When you find a hunting knife that you love, it becomes one of your favorite go-to pieces of gear, one that you might even instill with traits of an indispensable good luck charm. I have hunting knives that I've used for more than 40 years and they're just as good now as they were then. But the top 10 hunting knife brand manufacturers are continually trying to entice us away from these old favorites with excellent new designs and updated takes on traditional blades.
My tastes vary. Sometimes I'll opt for a no-nonsense hunting knife model that simply gets the job done — one for which I won't shed a tear if it gets dirty, scratched or lost. But I do appreciate a classier hunting knife too — one that offers more elegant and timeless form, as well as function. So, when I took a look at some of the most recent offerings from various manufacturers, I settled on a cross-section of the top 10 best hunting knives available over a wide price range.
There are more than 10 knives reviewed and listed because I grouped a couple of similar knives from the same maker to offer a few alternatives. Here they are, in no particular order:
ABOVE : The Victorinox Hunter Pro Wood is a beautiful, well-made folding hunting knife that is likely to see use across several generations.
When I think of Victorinox, normally their Swiss Army knives come to mind. But Victorinox also makes hunting knives. The folders in their Hunter Pro series are especially top notch and new this year is the Hunter Pro Wood. It is a rock-solid, large, single blade lockback with a 4- inch clip blade.
What makes this knife different from earlier models is its Swiss walnut grip. This is truly a beautiful knife the the hunter can appreciate, one that can be passed down - along with the hunting stories that go with it - from father to son to grandson, and will be a cherished token of outdoor traditions. The Hunter Pro Wood knife features a thumbhole on the blade for easy one-handed opening and was sharp out of the box.
Because it wasn't hunting season, unfortunately I couldn't try this out in typical review style by field-dressing a 10-pointer. But I did try this knife on several cutting chores, including carving fuzzsticks for fire-building and cutting down a beef roast and steaks for a stew to get a sense of how it would perform.
"THE (VICTORINOX HUNTER PRO WOOD) FEATURES A THUMBHOLE ON THE BLADE FOR EASY ONE-HANDED OPENING AND WAS SHARP OUT OF THE BOX."
While this wasn't a torture test, it did provide a good idea of the knife's ergonomics and blade performance, with the hand-filling grip allowing for good comfort and control. A well-executed olive-colored synthetic sheath is included. The suggested price of the Hunter Pro Wood knife is $104.99.
ABOVE : The Case Lightweight Orange Hunter is a useful, thin blade knife that's also economical.
I mentioned no-nonsense knives that work in this review; that is the essence of the Case Lightweight Orange Hunter, what is the basis of a great hunting knife. There are several blade patterns in this new series and I tested the Model 6213 Skinner. The knives in the series have relatively thin blades, which is fine with me.
I'm not going to chop down a tree and build furniture with my hunting knife. The thin blade on the Case Cutlery Lightweight Orange Hunter knife would be especially a plus when filleting out backstraps and rib meat. This hunting knife handles like a fillet knife and I found it to be the most appropriate of the knives tested here for extended game-processing/butchering sessions.
The best part about it is its no-slip rubbery grip, which I found to be hand-filling and comfortable. Utilizing bright orange prevents loss when setting it down in the field; there is no good reason for having a camo pattern on a hunting knife.
The skinner has an upswept 5-inch blade of stainless steel with a sabre concave grind. The quality of the nylon sheath was a bit of a disappointment, I expected better from Case. But considering the $69 suggested price tag on this model - much less in the real world - I would not let the sheath detract from what is otherwise a very functional knife.
ABOVE : The Case-Bose Wilfred Lockback Hunter is a limited-run knife for 2016 only that offers quality in a traditional design.
Each year since 1998, Case has collaborated with custom designer Tony Bose to introduce something special. For 2016, the Case-Bose knife is the Wilfred Lockback Hunter.
This folding hunting knife has a flat taper clip blade of 154CM steel, stainless steel bolsters and a specially milled interior scale. This will be a limited-run knife, depending on handle material so stocks are expected to sell out fast.
There will be 125 each made in abalone and Case's own bone stag, 200 in smooth ebony wood, and 275 each in brown jigged bone and chestnut jigged bone. The MSRP will be $439.99 to $699.99.
NOTE: LIMITED EDITION PRODUCT - CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE - SOLD OUT IN PRE-SALES
ABOVE : The CRKT Torreya is a folding hunter that offers some elegance along with its utility.
The CRKT Torreya folder hunting knife has an easy-to-operate liner lock to secure the blade safely.
Designed by Steve Jernigan, Columbia River Knife and Tool introduces the Torreya Folder hunting knife. It has a 3.6-inch drop point blade of 7Cr17MoV stainless steel with a flat grind that can handle most tasks asked of a hunting knife.
The pocket knife folder is a modern take on a classic design. The knife at a glance appears to be a knife of the old days, on closer inspection - it is clear that it has been created with some very nice modern finishing touches.
It has a liner lock mechanism and a resin-infused fiber handle that offers users a good grip. The Torreya comes with a belt sheath and an MSRP of $69.99.
ABOVE : The CRKT Mossback Hunter Fixed Drop Point is about perfect for most hunting chores with its 3.2-inch blade.
Another new offering from CRKT is the Mossback Hunter fixed blade designed by Tom Krein. It has a 3.2-inch drop-point blade of SK5, G10 handle and nylon sheath.
The suggested price of this knife is $69.99 - very affordable for a small, sharp handy fixed blade hunting knife.
This CRKT Mossback Hunter knife is about perfect for field-dressing deer and other medium to large size game with it's perfect handling size.
However, if you are looking for something a bit narrower for detail work, the new CRKT Mossback Bird and Trout for $59.99 is another handy knife to have afield - search our knives categories for further details.
Gerber has sold its line of Gator knives and tools for 25 years, all featuring a textured, rubbery grip.
But they've elevated the Gator name to a much higher level this year with the introduction of the Gator Premium Fixed Blade and the Gator Premium Folder Clip Point knives. These hunting knives are made in Gerber's Portland, Oregon factory and to my mind, are the best yet in the Gator series, and in our opinion a great all-rounder as a hunting, survival or utility knife.
The fixed blade features a 4-inch drop point blade of CPM-S30V steel. The nice touch of traditional full tang is wrapped with a rubberized glass-filled nylon, textured enough to ensure a secure grip without being abrasive to the hand.
The author believes the new Gerber Gator Premium Fixed Blade is the best knife Gerber has ever offered in this series. An equally well-made folder model is also available.
The quality of this fixed blade knife is excellent and feels substantial in the hand. In reviewing I found the grip to be exceptional, owing to not just its texture, but to its hand-filling, downturned shape as well. The Gerber Gator Premium Hunting knife has a polished steel bolster and pommel and rides comfortably in a black leather sheath.
Its suggested price is $146. The Gerber Gator Premium Folder Clip Point features a 3.6-inch blade, also of CPM-S30V. It features a lockback mechanism and the same grippy over-molded handle. It comes with a black leather belt sheath and a suggested price of $121. Gerber continue to rate in the top 10 knives every year.
ABOVE : The Ontario Robeson Heirloom Drop Point features an attractive wood grain handle of stabilized burl maple. A trailing point model is also available.
This year, the Ontario Knife Company is introducing its Robeson Heirloom fixed blade hunting knives in drop point and trailing point configurations.
Both measure about 9 inches overall with 4.2-inch blades of satin-finished D2 tool steel with a flat grind blade. The wood handles are of burl maple, stabilized to make them durable and feel natural in hand.
Each comes in a DeSantis Scandinavian-style leather pouch sheath. My guess is that these knives will live up to their names and are sure to be passed proudly from one generation of hunters to the next. The MSRP is $229.95.
ABOVE : The Boker Nessmi, with its 2.5- inch blade, is small in size but hugely useful.
The Boker Nessmi was designed by Jesper Voxnaes as a sort of mini Nessmuk knife in honor of 19th Century outdoorsman George W. Sears, who wrote under the pseudonym of "Nessmuk" and championed traveling light outdoors.
"THE NEW NESSMI IS... PERFECT FOR HUNTING, BUT SMALL ENOUGH FOR USE AS AN EVERYDAY CARRY BLADE."
The new Nessmi is a 51/8- inch fixed blade knife with a 2.5-inch blade of CPM-S30V steel perfect for hunting, but small enough for use as an everyday carry blade. It weighs a mere 3.1 ounces and comes with a comfortable finger indentation grip.
This is a very useful knife for it's size with a strong and very sharp blade. The grip scales are fashioned from green canvas Micarta and a brown leather sheath is included. The suggested price on the Boker Nessmi is $289.
You don't need a Bowie knife to field-dress a deer. Typically, the chore is more easily accomplished with a knife blade between a fixed and a folder is purely personal preference. Folders are easier to carry and/or conceal. Fixed blades are easier to clean and in my opinion, more rubust and functional for regular use. I favor a thin blade for game processing, but keep in mind that you might have to use your knife for other tasks, especially if your hunting trip becomes a survival scenario.
ABOVE : The Benchmade Crooked River Folder offers hunters an attractive wooden gripped clip blade knife with the company's dependable AXIS locking mechanism.
The Benchmade Crooked River Folder is simply a beautiful, well-made knife that offers pride of ownership as well as utility. It encompasses old world tradition of a wooden handle folder along with modern lines in the detail of the locking mechanism and pivot pin.
"THE BENCHMADE CROOKED RIVER FOLDER IS SIMPLY A BEAUTIFUL, WELL-MADE KNIFE THAT OFFERS PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP AS WELL AS UTILITY."
This hunting knife has a 4-inch clip-point blade of CPM-S30V steel, the Benchmade's brand includes their dependable AXIS lock aluminum bolsters and stabilized wood scales. The suggested price on the Benchmade Crooked River Folder is $210.
ABOVE : The Benchmade Nestucca combines the strength of a cleaver with the utility of an ulu. Compact in size yet exhibiting some major features.
Use it as a traditional meat cleaver or change your grip and use it as an ulu, with the finger hole allowing for different grips and blade control.
This is one versatile blade that can be used to fillet fish, butcher game and prepare meat for the table with its CPM-530V blade featuring a cutting edge of 4.41 inches.
The Benchmade Nestucca Cleaver is eye-catchingly unsusal and has an easy-to-spot orange G10 handle and comes with a brown leather sheath. It's MSRP is $145 and it is at the top of my Christmas wish list.
I like to travel light, but I always find room in my pack for a small knife sharpener that features ceramic rods or a fine stone that is great for touch-ups without removing too much steel from the blade.
Two of my favorites are the Victorinox Dual Knife Sharpener and the GATCO Triceps Ceramic Serration and Knife Sharpener.
The Victorinox compact hunting knife sharpener model is about the size of a ballpoint pen. Take the top off and there are two ceramic discs positioned so all you have to do is draw the sharpener across your blade.
Take off the bottom cover and there's an oval stone rod. Use the wider edges of the stone to sharpen plain edges or the narrow edges for serrations. Grooves in the stone allow for sharpening hooks. Its suggested price is $17.50 - very affordable insurance for your blades.
The GATCO Triceps Ceramic Sharpener (currently out-of-stock) is triangular in shape. There are flat portions on the rubber tip that allow you to hold the sharpener at the appropriate angle.
There are flat surfaces for plain edges, corners for serrations and grooves for hooks. This sharpener sells for a suggested $9.99.
While this may be my personal opinion on what I would class the TOP 10 HUNTING KNIVES, opinions may change between individuals depending on your particular needs. Always consider the "purpose" of the knife, it's practicality to accomplish a given task, storage and maintenance of the given blade. Consider you knife purchase as an investment in your hunting future. What cannot be denied is the quality and reputation of these top 10 hunting knives and their manufacturers reputation.