What Hunting Knives Are Used For (10 Different Uses)

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Hunting knives are extremely useful tools, but many people don’t use them to their full capacity. Hunting knives are surprisingly versatile.

A hunting knife can be used for many things on a hunting trip. Your knife can be used for anything from skinning and gutting an animal to cutting small branches out of your view. If you find a knife you love it can be used for many purposes such as for hunting, fishing, and camping.

What Qualifies as a Hunting Knife?

A hunting knife is any knife that is used during hunting to prepare your game to be eaten. Hunting knives are made to cut through animal skin, bone, and muscle, so any sharp and durable knife able to do so qualifies as a hunting knife.

Hunting knives come in various sizes, but they are typically 3.5-4.5 inches long. Your hunting knife can have a large fixed blade and come with a sheath. This makes it useful for attaching the knife to your belt for easy access when you need it. It can also be a knife that has a non-fixed blade that can be folded into itself. Most of the time, folding hunting knives are small enough to fit in your pocket. 

Nowadays, some companies are making hunting knives that have interchangeable blades, which makes them much more versatile. However, many hunters don’t like these hunting knives because they have to bring multiple blades with them. This makes it tricky when they are trying to keep their gear light.

Hunting knives are considered essential for all hunters to bring on a hunting trip. They are extremely versatile and are necessary when you need to skin, debone, and butcher a dead animal. 

Recommended: Best Hunting Knives for Big Game Hunters

Uses For a Hunting Knife

Below is a list of things you can do with a hunting knife, including what you can use it for outside of hunting.

1. Skin Animals

One of the primary uses for hunting knives is skinning animals. The blade of a hunting knife is solid and sharp enough to cut through thick animal fur and skin. Also, the often-thick handle of a hunting knife allows hunters to easily control where the hunting knife goes.

Many hunters use their favorite hunting knife to skin their game. This is especially true when hunting in a remote area and they want to skin the meat quickly so they can pack it and take it home easily.

Large hunting knives are used to skin large game like deer, bears, and moose. Small hunting knives are used to skin small game like squirrels and rabbits.

2. Dispatch a Game Animal

Sometimes, when someone shoots an animal, the animal doesn’t die right away. The humane thing to do is to keep the animal from suffering unnecessarily. However, many hunters don’t want to shoot the animal again.

Instead, they use their hunting knife to dispatch the animal. They will often slit the animal’s throat with their knife, as that is the quickest and most humane way to kill an animal with a hunting knife.

However, hunting knives are typically not the first tool that hunters use to kill animals because it is nearly impossible to get close enough to an animal to slit its throat unless it has been severely wounded. This should be a last resort. Proceed with extreme caution.

Hunting knife on animal fur

3. Field-Dress/Gut

Hunting knives are often used to remove the entrails of dead game animals. This is also called field dressing, and to enjoy the meat of an animal, you must first remove the internal organs via field dressing. This is generally done immediately in the field before skinning an animal in order to accelerate the cooling process of the meat.

Hunting knives are used for field dressing because the blades are durable and are sharp enough to easily cut away the tendons and sinew that connect an animal’s internal organs to the rest of its body.

Because of the size of many hunting knives, the process of field dressing game is completed quickly and easily. This means you can spend less time digging through the carcass of an animal and get back home.

4. Debone Game

Many hunters use their hunting knives to debone animals that they have killed. Hunting knives are sharp enough to cut away muscle and tendons, and they sometimes have a gut hook that hunters can use to scrape everything off of the bones.

Hunting knives are durable and sharp, so they won’t get dull very quickly, even if you use them to scrape away muscle and tissue from animal bones. Normal kitchen knives would become dull extremely quickly if you used them to debone an animal. Even still, you may need a sharpener in your pack to if you’ll be deboning a large animal like an elk in the field so you can more easily pack it out.

5. Butcher Meat

Sharp hunting knives cut through meat, muscles, tendons, and skin like they are butter. At least when the knife is new or recently sharpened. This makes it easy for hunters to butcher animals that they killed.

Oftentimes hunters need to cut through bone to get to organs and meat. Large hunting knives are sharp enough to do so, especially when hunters cut through small bones. Other times a bone saw is required.

A good hunting knife enables hunters to prep and store animal meat quickly, so it is fresh when they are ready to season and eat it.

6. Cut Back Small Trees and Branches

Man cutting tree branch with hunting knife

Hunting knives are not only used on animals after they’ve been harvested. They can be used to cut down small trees and branches. Sometimes these branches are blocking your view or shot and it’s necessary to clear them out.

This will help you see animals that are within shooting range. You can also cut branches and put them together to help you blend in with the landscape so animals won’t be able to see you.

Hunting knives are also helpful when you need to build a fire. To make a successful fire, you need kindling. You can use your hunting knife to cut dry branches off a tree or large fallen log.

7. Cut Rope

Hunting knives can be used to cut rope, even if it is quite thick and made to resist cutting. It may take a few minutes, but your hunting knife will eventually cut through the rope.

Bring a hunting knife with you when you go camping if you are bringing rope with you. Although you can bring a rope cutter, hunting knives are more versatile.

8. Defend Yourself

In an emergency, you can use a hunting knife to defend yourself from an animal attack. This is extremely rare and certainly not the optimal line of defense. But if an animal wanders into your camp and you can’t scare it off, your hunting knife could be used for protection. 

9. Clean Fish

Fish gutted with swiss knife

You can use a hunting knife to kill, butcher, and remove the skin and scales of the fish that you catch. Although you won’t be able to use your hunting knife to actually catch fish, a hunting knife will help you prepare the fish to be eaten.

This is especially helpful if you are camping while on a fishing trip and want to enjoy the fruits of your labor during your next meal.

10. Cutlery

Hunting knives can be used as cutlery in a pinch. This isn’t their primary purpose so many people avoid using them in this capacity. It may be better to avoid using them as a dinner knife since you’ve likely used them on raw meat. However, if you properly sanitize your hunting knife, it should be fine to use for cooked food.

If you choose to use your hunting knife to cut your food, make sure you clean it thoroughly with soap and hot water. Make sure you clean all of the small crevices and the handle. This will ensure that the knife is clean enough to cut your food.

Are Hunting Knives Worth It?

Person carving tree branch with a hunting knife

Hunting knives are worth both the cost and the hassle if you plan to go hunting with any regularity. For your first trip or two you could plan to use a buddy’s knife if you’re together, but having your own will be necessary if you continue to hunt.

The price of hunting knives can vary widely. You can find them anywhere from $20-$350 or more. Generally, the more expensive knives will be better quality with sharper blades. They may also come with two knives or another versatile tool that you can use while hunting.

Overall, hunting knives are versatile tools that most hunters consider essential. If you go hunting regularly you should be prepared to field dress and take care of the animals you harvest. A hunting knife is essential for being a self-sufficient hunter.

Before purchasing a hunting knife, determine your budget and ask your hunting friends what they use and would recommend. Nothing beats the recommendation of a seasoned hunter.

Related: Best Survival Knives Reviewed (Fixed Blade and Folding)