The Basics of Knives and Bladed Tools for Hunting

I think of knives and blade tools as gears. They’re great to look at, exciting to buy, and a joy to play with. This creates something of a problem for hunters, who tend to stockpile a lot of excess blades that they don’t really need.

If you have infinite funds for equipment, this is not a problem. But if your knife-buying habits are affecting your ability to get, say, a good pair of boots, that means your knife-buying habits are hindering your ability to hunt as hard as possible. I mean, I’ve seen plenty of hunts ruined by foot problems, but I’ve never seen a hunt ruined by a knife problem. So what knives and blade tools do you really need?

Depends on what you’re doing.

multi tool
Never leave home without it. Your multitool should have a serrated blade, a bone saw, needle-nose pliers, and a bit catcher that can handle whatever bits are needed to make quick repairs to your rifle, bow, or other gear. Pictured (item A) is a SOG B66-N Power Assist. A great advantage of SOG multitools is that you can customize them with the blades you want.

skinning knife
While it’s true that you can hack your way through a skinning job with a multi-tool, it’s nice to have a quality skinning knife. In fact, it should be considered as essential. Great choices include B) Brian Goode’s custom knife; C) SOG Huntspoint skinning knife; D) Phil Wilson Smoke Creek Drop Point; E) Havalon Piranta (a replacement blade razor that is lightweight, compact and extremely sharp).

Utility knife
Allows you to keep your skinning knife sharp and ready for its intended purpose; can be used to cut everything from rope to wood to cheese. In the photo: F) SOG Pentagon Elite (folder, with saw); G) SOG NW Ranger (fixed, not toothed).

bone saw
Useful for large game hunting, especially in the field. It allows you to dismantle carcasses efficiently and cleanly, without jagged bones, and remove skull caps when you want to keep an animal’s antlers or horns without having to bag the entire head. It is also useful at camp for making fires and various woodcraft tasks. Pictured (H) are Alaskan bone saw knives.

wood saw
Let’s take a look at the SOG folding field saw (I). This can easily function as a bone saw, but the more aggressive tooth pattern makes it more suitable for wood. Ideal for building shutters, trimming throw lines or chopping firewood, and doing camping chores on long trips to the backcountry.

SOG FO9-N Hand Ax (J) is a light axe, slightly heavier and more cumbersome than a bone saw, but has the same functions as the butcher. It also works great as a camping tool for driving tent pegs, splitting chips, and making tools and emergency kits from native wood supplies.