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Choosing The Right Hunting Knife
Choosing the right hunting knife can be a difficult challenge. If you choose wrong you end up with a paperweight that is more likely to end up in your junk-drawer than on your hip when you need it.
First ask yourself a few questions: What kind of hunting do you do? Do you go after big game or small? Do you trophy hunt or do you meat hunt only? What is the largest animal you envision using the knife on? The smallest? How often do you hunt, are you looking for a knife you can easily carry when you are not hunting?
Seems like a lot of questions but if you don't know what you are looking for, you will never find the correct one for your personal preferences.
Stainless versus Carbon Steel
This is far too short an article to get into the metallurgy of steel composition. Lets just say that some steels are too soft to hold an edge very well. Some are so hard as to be almost impossible to sharpen in the field. Do some research into the various steels and their grades. Sometimes the difference between a carrier and a drawer-sitter is the blade material.
Folding versus Fixed Blades
Let's look at the two basic knife styles: fixed and folding blade. A fixed blade knife is just that, fixed in place. Meaning that the blade is permanently fixed in the open position. Due to this design, these knives normally come with a sheath so they can be carried safely. These knives are normally stronger than the folding variety because the steel of the blade runs into or through the handle.
There are no moving parts with a fixed blade knife so they are very reliable. Several manufacturers also produce hunting knives that allow the user to change the blades very quickly.
Folding knives have a pivot point and lock mechanism which allows the blade to close into the handle. A folding knife without the lock should not even be considered for hunting. These are more for the occasional hunter who may also want to carry the knife for daily use. Folding knives are not as strong as a fixed blade by design. However, they are much easier to carry in a pocket or on the belt in a small sheath.
The next issue we'll address will be blade style. The four main hunting blade designs are the drop point, clip point, skinning, and caping designs.
The drop point knife is an excellent design for the big game hunter. This design generally features a robust, curved blade of relatively thick steel. These features allow the user to cut the skin off the animal using the entire edge of the knife, rather than just the point. This allows for quick skinning and very little damage to the meat. The design of the drop point also allows for other field cleaning tasks such as gutting and the splitting of the rib cage or pelvis, although a saw or hatchet is the preferred method for the latter two tasks.
Another style of hunting knife is the clip point. The clip point has a somewhat thinner blade than the drop point and has a much more defined point. Most bowies are examples of clip point knives. The flatter blade is more utilitarian in nature and will fit the needs of the majority of hunters, especially those wishing to use the knife as a general duty work knife and not a dedicated hunting knife. The clip point design will perform all of the tasks the drop point will, only not as efficiently. For the occasional hunter this is the perfect design.
The skinning knife is designed to aid in the removal of the skin of big game animals. They tend to have a highly sweeping blades that are designed to effortlessly separate the flesh from the skin. A dedicated skinning knife can be a real time saver for those big game hunters that do the butchering themselves. An added bonus is that the skinning knife can do most of the other game cleaning chores as well as the clip point or the drop point designs.
You will be able to view more information at http://www.gamebird-hunter.com/hunting-knife.html
A knife that is often overlooked is the caping knife. It is used for "caping" big game animals for mounting. When preparing a trophy for the taxidermist, it is important that the hide be preserved for a neck or shoulder mount. Some beautiful trophy animals have been ruined by a hunter using the wrong knife to prepare the animal. Caping knives are dedicated to this task. They are a relatively small knife with a very fine blade.
A note about caping is in order. Do not wait until you have an 1100 pound 6 by 6 elk down to attempt caping for the first time. Practice on smaller animals before you try it on your trophy. It would be a shame to have to to to an antler or skull mount because you messed up. Caping is not difficult, but to do it well requires practice.
Gut Hook Variation
One of the variables you will see in blade design is the gut hook pattern. The gut hook is used by making a small incision with the main blade and then by using the hook to cut open the abdomen. The hook prevents the hunter from "paunching" the animal and possibly affecting the quality of the meat. They do work and it is strictly a matter of personal preference as to the need for one. In the event that you do want the added security that the gut hook provides, they are very similar in price to non-gut hook knives. Be careful when using the gut hook for field dressing. A slip upwards on the handle is an occasion for stitches.
An alternative to purchasing a knife with a gut hook blade is to purchase a separate unit. Some manufacturers offer relatively inexpensive, easily transported units with replaceable blades.
Many hunters put a lot of thought into the blade design of their hunting knife, but put very little thought into the material of the handle. The classic wood, bone, or leather handles are very functional and appealing to the eye. However, don't overlook the newer handle materials, although not as pleasing to the eye, rubber and other composites merit a look. The newer handle materials offer greatly enhanced control in adverse conditions offering the hunter a greater degree of safety.
After the blade material, blade design, and handle material are decided, we now move on to the sheath or scabbard. Again, traditional leather is very functional and pleasing to the eye, however, in damp or wet conditions the man-made materials are much more durable. The chemicals used to tan leather will stain most carbon steels and some stainless steels. If you opt for leather, do not store your knife for long periods in the sheath.
Your choice of a hunting knife is a very personal one. That being said, you may decide a single knife will not do everything you need to do on your hunt. You might opt for one of the multi knife packs offered by some manufacturers. These are an option bearing in mind that you will have to carry them with you to be of any service.
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