The Size of the Knife

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Often I see people going hunting for the first time with the new gun, the new camo, binoculars, range finder etc... and a knife big enough that it looks like it should have been used in the final fight at the Alamo instead of a knife for cleaning freshly harvested game. 

In the world of knives the biggest does not mean the best. This was pointed out to me by an elderly man at the sporting good store the other day and I thought it was interesting so I decided to share it.

He said "You can tell what kind of a hunter someone is by the size of the knife. If looks like it's from a Rambo film, they most likey have never cleaned a deer and most likely know nothing about hunting!" He then asked me what I used? I let him know I had a short drop point knife and razor blade in my back tag. Thats when he replied "Your father must have taught you that because you're too young to know that on your own!!" He was correct but there is much truth to that statement. Rookie hunters often make mistakes long before they make it to the woods with over spending on fancy equipment and items that aren't field tested. Rifles that are far too large of a caliber, Bulky Equipment and the Machete instead of a  good hunting knife.


Anishinabi's picture

Knives for hunting

I carry a big Randall 14 Fighting Knife when I am hiking in the woods, along with a big .45 Colt pistol down in the Chiricahua Mts near Mexico.  But when I am HUNTING, I like to carry a more practical blade.  The Nessmuk design knife  is stout, sharp and short, with a slightly longer handle at a slightly oblique angle from the blade.  It makes gutting a deer easier than knives with wide hilts and straight pointy blades.  I used one last year on a mule deer and it held edge well for the whole job and was extremely maneuverable with your hand inside a deer body cavity.  

Another blade I love is the old Russell designed Grohmann Canadian knife, which is just about perfect in every way for hunting.  They are quite pricey now.  Cold Steel makes a very inexpensive version of this knife (under $20), which is a bit light in the handle but the blade quality on all Cold Steel knives is excellent.  The Canadian may be a bit better than the Nessmuk as it has a more pointed blade which makes it easier to start an incision in a deer or elk's tough hide, but retains a similar blade angle. 

Having a couple of knives with you is good practice, so you don't have to stop and resharpen your knife when it gets bloody and messy.  I don't favor Bowie style and drop point blades even if shorter because they tend to make it difficult to avoid puncturing the organs or grazing  the red meat inside the carcass. 

I also like to bring my Granfors Bruks small forest axe along.  Dressing is easier if you chop off the lower legs and associated scent glands and toss them far from your dressing spot to avoid tainting the meat.  I tried small saws and they are a waste of time.  For deer those coated gambrel hangers sure are nice for hoisting your buck by his own upper legs.  I leave the gambrel hanger in until I get it back for processing to make it easier handle the carcass.

Biggest problem I have had over the years is carrying too much gear, and often too much technology that I never end up using.


trapperjohn's picture

Different strokes fer different folks

 Personally,I never need a bigger blade than a small pocket knife[3-4 inch blade] for field dressing most anything. For butchering,I prefer an Old Hickory kitchen knife. In the woods I Do carry an old sheffield machete for briars,etc. Thanks for reading. by the way,if anyone wants they can go to my website[] and mebbe see some interesting scribbling. One thing, you will find no offensive stuff there,as I want to be able to pass on info to the younger generation. there is also a guestbook you can feel free to leave a comment on.

WonderMonkey's picture

I have a few knives.  I carry

I have a few knives.  I carry a fixed blade knife as a worker and it has been a hammer, a digger, a pry-bar, etc.  My folder is used to field dress and I have a nice razor knife (Havalon) to butcher later.  A person that walks by me may just see the fixed blade hanging off my hip and assume "rookie" or "city boy" and not realize that it's actually just another tool that I carry.

ElkGuideGregory's picture

Well I agree and disagree.

Well I agree and disagree. Agree that you shouldn't field dress any animal with a bowie knife. Disagree that a small knife is better. If I was to live in the woods the rest of my life and could only choose one knife to take with me, it would be the buck 119. It has a great edge on it and with a lansky you can even improve your edge when it dulls. Running a knife threw a elk hide dulls it fast and the 119 has proven for me and my co workers for many years and many bulls. Its length is perfect for going around the anus allowing me to free the anal cavity from the the meat almost completely. With a deer it is a cinch to do this step with a buck 119. Learn how to use a large knife and you will fall in love with it. Just my 2 cents.

Will_Hunt4Food's picture

Knife Size

I must admit that I don't use my knife for anything larger than whitetail and when I'm preparing I often have things on my 4 wheeler like a saw and hatchet but I have never been in need of a trenching tool or larger knife for anything in my 20 years of hunting


WesternHunter's picture

I have one

I have a Buck 119 that I bought years ago and really like it alot.  Problem is I don't really know why I bought it because it mostly sits in my gunsafe untouched most of the time.  I just rarely find a need for such a large knife for my outdoor purposes.  I find that a well designed blade between 3 inches and about 4 inches to be plenty capable of handling about 90% of all my outdoor cutting tasks, the other 10% is the bigger stuff I save for the axe and folding saw.  If I was to live in the woods for an extended period of time and could only take one knife and one other cutting tool I'd take my Ontario RAT-3 knife with me along with a good Michigan pattern axe that I own. 

But in real life on all my outdoor camping and hunting trips, my Leatherman Wave, Buck folder, along with the trusty Estwing (model 24A) hatchet that I've owned since I was a kid comes along. As far as my Estwing hatchet goes, sometimes I use it, but sometimes I don't require it, it comes along regardless. One knife I'm really loving a lot, and one that may replace my Buck 110 as a field dressing knife is the newer Buck 113 Ranger Skinner knife.  It has a very well designed drop-point blade and slim handle, overall very well balanced and it just fits my hand nicely, very comfortable to use, and sized just right for a biggame field dressing knife.

WesternHunter's picture

over equipped and underskilled

Over equipped and terribly underskilled is how one oldtimer put it to me about my generation.  It is also my obseravtion too of most rookies venturing out on their first few hunts.  In fact I've seen some moderately experienced hunters fall victim to the geardo craze of today.  Not only do you NOT need a large knife to field dress game, but many hunters can also do with much smaller rifle scopes with far less magnification too. 

Too many armchair bushcraft/ourdoors types these days have gotten onto this false belief that you need a knife that can split wood, chop trees, dig trenches, or use as a prybar.  What a crock of @#$%.  Truth is, all your knife has to do cut things that a knife was intended to cut. Nothing beats a well designed 3 inch to 3.75 inch drop-point blade or clip-point blade for nearly all outdoor cutting tasks.  I can fully quarter and debone a large bull elk with just one sharp 3.25 inch bladed drop-point.  I also like to bring along a small fillet knife as an extra tool because I think flexible blades are better at removing more meat off the bone from certain areas of a carcass.  Overall I think hunters today could do much more with far less than they carry in the field if they would just take the time to learn properly.

WonderMonkey's picture

Experience has shown me that

Experience has shown me that when I am out in the woods I have taken great advantage of something that can be a hammer, a prybar, small limb chopper, digger, etc.  If I leave it at home I am under prepared. I hunt, camp, fish, etc. and really appreciate having something on my hip that can serve many needs.


A great tool to have


lord jim's picture

got it right man, how about

got it right man, how about McMillan hunting knife?