TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
As one assembles the gear to partake in hunting endeavors they often are faced with needing to buy a knife.
In times past a man was considered undressed if he was knifeless and would no more walk out the front door to go to work without his pants as to be without a knife. In today’s more genteel society we have people that are not only knifeless but think hamburger comes from the Meat Section of the Grocery Store and not from a bovine animal. Being that I have carried a knife since I was a wee tot does give me some insight in to knives but it by no means makes me an expert. The only thing I consider myself an expert on is me, and me alone.
I received my first knife as a Christmas present when I was five and promptly proceeded to cut my thumb. Momma of course took it away and proceeded to holler at Daddy. I got the knife back the following Christmas and made sure I didn’t cut myself. In my day, while I’m not an old fart yet, one could carry a knife to school and it was sort of expected. My how times have changed.
Being that I have gutted a cow, field dressed for you more gentlemanly types, with a three bladed Trapper I will give you what insight I can. One can often tell the neophyte hunter by his knife. It is the largest blade in camp. It is often the dullest too. A knife needs to be sharp to do it’s job unless you plan on using it as a Screwdriver. Knives are for cutting not for prying, twisting, or screwing. One can adequately field dress a deer using the blade on a Leatherman Tool I can proudly report. On the subject of sharpness, a sharp knife is a safer knife. One will exert less energy to complete the cutting task and is less apt to slip and cut themselves.
Sharpness of the blade, to me, is more important than size. I would much rather have a smaller, but sharp, blade than a larger but dull blade. I find fixed or locking blades to be beneficial. The reason I cut myself as a kid was because the knife closed on my thumb. With a fixed or locking blade one doesn’t have to worry about the knife closing on them. It also helps if one pays attention to which way the blade is facing in relation to how they are holding it but sometimes things happen.
To me knives with a compass, metal coil saw, or other implements with or in them are a distraction. Plain, clean, and simple seems to be the most useful. Saws are a different issue and some form of saw is handy if one is going to quarter their game in the field but I would much rather carry a small saw than a knife designed to do ten different things. That is not to say that a knife with a Gut Hook is always out of place or unwarranted however.
There are some kits out there that have a Caper, Skinner, Field Dressing Blade in them along with a saw. Depending upon the game and the hunting conditions these might be appropriate or partly appropriate. There is no law that says one can’t take parts of kits and mix and match to get the optimal use of their equipment. I myself will likely have the largest knife in camp, but that is only because I have been blessed with a custom Damascus Fixed Blade as a gift. In my pocket will be my trusty and rusty carbon steel Trapper.
One is faced with a multitude of knife material to select from. Stainless this, carbon that, and all sorts of hardness and rust proof. In my own opinion I favor a blade that can rust but doesn’t have rust on it. I find carbon, hammer forged, and Damascus to hold a good edge and be the most beneficial. Damascus and Hammer Forged tend to be the best looking I think. To me a knife says a lot about a person and old Hammer Forged or Damascus is the classiest.
Knives can have many purposes and uses, from defense to art. I like to combine art with function, hence my penchant for Hammer Forged and Damascus, which I have only recently been able to afford. If I was looking for a simple knife for hunting I would first decide if I wanted a Fixed Blade or a Folder. I favor Fixed Blades because they cannot fold on you at inopportune times but a folding pocket knife tends to always be in my pocket for daily chores that a man is often tasked with. That tends to age me but it also is part of the culture I was raised in.
Gut Hooks are “handy” but not necessary. There is a difference and I do find that some things that while not being necessary do make things easier. It’s like an electric coffee pot. They are not necessary, but they do make having a morning cup of coffee easier. Sharp is more important than size and I would much rather see a person carry a small, but sharp, blade and maybe a pocket size sharpening stone to keep that edge on a blade. This is coming from a guy that will likely be carrying the largest knife in deer camp this year. Of course thicker and tougher game does demand a tougher knife but a mid-size knife similar to the folding Buck knives that are locking blades carried in a sheath on the belt that were popular with truckers in my youth are big enough to handle any game animal in the lower 48 in my opinion. We don't actually hunt with the knife so I don't know why they call them hunting knives.