One of the most important tools to any fieldsman is a hunting knife. A good hunting blade should outlive its owner and only ever fail to do its job when its badly looked after. But more often then not people overlook this vital bit of kit and use any old blade.
Using the right hunting knife is important for many reasons. Top of the list is your safety. A badly crafted, blunt knife is far more likely to cut you then a razor sharp one. One slip while out hunting can mean a long walk to the car gripping a open wound and is a common story. So what should you look for?
Firstly, make sure you know the rules for what you can and cannot
carry/use. This of course is different depending on where you live so
make sure you are up to scratch with your local laws.
There are also some good rules of thumb to follow to keep yourself out of trouble in court or with a police man. Always use a knife which looks like its for hunting. If you use a knife which looks like its from a video game you can expect a prison sentence. Never carry the knife with you unless you are hunting and never leave it in the car unless your going to or from a hunting trip.
Make sure it doesn’t look as if you have the knife 'to hand' while driving. The knife laws make it clear that this will been seen as planning to use the knife aggressively. Keep it in your glove box! Never your pocket or the side door.
Folding Blade vs Fixed Blade
If you live in the UK this decision has been made for you. The UK knife laws limit you to a folding blade with a maximum length of 4 inches. But if you live in countries without these tight laws, you have the freedom of choice.
Fixed blades are stronger, tougher and all around more reliable. The metal runs into the handle so the chances of breaking the blade are very slim . This makes the fixed blade the clear answer for bigger hunting blades that will suffer a beating.
On the other hand, folding blades are much safer as the metal can be stored in the handle, meaning no sheath is needed and they can be easily carried. This design is often seen more as hunting knife then an offensive weapon. And isn't on show on your hip.
Im from the UK, so a folder is all I am really allowed. Just as well I would use one this style regardless.
The Blade Design
Hunting knifes come in different shapes as well as sizes and each has its place and purpose. Below are the 3 main styles and small description of what is best.
The Clip Point
The clip pointed design is the most common type of hunting knife. It has a thin blade and a very defined point so it can do all manner of jobs effectively. Its kind of the jack of all trades. Its good for skinning, gutting and suiting. So its great for most small game hunters but can be used on larger game too.
The Drop point
With a thicker, stronger blade then the clip point, this style is aimed at bigger game. The blade is curved more so you can use more of the edge while skinning to save damaging the meat.
The Gut Hook
A lesser know style of knife, the gut hook is great tool for beginners. Its used to cut open the belly of smaller game to avoid paunching (AKA splitting the intestines or stomach, which isn't very pleasant!). A skilled hand wont need a gut hook knife and can open their prey without paunching.
And Finally, The Handle
The handle on a hunting knife is just as important as the blade. You need to pick a style that you like the look and feel of but never forget to consider what its made of. As pretty as leather, wood or even bone handles are, they can become very slippery when wet and become that bloody trip back to the car we talked about.
Modern materials might not look as nice, but rubber and plastic handles can offer much more grip and much more safety.