Although many will often choose a fixed blade hunting knife when they are in the great outdoors, it’s very possible that you need something smaller based on your particular circumstance. And if that’s the case, then this article is for you, as we help you best determine what the best folding hunting knife is on today’s market.
Why Not A Fixed Blade?
Although the image of a hunter with a knife dangling from his belt is a popular one, those knives aren’t always practical—they can, for example, sometimes get in the way as you attempt to sneak through the undergrowth.
The traditional old hunting knife also leaves a lot to be desired when compared to more modern offerings, particularly from a hygiene perspective. No longer the wood, stacked leather and bone of the frontier but impervious plastics, rubberized handles and G10 are the order of the day when it comes to the handle of a hunting knife.
The convenience of a knife that can fit in a pocket and fold can’t be underestimated, which is why below, feel free to take a quick moment to view some of the best-selling pocket knives currently on sale at Amazon:
What to Look For
Here are a few things you definitely need to consider before making your folding hunting blade purchase.
My first folding knife was a wooden and brass handled Buck knife, which I was given when I was eight years old and which I used for many years to gut fish and skin rabbits. Nowadays, a recreational hunter might want an attractive wooden handled knife like my old one, but I would always recommend a knife with a synthetic handle for hygiene reasons.
There is always the chance with wood, bone and antler that they will soak up contaminants, blood and fluids from the last deer you processed. There is, by contrast, less of a chance of this occurring when a handle uses synthetic materials. Plastic, G10 or metal handles are all preferable to micarta, wood or bone on the handle of a hunting knife.
Because the handle of a folding hunting knife will be more than just a handle (it will house the blade when it is folded and possibly contain additional blades and other tools), there will be plenty of nooks and crannies for dirt and grime to get lodged. So, on top of an impervious synthetic handle material, a stainless steel or titanium frame would be advisable to avoid rust forming from repeated washing.
I would always recommend and prefer a stainless steel blade in a hunting knife.
What makes the stainless steels “stainless” is the fact that it contains chromium, normally at least ten percent, although it will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The advantages that stainless steel gives you, the knife enthusiast, is some additional protection from rust and corrosion, which means it will stand up to regular cleaning better and therefore be more hygienic.
Yes, a carbon steel knife will do the same job as a stainless steel blade, but just for ease of maintenance and hygiene, stainless is always what I would recommend for a hunting knife.
Steels for Hunting Knives
- Böhler N695
- CPM S30V
- Sandvik 12C27
People can get very worked up about the shape of their knife and what blade shape is right for a certain task. And while some blades are definitely designed with certain tasks in mind, ultimately you can skin a whole deer with a shard of flint in not much more time than it would take with a knife. Remember that a folding hunting blade will probably have to do more than just skin and gut game, so my preference in a hunting knife is for more of a utility style blade than a blade specifically designed for skinning.
A Note On Gut Hooks
A gut hook is a feature of some knives specifically designed for use in processing game, but I would advise against the use of folding knives with gut hooks built into the back of the blade. Why? Because of the way a knife folds, these are always left exposed outside of the handle and present a significant risk when you put your hand in your pocket.
But, if you are going to choose a knife with a gut hook, get one which you can carry in a pouch on your belt or which has a separate gut hook that isn’t exposed outside of the handle to avoid cutting yourself or damaging your clothing.
That’s not to say they aren’t effective and useful, from an inexperienced hunters perspective, they are very useful for speeding up the job of gutting and skinning larger animals.
The risk of puncturing the guts and thereby contaminating the meat of an animal as you gut and skin it is very real and could be costly if you are planning to sell the meat. A gut hook will make this process much more predictable if you haven’t had a lot of experience (or if you are having to deal with a carcass in bad light).
It’s worth noting that it’s just as important that your knife perform other tasks in the field beyond just skinning and processing the game you are hunting. For example, you may need to trim vegetation around a hide, carry out emergency repairs or adjustments to your firearm or bow, prepare food if you’re out for a while and open a beer after a successful hunt.
Therefore, please consider knives which also contain other tools such as;
- can/bottle opener
- dedicated gutting blade/hook
- screw drivers
- socket for hex bits
Top 5 Folding Hunting Knives
Here’s my list for five of my favorite hunting knives (ones that are considered folders, of course):
Victorinox Hunter Pro
This has been my EDC (every day carry) folding knife since I was eighteen years old when my parents bought it for me. As a gamekeeper and deer hunter, people may find it useful to have a knife that is dedicated to hunting and includes a dedicated gutting blade as well as a large plain edge knife blade and other tools.
My version once had a picture of a roe buck on the handle along with the Victorinox logo, both long since worn away. The version I have is no longer made as far as I can tell, but newer versions are available now and generally seem to come with orange handles and larger gutting blades.
The dedicated skinning blade is great for opening up large game, such as deer or boar, but will be useless for smaller thin skinned animals like rabbits. The large blade can also be used for skinning and butchery, but is also big enough and has a strong enough lock to deal with a range of cutting tasks.
The Gerber Moment is a simple single blade folding hunting knife. It comes with a pouch for belt carry, but can also be carried in the pocket. The single blade will make skinning tasks simple—the rubberized handle makes gripping the knife easy even when wet. It’s also relatively easy to keep clean.
EKA Swede 8 or 10
A no frills single bladed folding knife, the rubberized grip provides plenty of traction, and the single blade means there are not a lot of crevices to clean after using it to process a carcass.
The blade has a lot of belly, as the edge sweeps up to the spine of the knife with hardly any drop in the spine at all. This gives the blade an ideal shape for skinning. I got my first EKA 10 in 2010 when the blades were made of AUS-8, although they are now made of Sandvik 12C27 Stainless, which is in my opinion a better steel for a hunting knife.
This one actually breaks my preference for stainless steel blades on a knife for hunting, but it is on the list because of it’s affordability and great performance.
]I’ve used this knife for just about everything—from whittling, to skinning and butchering deer. It has no mechanical lock, but instead has a tang which folds flush with the handle when open. When the hand is squeezed tight around it, it is very difficult to close.
Perhaps an unorthodox choice, but I am rarely without my Skeletool, it’s one of the few multitools that’s light and ergonomic enough to be carried in the pocket and with it’s multiple screw driver attachments and pliers, this gives me the tools I need to adjust or tighten rifle slings, bipods, carry out minor repairs. The blade can be used for butchery or skinning with ease, although the serrations are not ideal.
A folding knife is a useful (dare I say it essential?) companion to any hunter. Even if you choose to carry a fixed blade as your first choice, the value of folding hunting knives can’t be underestimated.
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