A successful hunt isn’t much use if you don’t have the tools on hand to properly dress and prepare your kill. What degree of preparation you are going to do in the field will depend on you- some want to do the whole carcass themselves, others opt for the bare minimum and let a professional handle the rest. Either way, one of the most useful tools you will own is a skinning knife- make sure you choose a good one.
I want the best skinning knife possible!
It’s important to realise one thing when it comes to knives- the ‘best’ is not the same for everyone. Take a moment to consider how a knife is actually made vs the myriad of different tasks you can throw at it- it’s impossible for one design to be ‘perfect’ for all jobs.
For example, a hard steel takes a long time to sharpen and may chip with brittleness but will hold its edge a long while. A strong rigid blade is needed for cutting bone and wood, but a flexible softer blade is ideal for skinning.
A sharp tip is ideal for puncturing, but can make it easier to accidentally cut into the guts when skinning…the list goes on. What you need to do is find a knife whose features are a nice balance of durability, sharpness and stability with a good shape for the tasks it needs to be able to tackle.
What should I look for in a skinning knife?
As with anything to do with the hunting arena, there’s a ton of options when it comes to choosing a skinning knife- and that’s not even considering the plethora of brands out there! One of the first considerations you need to make before choosing your knife is the size of the game you must often pursue. A different blade size will be needed for, say, fowl vs elk and everything in between. Yes, you can do the job with a bigger or smaller blade then is ideal- hell, you can skin a deer with a penknife if you have to- but getting a good size fit for your quarry is a good start to making the process more comfortable.
A different blade size will be needed for, say, fowl vs elk and everything in between. Yes, you can do the job with a bigger or smaller blade then is ideal- hell, you can skin a deer with a penknife if you have to- but getting a good size fit for your quarry is a good start to making the process more comfortable.
A good skinning knife, however, will assist with field dressing, skinning and boning out your game. While some opt to have several different knives through this process, one which acts as a good multi-tool is usually better.
Remember that stainless steel tends to be harder, but is also a lot more easy-care. Carbon steel is harder to maintain but offers a softer, more malleable blade. Damascus blades are expensive, but can be sharpened incredibly and make a good bragging knife.
What shape of blade is the best?
In the end, a good knife needs to slice skin and the membrane between skin and muscle, and it has to be able to cut the meat. Any shape you feel balances these three needs nicely is a good one. There’s a ton of different shapes out there. In general, however, a drop or clip point is going to be your friend.
Clip points are sharper, but can cause you to accidently clip the intestines, which is why drop points are generally seen as the best skinning knife tip. The size of knife belly you choose will be personal, and depend on your technique. So will the size of the grip. In general, a thicker grip will feel better in the hands, but some do prefer a thinner hilt.
What is the most important of all, however, is that it has a grip that will remain safe and comfortable. Remember that most knives are used in circumstances where they will get slick and slippery very quickly. It is vital that the blade does not slip out of your hand, or that your hand doesn’t slip forward over the blade
Folding or rigid?
This particular feature is, as with so many other knife features, a matter of ‘it depends’. Folding designs can be convenient to carry, but the hinges make for an area where hair and fat can accumulate and can be very tricky to clean. Rigid knives are less easy to slip in a pocket, but are simpler to clean.
Overall, the best skinning knife for you will be the one that meets what you need from it the most, after careful research and consideration.