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Published Oct. 13, 2021

Aside from being a basic necessity of your EDC, knives are incredibly versatile tools. Even the little blade in a multitool can do the trick, but size does matter in certain situations. Hunting knives tend to be larger and more robust than your basic pocket knife, and they generally have a fixed blade. They’re traditionally designed to field dress game animals, but their scope of work has grown to include wilderness survival and combat readiness. Whether you’re enjoying a week at the deer camp, or loading up your plate carrier, you better have a knife you can rely on. It’s important to pick the right one. The range of features and designs is varied, so make sure you know what your priorities are to avoid being the one asking someone else for a knife.

Choosing just one hunting knife can be a little tricky since there are so many jobs it will need to do. Ideally, you’d have a set of knives specifically designed for different tasks like skinning, boning, and butchering game animals. We found a kit that can take care of all that to include on this list, but we also recognize that many hunters just want a do-it-all utility knife that can get the job done without costing an arm and a leg or taking up too much room. This generally takes the form of a fixed-blade knife that’s just as adept at field dressing an animal as it is carving wood. Brands like Buck Knives and Ka-Bar probably come to mind. There are even folding options for times when you want a compact knife for a quick fishing trip or a backup to your fixed blade. We wouldn’t drop all this info on you without providing examples, so rest assured that there’s something for everyone on this list.

Chances are, the Buck Knives 119 Special is exactly what you picture when you think of a hunting knife. The sturdy, 6-inch blade is strong enough to handle whatever you throw at it, and the clip point comes in handy when you need to make precise cuts. Buck Knives take pride in their heat treatment, which results in extra hard steel that can keep an edge longer than many other blades. The handle combines Cocobolo hardwood with a polished brass hilt and pommel to provide a secure grip. This knife has a total length of 10.5 inches and a weight of 10.5 ounces. A leather sheath is included. If you want a classic hunting knife that strikes the perfect balance between performance and style, it’s tough to beat this American classic.

Fans of tactical equipment can recognize SOG gear in a heartbeat, and everyone can appreciate the value of this field knife. It’s the least expensive option on our list, and it isn’t fancy, but it definitely isn’t cheap. The four-inch clip-point blade uses a full tang to add strength. The metal was chosen for its ability to stay sharp and resist rust. The thermoplastic handle provides excellent grip, even when wet, and resists the elements. The hard sheath was designed to be carried in many different ways and features a notch that exposes a small portion of the blade to cut 550 cord without unsheathing. This durable knife is a great addition to a bug-out bag or survival kit.

You can never have too many knives, so Benchmade suggests that hunters carry the compact North Fork in addition to a primary fixed-blade hunting knife. We tried the North Fork for ourselves and came away very impressed. It’s well-built, fits the hand perfectly, and comes with a razor-sharp factory edge on the S30V steel blade. If the raw teriyaki beef we sliced up is any indicator, you’ll have no problem dressing game in the field with this little knife. The Dymondwood handle falls somewhere between natural wood and composite materials in terms of durability. We did treat it with conditioning oil after dish soap dried it out, so light maintenance might need to be part of your routine. If I were the one spending money, I’d make this knife my EDC in addition to my backup hunting blade to spread the cost around.

Hunting is really a foundational bushcraft skill, so you might as well bring along something that can handle all the jobs around your campsite, like the Jeo-Tec No. 29. This workhorse stood out in our hands-on testing as a genuine survival asset. Its full-tang blade is strong enough to baton firewood with and sharp enough to filet a fish without making a mess of things. It comes with a thick leather sheath that can be worn vertically or horizontally. A ferro rod and steel striker are also included, although we preferred to use the spine of the blade instead of the striker. Even in the rain, we were able to light a fire in seconds with this knife. The thick blade isn’t the most delicate tool and it’s definitely not a boning knife, but as a do-it-all bushcraft knife it’s hard to think of something we’d rather carry.

The Harding from Helle Knives is a beautiful hunting knife that will serve your kids or grandkids as well as it served you. With a blade length of just under four inches, this is one of the smaller knives on our list – but don’t hold that against it. This Norwegian company uses triple-laminated stainless steel to create a razor-sharp drop-tip blade that can hold its edge. The handle’s rich appearance comes from curly birch, darkened oak, and layers of leather. A leather sheath is also included. The overall weight is only five ounces, and that makes this a perfect option for adventurers who need to keep their pack weight down. Helle Knives has been building knives in the same remote workshop since 1932. The craftsmanship that made them successful can make this knife a family heirloom for generations.

The ESEE 6 uses modern technology to create a knife that’s truly cutting-edge. The 6.5-inch blade is made from the same 1095 steel found in fine cutlery, so you can count on it being sharp. This type of metal does require some maintenance, though, so stay on top of rust prevention by regularly applying some kind of dry-film rust inhibitor. The handle is built using layers of thin Micarta, and it’s as strong as it is easy to handle. Three colors are available, and a polymer sheath is included. All of this is backed by a no-questions-asked lifetime guarantee. The extra maintenance is something to consider but, if you don’t mind investing some time, the ESEE 6 is a fantastic hunting, survival, or tactical knife.

If you plan on striking out into the wild unknown anytime soon, consider adding Spain’s CDS hunting knife to your gear list. Its stainless steel blade is able to resist the water and grime it’ll encounter in the backcountry. The 5.7-inch blade is thick enough for splitting wood using the baton method, so it’s a great tool to have around the campsite. The wooden handle uses a full-tang design for maximum strength. In addition to the knife, you’ll get a leather sheath that holds a sharpening stone and fire-starting rod. We love the convenience of buying these items together and being able to store them in one place on the go. This option costs more than most hunting knives, but the build quality and extra survival tools make it a worthwhile investment.

For the hunters among us, a Mossy Oak field dressing kit has everything you need to quickly and effectively process your harvest. This eight-piece set includes a bone saw, brisket spreader, caping knife, skinning knife, boning knife, tungsten-carbide sharpener, and protective gloves. These tools use stainless steel, full-tang construction, and heavy-duty handles. If you hunt, you’re probably familiar with Mossy Oak’s reputation for quality products. This kit builds on that success with a high level of build quality and features like a blunted hook tip on the bone saw to protect everything you’re not trying to cut. The whole kit comes in a durable plastic case with dividers to keep everything organized. If you plan on putting your hunting knife’s name to the test, this is what you want.

Come on now, you knew we weren’t going to finish this list without including the mighty Ka-Bar. This Marine Corps legend has proven itself on land, air, and sea, so we’re sure it’s tough enough for whatever you have planned. No serrations or gadgetry here, just a straight, seven-inch blade that’s sharp enough to shave with – not that you should. The relatively soft steel resists breaking and makes achieving an incredibly sharp edge very easy. Just be prepared to put in regular maintenance to keep it that way. Stacked rings of leather create a durable handle that’s extremely easy to grip. A sturdy hilt is also there to keep your hand from sliding forward. The knife comes with a leather sheath that includes a belt loop. Yelling “Get some” every time you use it isn’t required, but it is encouraged.

Types of hunting knives

Hunting knives can be categorized by their intended use. As the name implies, these were originally knives used to process wild game in the field. One rugged blade had to be able to handle several duties, and the name came to include specialized knives for different purposes. Some knives boast thick blades that can chop through small firewood. Others have features to easily skin game animals. Others are intended to hunt all enemies, foreign and domestic. The difference is in the details.

Key features of hunting knives

  • Size: Hunting knives don’t have to be a certain length, and we’d argue there are some pretty great folding options. They are larger than the typical pocket knife, though, and they generally use heavier materials to add strength.
  • Blade type: Straight-bladed hunting knives are most common. Tip designs vary, and some blades include serrations or secondary cutting edges for specific purposes. Read up on each one to make sure you find what’s right for you.
  • Intended use: Hunting knives are obviously designed for hunting. Some have branched out to excel at other things, too, so there are plenty of styles to choose from. Pick one to complete your field dressing kit, or add one to your deployment gear list.
  • Price: Hunting knives start around $50 and go up as you add features and build quality. More expensive doesn’t automatically mean better performance in all conditions, though, so it’s important to know what you want and find a knife that meets your needs.

Benefits of hunting knives

Because they’re created as a wilderness tool rather than a simple cutting edge, good hunting knives are very durable. A combination of quality craftsmanship and materials results in a knife that can get the job done in any condition, and last long enough to be passed on to the next generation. There’s nothing wrong with having a collection, but choose wisely and you may never be forced to replace your hunting knife.

Hunting knife pricing

Quality comes at a price, but knives are still pretty basic tools so prices are reasonable. Simple examples can be found for less than $50. Some of the best fall between $50 and $100. Premium options can cost more than that. What’s important is deciding what you’re willing to pay for. If you want a utilitarian hunting knife that you’re not afraid of damaging or losing, there’s no need to be a big spender. If you want lifetime quality and a future family heirloom, dig a little deeper into those pockets.

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