Having a good knife is crucial for the serious hunter. A good hunting knife is fine-tuned for processing meat after a kill. However, the best hunting knife will also be suitable for survival and camping tasks if it becomes necessary.
Not sure what to look for in a quality hunting knife? In this article we explain the key characteristics of a proper hunting blade. We even list a few of our favorites to get you started.
Table of Contents
- What to Look For in a Hunting Knife
- Best Hunting Knife on the Market Reviews
- 1. Buck Knives 192 Vanguard Fixed Blade Knife
- 2. Benchmade Saddle Mountain Skinner
- 3. Buck Knives 113 Ranger Skinner Hunting Knife
- 4. Spyderco Moran Upswept Fixed Blade Knife
- 5. Gerber Randy Newberg DTS Hunting Knife
- 6. ESEE-6 Fixed Blade Knife
- 7. Havalon Piranta Z Folding Blade Skinning Knife
- 8. Case Bone Large Folding Hunter
- 9. Outdoor Edge Razor-Blaze Folding Camping Knife
- 10. Mossy Oak Fixed Blade Gut Hook
- Final Thoughts
What to Look For in a Hunting Knife
The one thing a hunting knife needs to do well is field dress an animal quickly so the meat doesn’t spoil. Everything else the knife does may be considered an asset but is really only secondary to the blade’s main task.
Here are the key qualities to look for in a hunting knife:
- Because a hunter has to use his knife to cut through tough hide and muscle, the blade must hold an edge or be easily sharpened in the field.
- A good hunting blade is stout enough to crack bone and separate joints.
- Although the blade must be sturdy, it shouldn’t be overly hefty. A hunting knife isn’t a weapon, and the animal is already dead when the hunting knife goes to work.
- A big knife can actually be dangerous when gutting or skinning an animal. A 4- to 6-inch drop point or clip point blade should be plenty for most hunting tasks.
- The knife must sit comfortably in the hand and be easy to grip, even when the handle is covered in blood, fat, or mud.
Best Hunting Knife on the Market Reviews
Here are a few solid knives that are capable of meeting the exacting demands of the serious hunter.
Buck is arguably the best hunting knife brand in the world. Generations of hunters have trusted Buck Knives in the field. The Buck 192 Vanguard is one of the brand’s most popular offerings.
The Vanguard has a 4 ⅛-inch drop point blade crafted from 420HC steel. This quality high-carbon stainless steel has excellent strength and corrosion resistance. It also has the ability to hold an edge like there’s no tomorrow.
The blade has a full-bellied profile that is perfectly suited to heavier survival tasks, but still works well for finer field dressing.
The Vanguard has a durable full tang construction. The handle has a classic look and is made from heritage walnut. With an integrated finger guard and a deep choil, this blade provides serious cutting control.
The Vanguard comes with a high-quality leather sheath with a snap fastener. The sheath has an integrated belt loop which allows you to keep your Buck knife right on your waist for easy accessibility in the field.
Like all Buck Knives, the Vanguard comes with a complete lifetime warranty.
Benchmade is well-known for producing high-quality knives for hunting, survival, and tactical applications. Their blades may be costly, but they are definitely worth the investment.
Benchmade’s Saddle Mountain Skinner is practically perfect for hunting. The knife features a 4.2-inch drop point blade made from CPM-S90V steel. Featuring a beautiful satin finish, this steel does a great job of holding an edge, even after cutting through tough hide. The steel quality along with the unique 14-degree SelectEdge angle make the last cut just as effortless as the first.
Measuring only 8.7 inches from tip to butt, the Saddle Mountain Skinner is fairly compact. Tipping the scales at a paltry 4.3 ounces, it’s also a nice lightweight gear option for the backcountry hunter.
The handle has a comfortable, ergonomic design and is fashioned from Richlite. It also features blaze orange G10 spacers for easy visibility if you happen to drop your knife in the woods.
The 113 Ranger Skinner is another quality Buck knife. Essentially a streamlined version of the Vanguard, this knife features a 3 ⅛-inch drop point blade. The Ranger Skinner is a smaller package that is easier to use in the field. The smaller size is easier to control and perfect for skinning work.
Like all Buck Knives, the Ranger Skinner comes insanely sharp straight from the factory. When it does need sharpening, it takes nominal effort. The blade holds an edge so sharp that it carves through tough hog hide as easily as soft butter.
The handle is made from handsome ebony wood and has an ergonomic design that allows a solid reliable grip, even in mucky cutting conditions. The Buck Ranger Skinner is a great all-around hunting knife.
Famous custom knife maker Bill Moran is the founder of the American Bladesmith Society. This man knows his blades. However, just one of his custom-made knives could cost you an arm and a leg. Spyderco has helped the average Joe gain access to a Moran knife by offering this production fixed-blade. The result of the Spyderco/Moran collaboration is easily one of the best hunting blades on the market today.
The Spyderco Moran has an oversize handle that fills out the hand for a secure grip during tough cutting tasks. It also features an inlaid panel of non-slip Kraton for added surety.
Incredibly sharp, the blade features an upswept Bowe-style tapered design. The blade is made from VG-10 steel and carries Moran’s signature. The weight of the blade and the handle match almost perfectly, offering impeccable balance for steady cutting control.
This is a sturdy, versatile knife that is literally ready for anything. It also comes with a molded Boltaron sheath and a multi-position G-Clip fastening system. This ensures your blade is always within easy reach.
When one of the top names in outdoor blades teams up with iconic hunter, Randy Newberg, you know the result is going to knock your socks off. The Gerber Randy Newberg Dual Tool System (DTS) knife does just that.
Newberg helped Gerber design a knife that is perfect for processing elk and other big game animals right in the field. This quality folding knife features two premium blades made from 440 carbon steel.
The first blade is a utilitarian drop point. This workhorse blade works well for gutting game and general camp chores.
The second blade is short and features a serrated edge which saws through tough tendons easier than the standard hunting blade. Using the tendon tool for those rough jobs helps keep your primary blade sharp for skinning and deboning big animals.
The knife’s barrel construction and dual steel liner makes clean-up painless while also improving the durability of the piece. Hunters will also appreciate the bright orange color and retro reflective grip. Both features help you easily locate your blade in the dark or on the forest floor.
This blade has a lot to offer, and we can hardly believe it has a price tag under $100.
The ESEE-6 has a 6 ½-inch blade made of high-carbon 1095 steel. The blade is razor sharp and ready to go straight out of the box. It sharpens well and keeps an edge, even through tough cutting work.
Including the handle, this knife measures a solid 12 inches. Typically, that length is a bit much for field dressing, However, the ESEE-6 has a versatile drop point profile that makes it easy to transition from gutting, to caping, to butchering.
We really love the 3D contoured handle on this knife. Constructed of micarta scale, the handle is durable, comfortable, and easy to hold onto, even when covered in blood and gore.
The ESEE-6 is well-suited for processing large game like elk, moose, and caribou. However, it is a bit large for the fine-detail work required for dressing small game.
Although most hunters prefer a fixed blade knife, the folding blade definitely has a dedicated following. The Havalon Piranta Z certainly has the potential to convert some of those fixed-blade aficionados.
With the convenience of a folding pocket knife, the Piranta Z blade has a fine curved tip that easily separates layers of hide, fat, and muscle. The blade is so sharp that it requires minimal hand pressure on the cutting strokes, which allows for greater control during fine detail work.
The Piranta Z works like a surgeon’s scalpel, which is perfect for the precision cutting necessary to cape out trophy game for mounting. Your taxidermist will definitely thank you for using this knife.
The Piranta Z has a rugged, stain-resistant textured plastic grip. It is surprisingly easy to keep hold of, even with wet or bloody hands.
The Case Folding Hunter is a classic knife that has been trusted by generations of hunters. Not only is this a great hunting knife, it’s also a great all-purpose knife you can use for everything from whittling wood to home improvement projects.
The Case Folding Hunter features two quality 4 ¼-inch blades. The first is a clip blade that works just as well for fine precision cuts as it does for field dressing large game. The second blade is a skinner which makes easy work of separating skin from meat.
Both blades are fashioned from Tru-Sharp surgical stainless steel. This high-quality steel is similar to Buck’s 420HC. It is incredibly tough and offers excellent edge retention.
The handle of the Case Folding Hunter is made from traditional bone, which makes this an attractive, heirloom-quality piece.
Many hunters are skeptical about the durability of a replaceable blade knife. However, the Razor-Blaze from Outdoor Edge could make them change their minds.
Perfect for backcountry hunting, the Razor-Blaze weighs less than three ounces and folds down to 4 ½ inches. This compact folding design makes it easy to pack on those remote, high-elevation hunts.
The knife comes with five super-sharp replacement blades. Swapping an old blade out for a fresh one is a simple process. This is the only way you can guarantee having the sharpest possible blade in the field without having to sharpen in the middle of a task.
Each blade holds an edge long enough to skin out several whitetails or one large elk. This means the included blades should last the average hunter through an entire hunting season. When you’ve used them up, you can buy replacement blades for about two dollars a piece.
The Razor-Blaze is one of the most affordable knives on our list. Even when you factor in the price of replacement blades, this knife provides plenty of value for the money.
Although Mossy Oak is best known for their realistic hunting camo, the company also produces other pieces of practical and affordable hunting gear.
The Mossy Oak knife features a four-inch blade made from tough 3CR13 stainless steel. It has a full tang walnut handle with a finger guard to prevent your hand slipping down the blade during bloody work. The handle also features an attractive brass pommel. Mossy Oak also included a razor-sharp gut hook that makes field dressing a breeze.
Weighing 4.4 pounds and measuring 9 ½ inches from stem to stern, this is a pretty hefty knife. It definitely isn’t one you’ll want to hike into remote wilderness areas.
One of the best things about this knife is the price. The price tag on this one is super cheap, which means you aren’t going to cry if it ends up lost in the woods. If you’re looking for a decent budget blade that can take some abuse in the field, this is it.
When it comes to knives, quality rarely comes cheap. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a proper and reliable knife for under $50. There are definitely inexpensive options available, but few are sturdy enough for serious hunting tasks. The best hunting knife is one that can hold an edge and stand up to years of harsh weather, corrosive blood, and rough use. That is probably going to cost you.
As the old saying goes, “Buy once, cry once.” It’s better to spend some extra cash on a quality blade than to find yourself stuck in the woods with one that just isn’t up to the task at hand.