Clean Kill: The 8 Best Hunting Knives

The hard part about hunting isn’t tracking your prey through the forest or across the prairie. It isn’t lining up the shot with your favorite rifle or crossbow. It isn’t the waiting game, sitting in a blind with naught but a six pack for company. That’s the fun part. The difficult part comes after you’ve taken the shot and bagged your trophy buck, boar, or buffalo and need to clean and dress it. That’s where the real work starts and shows who’s a pro and who’s an amateur. It is also the point when you need an amazing hunting knife.

To pick the right knife, you’ve got to know what you’re going to be hunting, how often, and what kind of conditions you can expect. Big game hunters will need bigger blades for cleaning and skinning, while those who prefer varmints, rabbits, and small to medium game will want something that can handle the delicate work without harming the hide. For our purposes, we’ve removed gut hook knives since they often cause more problems and require more maintenance that standard knives made for hunting. With that, feast your eyes on the 8 best hunting knives.

Opinel No8

Opinel No8

Pro: Multi-purpose
Con: Folding knife

Happy Camper: Weekend warriors and hunters that demand a blade that is more than a hunting knife will find the No8 a perfect and inexpensive choice. Comes in either high carbon or stainless steel depending on your preference. Can cut up, field dress, skin, and serve without missing a beat for the outdoorsman who prefers to go from killing to cleaning to cooking in the span of an evening. A ring around the neck keeps the blade from closing in on your hand while you work and keeps it locked up like Alcatraz when in your pocket. On the fringes as far as hunting knives go, but a worthy pocket knife or general purpose camp knife for any adventurer. [Purchase: $18]

Morakniv Mora 840

Morakniv Mora of Sweden Clipper

Pro: Inexpensive
Con: Very utilitarian design

Best Bargain: Here’s the beauty thing about Mora knives: You can lose them and replace them without breaking your hunting budget, or keep a bunch on hand or tucked away in your survival kits. They are also outstanding, even when compared with more expensive blades. The 840 is a high-carbon blade with a beefy 59-60 HRC. You’ll want to use a little grease to keep it from rusting, but otherwise it can go wherever you do. The handle is made from comfortable rubber with an orange accent that will never let it get lost in a gut pile during field work. Since they are carbon, you’ll want to throw a decent knife-sharpener in your field kit in case the blade needs brush ups during longer track-and-kill missions. [Purchase: $16]

CRKT Onion Skinner

CRKT Onion Skinner

Pro: Exceptional ergonomics
Con: The sheath is terrible

Quick and Clean: These went through the wringer when it came to R&D. Ken Onion, the designer, created the knife and then sent it off to hunters in the Alaskan wilderness to field test it. When their reports came back, he would then make the changes they suggested. It certainly has a strange build, but that is so it can be used for caping and skinning with equal efficacy. The spear point tip makes a gut hook almost redundant since it can unzip a kill faster than most guys can unhook a bra. On the dorsal of the knife is a hump that gives you the ability to rock the blade along and get more leverage for those tough tendons and ligaments. At 3.75 inches in length, even Goldilocks would agree that this is just right for game of any size. The Onion will last for years thanks to the K110 stainless steel and 58-60 HRC rating. [Purchase: $42]

Buck 110 Hunter

Buck 110 Hunter

Pro: Clip point blade
Con: Handle can get slippery

Above the Fold: These knives have been made since 1962 and are imitated the world over. The 3.75 inch, 420HC stainless steel blade is enough for deer, elk, and even bear, yet small enough for caping work in a pinch. This model bears the classic dymondwood wood with brass bolsters making it attractive, though can be harder to hold than knives with more texture on their grip. Backed by Buck’s 4-Ever warranty, you’ll never have to worry about factory faults or failings ruining your kill day. For a stainless steel knife, this keeps its edge for a long time with minimal maintenance and worrying about rust is for other people. Even though it is a folding knife, the hardy locking mechanism ensures that you’ll keep all your fingers. [Purchase: $44]

Case Cutlery 381

Case Cutlery 381

Pro: Surgical steel
Con: Large blade

Ready to Reach: Most knives on this list typically land in the 3.25 inch to 4.5 inch blade length. The 381 goes above and beyond that offering up 5 full inches of cutting power attached to a polished true leather handle with nickel accents. It’s a fixed blade knife comprised of surgical steel and begs to do the skinning and gutting. 100% American made, this design hasn’t changed in decades and is unlikely to be trumped in the future by some space-age, reformed alloy nonsense. It’s deadly sharp, surprisingly light and happily affordable. While it makes short work of huge game, caping and detail work are basically beneath its considerable grasp. [Purchase: $59]

Spyderco Bill Moran

Spyderco Bill Moran

Pro: Flat ground
Con: Not a full tang

Featherweight: Spyderco has staked a serious claim in the self-defense knives market, but that didn’t stop them from partnering with renowned knifemaker Bill Moran to create a hunting knife that is light enough to be an EDC, yet strong enough to stand up to the toughest hides on the biggest game. Starting off with a drop point tip, the 3.9 inch blade is entirely made of Japanese VG-10 stainless steel that is flat ground to create a single bevel. This is important since it reduces weight while improving cutting power and adding strength. This balance allows it to cut through raw meat easily and strip skin away with relatively little effort or error. It isn’t a full tang, or strong enough for hard-core camp tasks. [Purchase: $77]

Benchmade Hidden Canyon

Benchmade Hidden Canyon

Pro: Very precise design
Con: Small blade

Small Wonder: Not every hunter dreams of mounting a ten point buck on their wall. Some want little victories and the challenge presented by tiny, moving targets. At only 2.67 inches, you’re going to spend a lifetime if you try to skin a moose, but it’s ideal for the nooks and crannies that abound in more miniscule bodies. The handle is G10 and shrugs off water, blood, and other elemental issues while giving you a good, solid grip. You’ll never slip and ruin a lovely pelt when you’re using the Hidden Canyon. This keeps an edge like a scalpel for ages and can quickly take over as your go-to caping blade if you find a hunting knife you like better. [Purchase: $115]

Diamondblade Traditional Hunter

Diamondblade Traditional Hunter

Pro: Hybrid tip style
Con: Expensive

Top Tier: From the spear-point, drop-point hybrid tip, all the way down the 3.5 inches of D2 high carbon steel, this is a beautiful hunting knife that you’ll probably never want to actually take out in to the bush. While it certainly can field dress with the best of them while stripping and skinning like a machine, the high cost and high carbon make it a liability for long hunting trips. The handle comes in your choice of micarta, ironwood, horn, and numerous other options, each attached to the full tang body with 3 mosaic pins. The edge is wedge ground to give it a slight advantage for skinning and cutting through joints. A 65-68 HRC makes this tougher than nails and able to laugh off jobs that would break lesser blades. [Purchase: $450]

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