9 Best Hunting Knives for the Game Getter ( Fixed And Folding Blade )

A deer hunter holding a knife prepares to skin shot deer

Every hunter needs a knife. From butchering game to picking out a thorn to whittling something when the day is slow, a good knife should always be close at hand.

Picking a quality knife from the saturated market seems like a tough job for someone just starting out. Then there’s all the conflicting information that people will provide.

At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice. We all do things our own way and like the tools we use to fit certain guidelines. All that can be offered here is the writer’s opinion.

That being said, that opinion is built on a background in butchery and meat processing, both as a job and as a hobby.

If in doubt, look at what professionals use. They don’t usually put up with rubbish.

Read on for recommendations on the best knives a hunter can own, as well as an explanation of how to choose your own knife. We’ll also provide a quick outline of some of the best brands out there.

 

9 Best Hunting Knives of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

The following recommendations outline some of the best knives on the market for hunters.

There really are countless knife brands available, but sticking with the recommendations and buying advice included below will help you find a quality knife that’ll be reliable for as long as you walk the woods.

  1. Best Overall Fixed Blade #1: Buck Vanguard
  2. Best Overall Fixed Blade #2: Marttiini Lynx 129
  3. Best Overall Folding Knife #1: Victorinox Sentinel
  4. Best Overall Folding Knife #2: Taylors Eye Witness All Stainless Lock Folding Knife
  5. Best Hunting Knife in the World: Buck 110 Folding Hunter® Drop Point
  6. Best Low-Cost Deer Hunting Knife for the Money: Opinel No. 8 Bushwhacker
  7. Best Expensive Deer Hunting Knife for the Money: Schrade Uncle Henry Folding Bowie/Hunter Knife
  8. Best Skinning Knife for the Money: Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife
  9. Best Field Dressing Knife for the Money: Victorinox 5” Curved Flexible Boning Knife

 

CategoryBest FixedBest FoldingBest for Skinning
ProductBuck Vanguard
Buck Vanguard

Victorinox Sentinel
Victorinox Sentinel

Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife
Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife

Blade420HC Stainless SteelStainless SteelX50 Cr Mo High Carbon Stainless
DesignDrop PointStraightPunched blade
HandleHeritage Walnut DynaLux® or texturized rubberPolyamideFood Grade Fibrox Plastic
Length8 ½ inches3.1 inches folded4.7 inches blade
Made inUSASwitzerlandSwitzerland
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Overall Fixed Blade Hunting Knife #1: Buck Vanguard

Buck Vanguard

Buck has been around for long enough to have made a good name for itself. The Vanguard is a handy fixed-blade hunting knife that is suitable in a range of different uses.

Specifications

  • Blade: 420HC Stainless Steel
  • Design: Drop Point
  • Handle: Heritage Walnut DynaLux® or texturized rubber
  • Sheath: Genuine leather
  • 8 ½” total length
  • Made in USA
  • Warranty for life of knife

The drop-point blade is a versatile design for a knife, providing plenty of strength through the blade while cutting away to the tip, retaining strength but allowing for some fine work. It also reduces the chance of puncturing the gut when opening an animal up.

Pros

  • Short, deep, thick blade is useful for heavy-duty work
  • Drop-point blade design is a good all-rounder
  • Handle with safety guard
  • Comes with leather sheath

Cons

  • Blade design not adept at precision work and processing small game
  • Some Buck products are not made in USA and buyer should check origin before purchasing

A lot of hunters want a knife that performs well and also looks like it belongs in the woods. All Buck Knives certainly fit that bill.

Fixed-blade knives come with limitations: they need to be carried in a sheath, and they can be cumbersome. But the Buck Vanguard is a simple, strong design that’ll do a variety of jobs in the woods.

Buy it if you really want a fixed-blade knife that is all-American (but make sure to double-check, as some of Buck’s products are manufactured overseas).

 

 

2. Best Overall Fixed Blade Hunting Knife #2: Marttiini Lynx 129

Marttiini Lynx 129

Marttiini started out as a small-scale manufacturer of fine knives in Finland in 1928. In 2005, Rapala VMC LtdCorp. bought the brand and has since broadened Marttiini’s reach around the world.

The Lynx 129 is built on the traditional Finnish puukko style outdoor knife, which is simple, elegant, and versatile.

Specifications

  • Blade: Stainless Steel
  • Design: Puukko
  • Handle: Varnished birch
  • Sheath: Genuine leather
  • 22cm total length (blade 11cm)
  • Made in Finland
  • Three-year guarantee

There is a ton of understated elegance to the Lynx 129. Don’t be fooled, this knife isn’t for show. It’s a great design for a lot of general game processing work, particularly for field dressing.

Pros

  • Versatile blade design for fine and rough work
  • Ergonomic wooden handle
  • Leather sheath included
  • Relatively soft steel is easy to sharpen

Cons

  • Simple, no-frills design and manufacture

The Lynx 129 is a no-nonsense knife that keeps things simple and practical. With its included leather sheath, there’s no additional worry about how to store and transport it. It’s a good design for gutting animals and opening up the hide as the first step of skinning.

Buy it if you’re after an all-round hunting knife that looks a little different from the rest of the blades on the market. The traditional design, like those used by hunters roughing it around the Arctic Circle, adds something a little extra.

 

Marttiini Lynx 129 is also available at:

Walmart

 

3. Best Overall Folding Hunting Knife #1: Victorinox Sentinel

Victorinox Sentinel

I’ll keep re-iterating through this guide that the most important factor when it comes to any knife is the quality of its components. That’s why this won’t be the last mention of Victorinox – the original Swiss Army Knife.

There are very few other manufacturers that match Victorinox in quality, particularly that of the steel. That’s the most important thing, after all.

Victorinox makes butchers and chefs equipment, and when professionals use a product, it’s because it’s the best. The same can be said of all genuine Swiss Army knives.

The Sentinel is a single-bladed lock knife that will be all you ever need in the field.

Specifications

  • Blade: Stainless Steel
  • Design: Straight
  • Handle: Polyamide
  • Lock blade
  • 8 cm folded length
  • Integrated tweezers, toothpick and key ring
  • Made in Switzerland
  • Lifetime guarantee

At 8cm, you might worry that the blade isn’t long enough, but rest assured that you’ll never really need longer in the field. Since the knife is straight and relatively shallow, it’s more capable of working with small game and fiddly tasks than a lot of the big hunting knives on the market.

Pros

  • Impeccable quality of all components
  • Highly versatile blade for game processing
  • Locking blade for safety
  • High-quality steel takes and holds edge well
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Designed for use as a cutting knife, not a machete

For some reason, some people think that a hunting knife needs to be capable of hacking down trees or splitting skulls – the Sentinel is not this. The Sentinel is a practical working knife that is well-designed for all sensible hunting applications.

Buy it if you want a professional-grade knife that’s easy to maintain, highly versatile, and will never let you down as long as you use it properly.

 

 

4. Best Overall Folding Hunting Knife #2: Taylors Eye Witness All Stainless Lock Folding Knife

Taylors Eye Witness All Stainless Lock Folding Knife

Some of us spend our time outdoors in pretty harsh environments. In tropical areas and close to the sea, and even just when there isn’t much fresh water available for keeping things clean, corrosion is something that we have to worry about.

There are plenty of knives that are built with stainless steel blades, but over time other components might become tarnished with use. The All Stainless Lock Folding Knife from Taylors Eye Witness does away with all worry by manufacturing the knife completely out of stainless steel.

Specifications

  • Blade: Stainless Steel
  • Design: Drop point
  • Handle: Stainless Steel
  • Lock blade
  • 4” folded length
  • Handmade in England
  • Limited Lifetime Manufacturer’s Warranty

Taylors Eye Witness is another reliable knife maker that produces top-quality steel. These knives are still handmade in Sheffield, England, which has always been a steel production hotspot. These knives can be trusted for all kinds of outdoor use.

Pros

  • Entirely stainless steel construction
  • Impeccable quality of all components
  • Locking blade for safety
  • Simple, rugged blade design
  • Good choice for work in corrosive environments
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Not as attractive as some knives

This knife is a rugged little tool that’ll perform well for a variety of hunting tasks. Since it is completely stainless, it won’t mind being sheathed after only a quick wipe and can be easily cleaned when you get a chance.

Buy it if you want a no-nonsense work knife for any environment you can throw at it.

Learn more about the Taylors Eye Witness All Stainless Lock Folding Knife.

 

5. Best Hunting Knife in the World: Buck 110 Folding Hunter® Drop Point

Buck 110 Folding Hunter® Drop Point

The Buck Folding Hunter® Drop Point is a new addition to the Buck stable, and its design was influenced by repeated customer requests. Fashioned on the original Hunter knife, it’s swapped out the Clip Point blade for a more rugged Drop Point, building in some extra strength and ruggedness.

Specifications

  • Blade: 420HC Stainless Steel
  • Design: Drop Point lock blade
  • Handle: Brass bolsters with Crelicam™ genuine ebony handle
  • Sheath: Genuine leather
  • 3 ¾” blade length
  • Made in USA
  • Warranty for life of knife

This is the real hunter’s knife that many think of. It looks the part, feels good in the hand, isn’t too big, and has a folding lock blade for convenience and safety. It’s a great choice for the deer hunter and anyone after similar-sized game.

Pros

  • Blade design is useful for a range of tasks
  • Lock blade for safety
  • Attractive design
  • Comes with leather sheath

Cons

  • Not adept at precision work and processing small game
  • Some Buck products are not made in USA and buyer should check origin before purchasing

As with all Buck products, check where it was manufactured before purchasing. A US-made Buck is a great knife.

Buy it if you want a really handy all-around hunting knife for medium and large game, and the variety of tasks that might come up around the hunting camp.

 

 

6. Best Low-Cost Deer Hunting Knife for the Money: Opinel No. 8 Bushwhacker

Opinel No. 8 Bushwhacker

Opinel makes really functional, elegant knives that come with high-quality steel and a rock-bottom price tag. Made in France, they’ve been crafted to fill the European hunter’s niche and they do a fine job of it.

Specifications

  • Blade: Stainless Steel
  • Design: Deep Clip
  • Handle: Birch
  • Lock secures blade open (use) and closed (transport)
  • 5cm blade length
  • Made in France
  • Lifetime Warranty

One of the best things about Opinel knives is their price. You don’t have to break the bank, and you can rest assured that you miss out on nothing. The simple, rugged blade locking mechanism can’t go wrong and won’t get clogged up with blood, as some lock knives tend to if not cleaned properly.

It’s also easy to work with cold fingers.

Pros

  • Very simple locking mechanism doesn’t get clogged with blood
  • Blade can be locked in closed position for extra safety during transport
  • Simple, versatile knife design
  • Highly affordable

Cons

  • Blade doesn’t automatically lock on opening

The Opinel Bushwhacker is a nice little hunting knife that delivers much more value than you might expect for the price. These knives are easy to sharpen and hold an edge well.

Get one if you want a cracking little hunting knife without having to fork out a lot of cash. It may be the only one you’ll ever need.

Learn more about the Opinel No. 8 Bushwhacker.

 

7. Best Expensive Deer Hunting Knife for the Money: Schrade Uncle Henry Folding Bowie/Hunter Knife (227UH 1973-1986)

 

Schrade Uncle Henry Folding Bowie Hunter Knife (227UH 1973-1986)

 

Imperial Schrade Corporation, known under a couple of synonyms, was one of the greats. As a knifemaker, the company was wholly reliable and produced fantastic products. Unfortunately for us, Schrade has been sold and their knives are no longer produced in the USA.

Don’t buy a new one.

Luckily for us, there are plenty of authentic Schrade knives available if you do a bit of looking around. Plenty of unused ones, too!

With that in mind, if you can track down an original Uncle Henry Folding Bowie/Hunter Knife (or any other model for that matter), you’ve got yourself a fantastic hunting knife that’s also a bit of US history.

Specifications

  • Blade: High Carbon Steel
  • Design: Twin blade – clip and straight
  • Handle: Imitation Staghorn
  • 5 ¼” folded length
  • Pre-2004 models made in USA

The Uncle Henry is a twin-blade folding knife, having both a Bowie-style blade and a Hunter-style one. This of course means you get two knives in one, which is really handy in all sorts of situations.

For the hunter, one blade can be the ‘worker’ that does whatever task that might pop up, while the second blade is left razor-sharp for when an animal needs to be gutted. It’s even a good option to save one blade for opening up an animal where hair and hide might dull the blade.

Pros

  • Two blades are useful, as one can be used as a work blade while other is kept sharp for fine applications
  • Original Schrade knives are impeccable quality
  • Good all-around size
  • Steel is good for taking and holding edge

Cons

  • No longer in production, therefore have to search for USA-made knives
  • Blades don’t lock
  • Blades aren’t stainless steel so they require additional maintenance

Remember that these knives aren’t lock blades and therefore some extra care must be taken during use. Never try to push something with the back of an open blade as it might close on your fingers and leave more in the field than you intended.

Buy an original Schrade Uncle Henry if you want a convenient two-blade folding knife that is built to a high standard.

 

 

8. Best Skinning Knife for the Money: Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife

Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife

If you’re only going to skin an animal or two every year, then there isn’t much point in getting a purpose-built skinning knife. If, however, you plan on doing quite a bit of it, then why not get a proper one?

The Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife is one of the best choices for skinning medium and large game. It’s a little smaller than the standard cattle skinning knife, which honestly has more blade than we hunters need.

This one also has a rounded tip to avoid punching holes in the skin with errant strokes – perfect if you plan on processing your hides.

Specifications

  • Blade: X50 Cr Mo High Carbon Stainless
  • Design: Punched blade
  • Handle: Food Grade Fibrox Plastic
  • 12 cm blade length
  • Made in Switzerland
  • Lifetime guarantee

This is a professional knife and therefore all consideration has been given to functionality. The Fibrox handle is easy to clean and comfortable in the hand, even if it gets a bit greasy.

Pros

  • Versatile size for skinning medium and large game
  • Curved blade increases cutting edge length
  • Rounded blade tip is less likely to puncture hides
  • Easy to clean and sterilise
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Plain looking working knife

The Victorinox Lamb Skinning Knife is a real skinning knife that’ll do the job perfectly. It’s built with professional-grade components and there will be no problem getting and keeping it sharp.

Buy it if you plan on doing a reasonable amount of skinning work on larger animals that require the long blade edge of the curved knife.

 

 

9. Best Field Dressing Knife for the Money: Victorinox 5” Curved Flexible Boning Knife

Victorinox 5” Curved Flexible Boning Knife

In all seriousness, the 5” Victorinox boning knife is the ultimate game processing knife; it’s only let-down is that it is a fixed blade and therefore not as practical to carry around in the field as a folding knife. For all field dressing requirements, though, this knife will excel.

Specifications

  • Blade: X50 Cr Mo High Carbon Stainless
  • Design: Curved, flexible
  • Handle: Food Grade Fibrox Plastic
  • 12 cm blade length
  • Made in Switzerland
  • Lifetime guarantee

As another professional butcher’s knife, you know that this one is made to work. The 5” curved blade is probably the best all-rounder when it comes to field dressing and meat processing.

It’s not so long that you can’t comfortably work the tip of the blade, and the curved shape greatly increases cutting efficiency over a straight blade.

Pros

  • Highly practical butchers knife
  • Curved blade perfect for field dressing and boning
  • Easy to clean and sterilize
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Plain looking working knife

From gutting to skinning to cutting up the meat, the 5” boner by Victorinox is perfect. It’s nothing special to look at, but it is fully functional and very affordable.

Buy it if you want a meat processing knife that’ll be as at home with breaking down a turkey as it is working on a moose.

 

Victorinox 5” Curved Flexible Boning Knife is also available at:

Walmart

 

How a Hunting Knife Differs from Tactical and Survival Knives

hunting knife with leather sheath on a wood trunk

The term “hunting knife” is pretty loose, and modern marketing has done a lot to muddy the waters.

In general, a hunting knife is the tool that you carry with you at all times in the field and that is specifically kept for bleeding, gutting, and processing game.

There will definitely be other tasks that come along from time to time, and it’s sensible to have a knife that’ll get those jobs done, too – but a hunting knife is all about working on animals.

People have been playing with design ideas for hunting knives since we were knapping them out of flint, so there are all kinds of variations out there. For all practical purposes, though, the best design should err on the smaller side – especially in blade depth (from the back of the blade to the cutting edge).

This is for one reason: a small knife can work on small and big animals, but a big knife can only neatly work on big things.

knives on man's hand in the forest

It might not seem like a big deal until you have to cut out the windpipe on an animal under 50lb to let it bleed properly, or open up the pelvic cavity on small-sized game without puncturing the digestive or urinary system.

Tactical and Survival knives – often designed to look tough or cool – are for most practical purposes just a heavy toy. That’ll spark all sorts of arguments, but it’s the truth.

There’s no need for anything other than a relatively fine, razor-sharp blade on a hunting knife – full stop.

 

Buying Advice: What to look for in a Hunting Knife

The vitally important thing comes down to the steel used in its construction. We can trust quality brands to use quality steel – it’s that simple.

 

Manufacturer

blade made in Germany

Check where a knife is made before buying – if it comes from anywhere other than North America or western Europe, I’d go looking for the opinions of people who’ve used that particular brand.

If you follow that rule, there’s no need to look at the type of steel used. You can trust quality manufacturers.

A good reference point is whether or not the manufacturer produces professional-grade knives and cutlery. If chefs and butchers use that brand, then a hunting or pocket knife from them will also be reliable.

 

Material

Buck knife stainless steel blade

Stainless steel is the most practical choice these days. Good quality stainless truly is stainless, which means you’ll never have to worry about corrosion.

That doesn’t mean that quality high carbon steel, like the original Schrade knife included in the guide, should be avoided – just that it’ll require slightly more maintenance. If that doesn’t sound like you, then stick to the stainless.

Handle material is largely a personal preference. Wood, bone, and antler handles look and feel really good, and can work just fine as a dedicated hunter’s knife. But if you want ease of cleaning or are spending time in really harsh environments, then synthetic handle materials are probably best.

They might not look as good, but they can stand up to a lot of abuse and won’t let you down.

 

Functionality and Safety

folding knife on moss

Because you’re going to be out and about – walking, riding, crawling, sitting, and lying – you want a knife that’s easy to transport, unobtrusive, and most importantly, safe.

This makes a folding knife the most practical for the hunter, as the blade is tucked out of the way and the folded unit is much shorter.

A large fixed blade gets in the way more often than not, making it difficult to sit down. It can also catch on undergrowth and potentially get lost in a thicket somewhere. There is also the chance of it punching through its sheath and stabbing you.

Along those lines, a folding blade that locks when opened is the safest design. This ensures that it won’t accidentally close on your fingers while you’re using it.

 

Sheath

Marttiini Lynx 129 and leather sheath on rock

Always carry a knife in a snug-fitting sheath with some kind of closing/locking mechanism, like a snap clip leather sheath.

Keeping the knife sheathed when not in use makes sure that it can’t somehow bite you. Most sheaths are designed to attach to something like your belt so they’re harder to lose. Even if you carry it in your pocket, the sheath makes it a bulkier item that’s easier to feel so that you know you’ve got it with you.

Some of the knives listed above come with sheaths, but a lot of them don’t. Purchasing, or making, one should be the first task before taking the knife out into the field.

For the smaller knives listed in this guide, it’s a good option to go for a horizontal belt sheath. These are used by stockmen who sit in the saddle and for whom a vertically orientated knife gets in the way.

A horizontal sheath can be worn on the belt at the front of the body where it’s less likely to get caught. Once you’ve used this type of sheath, you’re unlikely to go back to a vertical one.

In summary, a good hunting knife should be designed for working on animals and small enough to be useful on fine applications while also long enough to make a decent slice. It’s best to be have a folding blade, stored snugly in a sheath that’s always carried on the belt or similar.

All importantly, it should always be sharp.

 

Best Hunting Knife Brands

two hunting knives with wooden handle

Knives have been hit hard by the marketing explosion. Moreover, there are so many brands out there that it can be really difficult to understand what’s what. Talking to someone knowledgeable is always a good decision when it comes to knives.

This is one instance where price doesn’t correspond to quality. The effectiveness of marketing has led to all kinds of mediocre products being sold for exorbitant prices that’ll easily catch the unknowing off-guard.

As stated in the buying advice, always check for an authentic recommendation when looking at a knife produced outside of North America or Western Europe.

These historic manufacturing nations have built and retain the highest standards. Japanese knives are also a worthy consideration for the person looking for something a little different.

The selection below highlights manufacturers that have stood the test of time. These are universally well regarded and widely available, and a knife made by any will of them be entirely reliable.

 

Victorinox

Victorinox has been producing top-quality knives for over 130 years. From the beginning, it created the iconic Swiss Army Knife which has gained worldwide renown. This knife cemented the company’s place in the global psyche, and it’s been sticking to quality ever since.

Victorinox is well-regarded by professionals – butchers, chefs, and others who rely on knives and cutlery for their livelihood. Just like the Swiss Army Knife, there’s a tool in Victorinox’s box for every task.

The Swiss Army Knife has branched out to meet a range of needs and there are many configurations available, from simple single-bladed knives through to multi-tools bristling with possibilities.

From the professional standpoint, these knives are made simply to work. The steel is of impeccable quality, and when matched with ergonomic food-grade Fibrox handles, they’re well suited to all kinds of work.

Any knife bade by Victorinox is a good investment. Not that they’re expensive – far from it in fact. They’re just reliable quality.

 

Taylors Eye Witness

Taylors Eye Witness logo

John Taylor founded the company in Sheffield, England, in the early 1800s to produce kitchen knives, pocket knives, scissors, and sharpeners. In English flair, the “Eye Witness” trademark is said to have originated from the line in Shakespeare’s Henry IV “No eye hath seen better.”

Production continued in the original factory until 2018 when the company decided to better address changes in manufacturing and further expansion, so knives are now produced in a new, purpose-built factory – still in Sheffield.

Eye Witness pocket knives are quite elegant little tools. With such a strong history in production, you can rely on the quality and practicality of the knives. These are made for countrymen – farmers, ramblers, and hunters – and exhibit a British style that’s different from the American knife.

The steel used in these knife blades is extremely easy to work with, therefore easy to get and keep sharp. They’re fantastic pieces of equipment whatever your purpose.

 

Opinel

Opinel logo

Joseph Opinel, the son of an esteemed edge tool maker, made his own pocket knife when he was 18 in 1890. By 1897, he’d decided to use this design to create a range of sizes of the same knife to suit varied uses and hand sizes. Thus came about the numbered range 1 through 12.

The success of that original knife – now known simply as the Opinel – forged a lasting manufacturing business and entry into the French cultural identity. Opinel is the French knife and a recognised design icon.

These are simple, very practical knives that have stood the test of time. Innovation continues to build on the original knife, with the deceptively simple Virobloc® blade locking mechanism introduced in 1955 and further refined in 2000 to lock the blade closed as well as open.

The Opinel No. 08 has become the all-time popular knife due to its size, feel in the hand, and capable 8.5cm blade. It’s recognised worldwide as the knife that is the brand.

An Opinel knife remains one of the most practical, simple, and affordable hunting knives on the market. It’s a real piece of quality.

 

Imperial Schrade Corporation

Imperial Schrade Corporation logo

The Imperial Schrade Corporation was an amalgamation of several quality knife manufacturers that came together between 1892 and 1904. The buying and selling of companies continued through Schrade’s history and no doubt is partly a factor in the wide range of knives made under this brand.

The Baers, the final owners of Schrade proper, were inducted into the Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall of Fame in the 1990s.

Unfortunately for knife users, the factory was closed in 2004 when the company celebrated its 100 year anniversary.

The Schrade name was purchased by Taylor Brands LLC which continues to manufacture knives under the Schrade brand; however, the knives are now made in China. The quality of current products doesn’t stand up to the enviable reputation of its predecessor.

Finding original Schrade knives isn’t a difficult task as many collectors bought up big. Unused knives are quite available and well worth the modest price for such a piece of equipment and manufacturing history.

All original Imperial Schrade products are of fine quality and make for great hunting knives. If you happen to find one for the right price, you’d be smart to grab it. They won’t be around forever.

 

FAQ

What are the best hunting knife sharpeners?

There’s no substitute for learning how to use a whetstone and sharpening steel. This is definitely a learned skill that requires patience and practice, but once you’ve got it, you’re set.

After all, part of bushcraft is knowing this sort of thing, right?

There are various types of whetstones available. Some are designed specifically to be used with water, while others can be lubricated with oil. The important thing to note is that once oil has been used on a stone, it’ll no longer work with water.

Water stones are preferred in many circumstances as you don’t have to carry oil with you to use the stone.

A whetstone is used to grind the knife blade to get the desired angle tapering to the cutting edge. Synthetic stones usually have different grades of grind on either side so that the blade can be worked quickly on the coarse surface before giving it a finer polish and hone on the fine side.

The aim is to have a well-honed knife by the time you’ve finished on the fine side of the stone. At this point, the knife should be ready to work.

A sharpening steel works to finely polish the blade surface, cleaning up any irregularities or fold-over of the cutting edge and therefore keeping the knife sharp. It does not take material off the blade, just makes it smoother – which in turn makes the edge finer and easier to work.

A sharpening steel should be used at regular intervals during use. A quick polish is all that’s required to keep the edge working well without rounding the blade angle.

Over time, rounding of the blade is inevitable, and the resultant “shoulder” – which can be felt with the fingernail as an abrupt roll off the blade as the nail is slid down from the back of the blade towards the edge – must be ground down using the whetstone.

Read our reviews of top knife sharpeners!

 

Is a fixed blade or folding knife better?

This depends on personal preference, and where and when you’ll be using the knife.

For the most part, a folding knife is much more practical to carry while actually out hunting. It’s much safer and more compact whether carrying on the belt or in the pocket, and the blade maintains its edge as it doesn’t have much chance to rub on anything.

For the majority of situations a hunter finds themselves in, the folding knife is best.

When it comes to later stages of dressing and processing game – such as skinning and butchering – a fixed blade has a lot of advantages.

It’s easier to clean and keep clean, there is nothing that skin can catch on, and the handle is usually bigger. This makes it more comfortable and gives the user better application of force when required.

All knives should always be stored in a snug sheath when not in use. This is particularly true for fixed blades to keep the user safe, but also for folding knives. Wearing the sheath on the belt or similar and keeping the knife in it reduces the chance of losing it.

You also might be interested in:

Tactical knives

Survival knives

Joe Brennan
Joe hails from Down Under and grew up in the Aussie outback, in a family of professional hunters. His passion is sharing his decades of outdoors experience to inspire others to find their own adventures. He’s fished and hunted around Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada; acted as a wilderness guide; and works as a wildlife ecologist. He regularly contributes to a range of fishing and hunting magazines.

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