Having the right tool for the job is essential. It’s what we’re all about at Kent of Inglewood. Few situations require good tools more than hunting. If you’re kilometres deep in the woods, tracking an animal, often in the freezing cold, you want to be well equipped.
The hunting process doesn’t stop once you pull the trigger. After that moment, you’re faced with the equally arduous task of getting your bounty back to your vehicle, taking it home, and breaking it down into edible parts while respecting the creature that’s feeding you. Making the most of an animal requires sharp, reliable knives. They’re far safer and make the job enjoyable. The opposite is also very true of dull knives.
What to Look for in a Good Hunting Knife
A critical consideration for hunting & butchering knives is the type of steel used. Harder steels get sharper and stay that way longer but don’t fare well when they run into bone. Soft steels are rugged but don’t hold their edge as well. High carbon steel takes a blazingly sharp edge that often lasts longer but can rust, while stainless steel might not cut with quite the same silky feel but are much easier to maintain. There’s no right or wrong answer, but consider how hard you are on your knives, your preferred level of maintenance, and the task at hand. A razor-sharp carbon steel blade may be ideal for delicate skinning work, while a more robust hunting knife can handle large jobs and is great for working around bones.
In general, our knives are made from harder steel types, but they exist on a spectrum from somewhat hard to very hard. Japanese knives tend to be the hardest, Scandinavian are somewhere in the middle, and blades from Grohmann in Canada are a bit softer. Those made by American brands like Boker, Kershaw, and CRKT can be all over the map.
Another marker of a good hunting knife is a quality sheath that can be mounted on your belt.
Size and shape are also significant but come down to personal preference. I’m going to break down my personal favourite styles and a few others that hunters love. With this in mind, you should be able to decide which shapes are essential for you to have on your hunting adventures!
The Best Multipurpose Hunting Knives
A great way to get started is with a knife that can handle a little of everything. These guys can do your basic butchery, are decent at skinning, and excel at other outdoor tasks such as cutting kindling and bushcraft.
The Helle Utvaer is by far the most popular multipurpose outdoor knife, beloved by our warehouse manager Tiffany. The longer, deeper blade can handle larger tasks, while the swept-up tip is perfect for delicate jobs and skinning without piercing the hide. The Scandinavian-style edge and Swedish steel make it razor-sharp but very rugged. The Temagami is another excellent choice from Helle.
The Kershaw Camp 5 is an excellent budget option, extremely durable with very hard steel. Fantastic bang for your buck, especially if you like a sleek black look. It’s functionally similar to the Utvaer, but the Kydex sheath can be mounted on your belt or backpack strap in various ways.
It’s necessary to give an honourable mention to Mora, who makes highly affordable outdoor knives that will hold up shockingly well for their price. Mora are very popular among budget-conscious hunters and bushcrafters alike, and honestly, I get it! While I’m all about having the best gear, hunting and camping can be expensive hobbies, and it doesn’t hurt to start with something inexpensive yet reliable.
What’s the Best Skinning Knife?
Next up are skinning knives. These guys are more precision blades, still useful for other jobs but purpose-built for removing and preserving animal hides.
Out of Pictou, Nova Scotia, Grohmann is a Canadian company known for making some of the best hunting and skinning knives. When many hunters visit us and ask for a skinning blade, they’re picturing a short curved blade like the Grohmann flat grind skinner. You can use this stubby blade for larger sweeping cuts or finicky caping around the head and feet of an animal. The Grohmann short blade skinner features even more of a sweeping edge ideal for skinning larger game and even processing meat afterwards. Their classic #1 Russel knife is also top-rated among old-school Canadian hunters. While the shape may seem unusual, it’s purpose-built for skinning and features a lanyard for extra-secure grip.
Helle makes some excellent skinning knives as well, with a variety of blade styles. The Wabakimi is a short survival knife that excels at skinning, and the Mandra has the pronounced curve that many hunters desire. If you’ve got monster hands like me, you might prefer the chunky handle of the Nying, which doubles as a handy wood-carving blade.
The curve of the Mora Eldris makes it a great skinning knife, and the handle can be easily extended using its sheath!
What Knife Should I use for Filetting Fish & Butchery?
The third category is a broad one, boning and fillet knives. The blades used to take apart fish and break down livestock in butcher shops share some similarities. Both are usually long, slender blades with a bit of flex to them, and you can often find one knife that handles both tasks with ease.
My personal favourite is the Helle Steinbit. I loooove this knife. I bought it initially as a boning knife to break down pigs, and it handles traditional butchery tasks incredibly well. I don’t love super bendy knives, so the very slight flexibility of this knife is just enough for tricky jobs like tunnel-boning and working around shoulder blades. It’s also fantastic for fish! I primarily catch Pike, and the rigid blade is perfect for getting into slippery leather-like skin, but it also handles Salmon and trout with ease.
If you want something more flexible, the Opinel folding fillet knife is a real treat. It won’t hold an edge as long, but it’s also very inexpensive and folds away for easy storage in your tackle box! Heading in the other direction, you have Grohmann Trout & Bird. The guy is broader and more rigid, but Johnny in our Calgary shop swears by its curved edge for taking down fish and game birds.
The Grohmann Trout & Bird is a tad unorthodox, but fantastic for all kinds of butchery.
A few of our other favourites include the Boker Optima Thuja, which features a removable blade that can be swapped for different shapes (it comes with a bowie-style blade, but you can also grab a clip point or a blade with a gut hook). Our buddy Chris Green, a local blacksmith, also makes some boujee blades that stand up to abuse very well. Really, anything from Helle, Boker, Grohmann, or Mora should do the trick for you. Finding the right knife always comes down to personal preference, so I encourage you to visit us in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa or Vancouver to handle some blades, or chat with our staff online if you’d like some guidance. We’re always happy to help and share our knowledge. Happy hunting!