What makes a good hunting knife. There are five basic aspects that are very important, steel that can hold an edge, type of build, handle fit and feel, shape and function of the blade and the carry sheath.
Lets look at each of these.
1) First, you need a good piece of steel.
The blade must hold and edge well and be durable. Quality damascus fits that requirement great. If you are in the market for a damascus knife know that, while it holds a great edge, it requires maintenance.
Damascus represents an art of design and a level of craftsmanship commitment that gets passed on to the owner.
The maintenance is not a big deal but if you know you are the type of guy who doesn’t appreciate your tools to that level you should go stainless.
If maintenance free is your goal there are a few stainless options. The most important thing, again, is to be sure you get one that holds an edge and is durable.
There are many stainless options on the market these days and while some are great, some are garbage. Remember, the point of stainless is less maintenance but you want to achieve that without much compromise of its blade function.
For my money, D2 tool steel is the best choice for a knife.
While it is just under being considered true stainless it needs very little care and will hold an edge like to other.
One draw back, some say, is that it is harder to sharpen than a cheaper steel and that is true, you must spend a little more time getting the edge.
But when you are in the field and need a knife to cut and finish the job it is your steel. Being able to sharpen the blade easily is a plus so stay away from multi-faceted edged blades.
2) Second, the knife should be a full tang. Period.
3) Third, the handle has to have excellent hold-ability even when it is bloody, wet or covered in fat.
I prefer the timeless unfinished wooden handles.
However, they need to be maintained by oiling them once in a while. If not they will absorb blood etc and and they can dry out and crack over time.
Raw wood is in the same class as damascus so do some honest soul searching before committing to your knife purchase.
If you find you are a maintenance free guy new resin based materials, such as G10, are great. The benefits of G10 is it is impervious to liquids, stable and very durable. The cons is they are fairly unimpressive in looks.
Definitely function over form.
Different layering of G10 can create a unique and desirable look if you can find the product. KRYTON handles have good surface grip but it does absorb moisture.
When cleaning fish of butchering the blood and other fluids will absorb into the handle and eventually that can get nasty. The most important factor is control and that is achieved by a good hand fit to the handle.
An intentional ergonomic design that stays in place should be sought out.
4) Fourth, the shape of the blade will determine how it functions.
If you want an all purpose knife you will need a blade that is strong enough to separate joints yet has a tip that is nimble enough to fit in awkward places.
It is also needs to have some belly in the blade towards the tip of the knife for skinning. I would stay away from fad gut hooks, mostly rookies use them and they get in the way when butchering. They are also very hard to sharpen.
The people who like them do so for the look and not the function and I admit I have seen some cool looking gut hook knives but they ate not going with me in the field.
Also, you don’t want a blade that is too long. I find that anywhere between 5-8 inches in blade length works well for whitetail size game.
5) Another thing commonly overlooked is a good sheath.
Most modern hunters don’t wear there knives in the field. They throw them in their packs and pull them out when needed.
However, if you wear yours in the field be sure that sheath has a strap or at least be sure it holds the knife firmly in place. Is sad to lose a $150 knife walking through the woods in the dark because you had a good knife resting in a poorly fitted sheath.
Follow these tips and you should end up with a knife that becomes a beneficial partner in the field for life.
Good luck and safe hunting this season from all of us at Bliss Knife Works.