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How to choose the best knife

Top five choices for the best deer hunting knife

Top five choices for the best deer hunting knife

You walk up on the fallen deer, thankful for the successful shot and the experience. Then it’s time to get busy. How the meat will taste depends on how fast the animal can be skinned and gutted. Let’s hope you have a good knife. Here’s how to choose one

by Leon Pantenburg

I dressed out my first deer with a double-bladed Buck folder, and for the next few years, that was the knife I carried on most of my hunts. I lived in the southeast, and hunted deciduous forests and swamps exclusively. Then I moved to Idaho, and my knife needs changed.

The Berkey Sport Bottle fit in well with the rest of my survival gear.

Your hunting knife should be part of  a well thought out daypack survival system.

When choosing your knife, one consideration might be where you hunt. In the Mississippi deer camps, a hunter was never very far from other hunters. Wilderness survival was not a consideration, and if your knife failed, you’d borrow one  and finish the field dressing job.

In the backcountry hunting out west, you better have a good survival knife, your ten essentials and everything you need to handle a big game carcass. If you’re miles from a road, there is not a chance of finding someone to loan a knife!

The best survival/hunting/all-around etc knife is a topic for endless discussion around campfires, and I’m sure every deer hunter has a favorite.

Here are some knives I have used and recommend.

Cold Steel SRK: My SRK (acronym stands for Survival Rescue Knife) and I go back to 1990, when I moved west and started backcountry deer and elk hunting. Because of the weight factor, I needed a survival knife that was also an effective hunting knife. The SRK was a superb choice with a six-inch blade and a non-slip Kraton handle, the knife did everything I ever needed. The knife was so effective, two of my elk hunting buddies bought SRKs. I loaned out my SRK at deer camps, and it got used a lot. It has dressed out at least 50 deer and been used on several elk. I’m not looking for a replacement.

The Cold Steel SRK (top) and Master Hunter are both good choices for a survival/hunting knife.

The Cold Steel SRK (top) and Master Hunter are both good choices for a survival/hunting knife.

Cold Steel Master Hunter: As good as the SRK is, the Master Hunter could well be the best mid-range hunting knife on the market, IMHO. It has a four-inch, drop-point blade, the same Kraton non-slip handle as the SRK  and a very nice, safe sheath. The knife is lightweight, and handles well. Read the review.

Buck 110 Folder: This famous Buck started the folding hunting knife craze in the 60s, and was a standard at the deer camps in Mississippi. At the camp, we were seldom far away from camp or a road, and a survival knife was not necessary. In fact, most of the hunters took their Buck and a water bottle and that was all the survival gear they thought about.

buck 110

The Buck 110 is the folding hunting knife standard.

Friends of mine have used their 110s for at least 30 years, and they don’t see the need for a different hunting knife. It’s hard to argue with their success.


My Jim Grenfell tomahawk and C.T. Fischer Mora provide me with a lot of enjoyment..

My Jim Grenfell tomahawk and C.T. Fischer four-inch Bushcraft knife provide me with a lot of enjoyment.

C.T. Fisher four inch Bushcraft: This custom full tang knife is made in Elk City, Idaho by knifemaker C.T. Fischer, and is his interpretation of the Scandi-ground bushcraft knife. Made from resilient nickel-alloy saw steel,  the end result is a light-weight, strong, dependable tool that takes a super-sharp edge. Its sturdy handle construction gives peace of mind when depending on the knife to perform strenuous survival tasks that might endanger the more traditional hidden-tang knives.

I like the fact that the knife holds an edge for a really long time, and the custom handle fits my hand like it was made for it. I own three C.T. Fischer custom knives, and consider it money well-spent.

Mora 860; A few years back, Troop 18 bought 40 Mora 860 knives for the scouts. The idea was to get a reliable rigid blade knife the boys could use that was safe and held an edge well. When the box of knives arrived at the meeting, the kids had first choice, then the adults were allowed to buy any leftovers. We could have sold another 25.

My Mora 860 has had regular use since I got it a few years back. It's really hard to improve on the Mora style of knife for all-around use.

My Mora 860 has had regular use since I got it a few years back. It’s really hard to improve on the Mora style of knife for all-around use.

The Moras worked so well at camp, they ended up going on several deer and elk hunts. One of my fellow assistant scoutmasters liked his Mora so much he ended up dressing out two deer and an elk with it. He claims the knife retained its edge through all this work.

Any of these knives mentioned will serve the successful deer hunter well. I carry all of them, depending on my mood and where I might be hunting.  When it comes to efficiency, there isn’t a nichol’s worth of difference in any of them.

So which will work best for you?  Beats me. The perfect, do-it-all hunting knife doesn’t exist.

As always, find the knife you like best, keep it sharp and practice safe knife-handling techniques.

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1 Comment

  1. Leon

    02/07/2014 at 13:52

    Thanks for reading!

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How to choose the best knife

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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