The best hunting knives for big game and small game

There are many tools, gadgets, and accessories these days that, while they may increase your comfort or efficiency, are not absolutely necessary for a safe and successful trip in the woods.

A good knife is not one of them.

Ask any hunter, backcountry explorer, survivor, wildlife researcher, anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors – a dependable blade is a must. Our earliest ancestors figured that out a long time ago, and it’s stayed that way ever since. Of course, wherever demand goes, supply follows, which means that today’s market is awash with loads of brands, designs and features.

Let’s keep it simple. Benchmade is our preferred brand. This California-born, Oregon-based company has been releasing shovels since 1980, when it started as a two-man show. Founder Les de Asis specialized in a type of butterfly knife from the Philippines, known as a Balisong. (Before Benchmade was Benchmade, the company was actually called Bali-Song, Inc.)

In 1987, the company changed its name to Benchmade, moved to Clackamas, Oregon, and became the first knife company to work with a high-power laser cutter, which meant they could create knives with stronger steels than anyone else. before. They moved to their current manufacturing facility in Oregon City in 1990 and became the company we know today.

Jump to: The hunting knives we use

What we look for in a hunting knife

When it comes to hunting knives, you want something precise enough to make the first incision on a still-warm animal, but also for assorted tasks like butchering, cutting tough tendons, and even cutting loins or cutting hearts for the pan at camp. . This knife has to be the master of all trades, tough as hell, and when it comes to adding weight to your kit, lighter than a breath of air. With that in mind, we look for:

  1. Size Versatility
  2. Sturdiness
  3. Packability

Jump to: What makes a good hunting knife

The hunting knives we use

What makes a good hunting knife

1. Versatility in size

Let’s face it…if we could take an entire block of knives with us on a backcountry trip, we probably would. What would a hunting knife set look like? Maybe one for small incisions, one for long cuts, one for working on tricky joints, and one for cleaning under nails after the job is done. (If you say you’ve never done that in a rare moment of boredom outdoors, you’re lying.)

But to avoid looking like Atlas carrying the globe over blowdowns and currents, keep a lightweight pack and stick with a blade that does it all. Both Hidden Canyon and Steep Country feature a dropped point blade, which is considered one of the best shapes for skinning game. Since the tip points away from the back of the blade, you’re less likely to accidentally slice open organs while making long cuts through the skin.

The Meatcrafter’s drag point is also great for making super precise cuts. This is the narrowest top-to-bottom blade of the three, so it navigates nooks and crannies with ease.

2. Robustness

We’ll get to steel hardness ratings next, but for now, all you need to know is that the steel Benchmade uses for these three knives is the perfect combination of strength and flexibility. They can take whatever wear and tear we throw at them, but they’re not so tough that brittleness becomes an issue. Sharpening is a snap, especially with a tool like the Work Sharp Field Sharpener.

3. Packability

Knives can get heavy and get in the way quickly. All of these Benchmade knives feature a sleek, ultra-lightweight design that may make you forget you even have them in the first place. Each one adds about 3 ounces to your kit, which means you pull your weight and then some.

The bright orange handles and sheaths are meant to stand out in your pack if you choose not to wear your knife on your belt. Even the Hidden Canyon’s woodgrain handle features an eye-catching flaming outline. If you’re worried about reaching into your backpack and catching a blade tip that’s been exposed by a loose sheath, don’t worry. These sleeves fit the blade and handle perfectly and won’t slip, no matter how hard you push your gear.

MeatEater Crew Field Notes