Bowhunting requires all sorts of gear, from arrows and broadheads to boots and binoculars. One critical item all bowhunters must keep in their pack is a good knife. A reliable blade can be used for many tasks, none more important or rewarding than field-processing game. However, with an array of knives to choose from, picking the best one for you can seem overwhelming. We’re here to help you study your options and find the right bowhunting knife for your adventures.
Hunters worldwide have long liked fixed-blade knives, and for good reason. This design is sturdy and reliable. These blades are well-suited for field work on large, heavy-boned animals like elk and moose. They’re also easily cleaned. Their downside is their size, and they require a sheath for carrying. Bowhunters must also carefully choose where to store them in a pack to avoid a bad wound, should they fall.
Folding-blade knives make a compact unit when closed, but that convenience brings limitations, such as their locking-blade design. When opened, the blade locks into place. That feature makes them safer to use, but makes them less durable than fixed-blade knives. Folding knives also require more time and care when cleaning, especially after gutting and processing game, which often leaves debris in the handle cavity that stores the blade when it’s closed. That said, these knives are practical for most bowhunting applications.
Replaceable-blade knives are a fairly new model, and took little time to become fan favorites among bowhunters and other outdoorsmen. Sharp blades are a must while field dressing or processing game, which takes extra time and a sharpening device.
With replaceable-blade knives, bowhunters exchange a dull blade for a fresh one in seconds. That’s great, but replaceable-blade knives have drawbacks. First, their blades are typically thinner and more flimsy than a standard blade, making them susceptible to breakage. Second, you must buy extra blades.
Early replaceable-blade hunting knives used ultra-thin scalpel blades that were useless once dulled. Bowhunters had to continually replenish their blade supply after successful hunts. In recent years, knife-makers started making thicker replaceable blades, some of which can be sharpened and reused.
The gut hook is a specialized blade that, as a stand-alone, can’t tackle most tasks bowhunters encounter. They’re great, however, for opening game without puncturing the guts, and for making the initial slice for skinning legs. Many manufacturers eliminated the need to carry a separate gut hook by adding them to other blades. A hybrid blade with a gut hook is great for field processing.
Bowhunters who believe more is better swear by multi-tool knife systems. These are a Swiss army knife, version 2.0. They store nearly every tool and gadget ever needed while afield. You’ll find knives among their pliers, nail file, screw-drivers and can opener. These blades do the job of field-processing game, but they’re not ideal. Their handles are somewhat clumsy and cumbersome for knife work. Their blades are also relatively short, and cleaning them after a gutting job can be timely and tedious because of their many cavities and moving parts.
Knife blades have as many different designs as there are knife configurations. Let’s review some of the most common blades on hunting knives.
The drop-point blade is the most popular design on hunting knives. The blade’s spine slopes downward to meet the convex cutting edge at the point. The cutting edge’s large, sweeping belly makes it easy to control. It’s well suited for most bowhunting applications. From gutting to skinning, a drop-point’s blade and robust point make it strong and dependable.
The clipped-point blade design is also good for easily controlled cuts. This blade point is sharper and thinner than the drop-point design, making it better for precision work. Still, its thin stature makes it less durable and more prone to breaking.
Serrated blades are another popular option for bowhunters. Typically, this blade’s rear section is serrated. This blade is great for cutting heavy materials like rope, or when splitting a whitetail’s rib cage.
So, which blade should you choose? That’s up to you, your preferences and how you intend to use it.
The knife’s other vital part is its handle. Traditionally, hunting-knife handles were made from wood, bone or metal. These materials create timeless, eye-catching handles but modern composites and rubber-molded handles have proven more practical in the field. When field dressing game, things can get slippery, so getting a sure grip on the handle ensures safety. That’s where textured composites and rubber handles deliver maximum benefits.
No matter where you bowhunt or what species you chase, you must carry a good bowhunting knife. Talk to experienced bowhunters to learn what they like, while keeping in mind which tasks you’ll expect your knife to handle. Visit an archery shop to get more expert advice about selecting the right knife for you.