutting, skinning, and butchering an antelope.

Working with the knife is comfortable. The handle provides a firm grip and I never wished for a longer knife. The drop point blade is sharp and tough and I wouldn’t hesitate to take on a moose with it. Its compact size and lighter weight make it ideal for backcountry hunters looking to save space and minimize the overall weight of their pack.
Nestuca knife
Benchmade’s Nestucca Cleaver is a hybrid hunting blade inspired by the traditional Ulu hunting knives that Alaska Natives use for everything from filleting salmon and skinning hides to butchering caribou and chopping berries. Frankly, until I used it, I wasn’t sure if it was a knife I’d find much use for. To someone accustomed to “normal” hunting knives, their odd shape seems unwieldy at first glance. But for hunters looking for a tough skinning knife with a deft touch, the Nestucca is a game changer.

The long, broad shape of the blade is perfect for skinning large game, which is what I first used. Separate the skin from the meat with little effort. The combination of the handle and the finger hole provides a sure grip and a sense of unexpected agility. Do not confuse Nestucca with a hacking tool. Once you feel it, it is possible to make very precise cuts.

I am looking forward to experimenting with Nestucca for different tasks, such as filleting fish and separating muscle groups while butchering large game. By using different finger grips at various places on the knife, the blade shape is much more versatile than it initially appears.

Like rifles, bows, and shotguns, a hunter can never have too many knives. For now, I’ll continue to rely on my favorite hunting knives, but I’m also open to throwing a few new players into the lineup. Because sometimes a new knife ends up becoming your old favorite.