November 15, 2022
Hunters will gawk over flagship bows, rifles with carbon barrels and new high-end clothing. The one item that most hunters overlook—and they shouldn’t—is the blade in their pack. Even lightweight, skeletonized, sexy knives don't get much love.
On a recent elk hunt with a good buddy, where he killed a 300-inch bull, we discovered he only had a dull pocketknife. He carried a carbon-riser bow fitted with a top-tier sight, rest, quiver and the like, but no sharp blade. Whether going on the hunt of a lifetime or a camping trip in your backyard, having a quality knife—or three, five, or ten—is never a bad idea.
Here are six go-to blades that won't let you down.
OUTDOOR EDGE RAZORLITE 3.5
Personally, I'm a replaceable-blade kind of guy and have used them for years. When hunting, I carry two—one in my pack's right waist belt pocket and another in the main compartment. My favorite is Outdoor Edge's RazorLite 3.5. I prefer the push-button blade release system and its rubberized handle ensures a solid grip even when the handle is bloody. I like the black-oxide-coated blade holder that holds blades secure, making blade swap easy. The knife comes with a heavy-duty nylon case with six extra blades. Plus, this knife won't break the bank.
- Surgically sharp
- Easy blade change
- Rubberized TRP Handle
- Blades break easy
- Blade release is easy to hit when in use
You won't find a better replaceable-blade knife, but the trick to the RazorLite is keeping it clean after use. I recommend using a pair of needle nose pliers—like those found on a small Leatherman—grabbing the blade by the point and pulling it cleanly away while holding the blade-release button with your opposite hand. Also, it helps to never let blood or gunk dry between the blade holder and the blade.
Though the Outdoor Edge is my personal favorite, I also tote a Havalon Piranta-Edge in my pack. The 60A stainless-steel blades are scary sharp and measure 2 ¾-inches long. This knife comes with a removable clip and nylon holster and the ABS plastic handle is fitted with gridded studs to improve your grip. Blade removal can be a bit trickier—especially with wet or bloody hands—but once the blade is removed, the Piranta-Edge is a breeze to clean.
- Scary sharp
- Ambidextrous thumb studs
- Easy to clean
- Liner-lock construction
- Brittle blades
- Slippery handle
I love my Havalon Piranta-Edge, but I know its limits. You can't get forceful with this knife. Take your time when working around bones, joints and fatty tissue. Too much torque or downward pressure and you'll hear constant pings as you break blade after blade. Take your time, apply appropriate pressure and let the knife work for you. Grab a fixed-blade knife and save your Havalon blades when working around bones and joints or when caping.
BENCHMADE 940 OSBORNE
It took me a second to get past the sticker shock, but over the years, I've learned a thing or three about quality pocketknives—they are worth their weight in gold. You can spend $30 every year on a subpar pocketknife or you can get Benchmade's 940 Osborne and never have to buy another one. With this folding CPM-S30V steel blade, I've cleaned two elk, one white-tailed deer, one mule deer, numerous trout and carved tent poles. I love its green anodized aluminum handle, as well as the 3.40-inch blade. The knife sports a plain reverse tanto blade and comes with a reversible tip-up clip position, so the knife is always at the ready. Plus, it just feels great in hand.
- .115-inch blade thickness
- .41-inch handle thickness
I don't leave home without this knife in my pocket as previously mentioned. I've found numerous uses for it and those are just the tip of the iceberg. When you drop a lot of money on a pocketknife, you want to develop a good habit of taking that pocketknife out each night and putting it in the same spot. Pocketknives are easy to lose and this is one you never want to misplace.
YUKON RIVER KNIVES THE HUNTER
While the blade curmudgeon amongst us may say replaceable blade knives have made heavy-duty fixed-blade knives obsolete, I simply roll my eyes and laugh at their statements. There’s something to be said about the feel of a well-made fixed-blade knife resting in a leather sheath lashed to my hip, and The Hunter from Yukon River is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The 3.5-inch blade length and overall length of 8.25 inches make the knife maneuverable but also provide the necessary length needed when torque is applied on bones or joints. Earlier this October, I took four 12-year-olds after their first pronghorns and cleaned each of them with The Hunter. The knife holds its edge well and when it needs to be touched up, the CPM-S35VN blade sharpens up quickly.
- 4.3 ounces
- 58-60 c hardness
- Super sharp
- Leather sheath
You'll find plenty of uses for The Hunter, from in the field to the processing table. One mistake I see hunters make when using a heavy-duty fixed-blade knife is putting too much pressure on the blade when trying to hammer through bones and joints. Understanding animal anatomy and when cutting around hip sockets or the atlas joint to remove the animal's head can save your blade. Proper pressure and blade angle—not jabbing and hammering—with a fixed blade are the way to go.
BEAR & SON'S 7" GENUINE STAG BONE SKINNER
I'm a sucker for a bone-handle knife—I just love the old-school look. I'm a sucker for a bone-handle knife—I just love the old-school look. The first time I held Bear & Son's 7" Genuine India Stag Bone Skinner, a sly smile spilled across my face and I quickly forked over the money. For less than $100, you won't find a better fixed blade. Aside from its racy eye appeal, the 440 stainless-steel blade is super sharp. While weighing only 4.1 ounces, you can use this knife for everything from gutting to skinning , as well as caping. I love the hollow ground blade and nickle silver bolsters, plus the leather sheath holds the knife securely in place.
- Genuine India Stag Bone Handle
- 2 7/8-inch blade length
- 440 Stainless Steel
- Thin handle/slippage
- Dulls quickly
A quality fixed-blade knife for less than $100 is rare, especially one with a bone handle. When using this knife, wipe the handle down regularly when cleaning, as blood will cause the hand to slip, and the knife has no blade guard. Typically, if I have the knife razor sharp, I can clean a medium-sized game animal without touching it up, but I would recommend having a Work Sharp Whetstone or Pull-Through Knife Sharpener on hand.
BENCHMADE MEATCRAFTER 2.0
If there's one knife I feel outdoors people overlook, it's a good fillet knife. Don't get me wrong, the price tag on Benchmade's MeatCrafter Knife 2.0 is a bit ridiculous. But, last season I filleted more than 100 walleye, 75 trout, and 350 crappies and never touched the blade up a single time. Plus, I used the knife to butcher a bighorn sheep, two elk, and four whitetails. The CPM-S45VN premium stainless steel in hi-viz orange Cerakote finish promises toughness and edge retention like I've never seen before. Using Benchmade's SelectEdge technology, the blade has been perfectly optimized for push-cut performance and the blade is sharpened to an ultra-fine 14 degrees per side.
- 14-degree per side blade edge
- Lightweight carbon fiber handle scales
- Hi-Vis orange Cerakote finish
- Holds an edge
Take care of this blade, and it will take care of you. Never in my life did I think I would drop more than $400 on a fillet knife—especially one that isn't electric—but SelectEdge technology makes filleting and butchering a breeze. Don't be forceful, once you understand the push-cut performance this fillet kingpin is capable of, get an angle, push, and let the knife do the work.
There you have it; six top-end knives that will handle everything from doves or ducks to deer and everything in between. Don't settle for another brittle 3-inch Walmart folder that won't even last cleaning a single animal. Having a good set of knives is essential to any outdoor adventure. Start your research and find a few that will work for you.