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Into the Outdoors: Hunting Knives

Over the course of each hunting season, many hunters find, to their nonplus, that their hunting knives are somewhat less than great.  When you come right down to it, many, if not most of us tend to take hunting knives for granted. They usually come as sort of an afterthought to guns, boots and other gear.  This week, let’s take a look at hunting knives.  While I’m very fond of knives, and own a good many of them, I don’t really think of myself as a knife collector. To me, knives are basically tools, and I use them as such. In fact, I’ve carried some type of pocket knife ever since I was a young boy.

Most of us got our first hunting knife when we were very young. I still remember mine, although I lost it many years ago. It was an Ideal brand, with a yellow handle, and I got it at Campbell’s Hardware in East Brady. As kids, my friends and I tended to measure a knife’s quality by the length and size of the blade. The bigger the blade, the better the knife. Saw teeth on the back of the blade and a snazzy sheath also caught the fancy of our youthful eyes. It may be fortunate that we seldom bagged any game and, therefore, didn’t have to use our mighty pieces of cutlery for any useful purpose.

As I’ve grown older, I find that I now tend to favor the smallest blade that will do the job well. Hunting knives, as most of us know, take two basic forms. These are the sheath knife with a fixed blade and the folding model. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find any significant advantage of one over the other. It all comes down to personal preference.  

Although some hunters will probably disagree with me, I feel that there are some genuine advantages to having separate knives for small and big game. A good argument can be made for separate skinning knives, too, although some knives are dual purpose in design. The fact is that, a knife ideally suited to dressing out a deer or bear is often just too big to use on squirrels and rabbits.  By the same token, a squirrel knife doesn’t have the weight and heft necessary to perform all of the different tasks involved in deer dressing.  Weight, more than blade length, is the main factor here.  As an aside, a good pair of poultry shears is an extremely valuable addition to your small game processing gear.  They make many phases of the process much easier.  

While I don’t see any point in spending a fortune on a hunting knife, it is definitely wise to get a blade of reasonably decent quality.  A cheap blade that won’t hold an edge is extremely aggravating. Also, more people get injured with dull knives than sharp ones.  A moderately priced knife by a reputable manufacturer is usually your best bet.  

Knife maintenance, while simple, is still important.  Here are a few basic pointers.  First of all, never use a grinder or kitchen knife sharpener on your hunting knife. There are some excellent power sharpeners on the market, but they’re not the ones typically found in the kitchen. You can also use stones or ceramic sticks. While time consuming, these can result in a really great, long lasting edge. It’s also a good idea to not store knives in their sheaths, as the acids used in the making of the leather can damage the blades. Obviously, knives should be thoroughly cleaned before storage. A thin coat of oil on the blade will prevent rust and corrosion.  With a bit of care, a good knife can be a lifelong, treasured hunting companion.

While this is off topic, as I am writing this, it is Veteran’s Day.  We owe a tremendous debt to these people. Because of them, we have our freedom.  We should do everything we can to show our respect and gratitude.

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