Do you love to hunt deer? I do too. As avid deer hunters, we spend countless hours preparing our bows or rifles so we’re ready to make the shot when it counts. We try different ammos and arrows, we sight in our weapons and we spend a good amount of time target shooting to make sure everything’s perfect. If everything goes right, we get the chance to take the shot.
You took the shot and the deer is down, so now what? What is the most important tool you have on your body at this point? Your knife. I believe that selecting the right knife to take with you deer hunting is just as important as weapon selection and hunting strategy. Deer season is rapidly approaching, so I decided to do a little research on the best deer hunting knives available today. After hours of research, I narrowed my list down to five of the best performing knives for deer hunting. First, I’ll review the most important considerations for selecting a good deer hunting knife, and then we’ll go over my final five knives, with a short review of each one of them. Let’s get started:
How To Choose The Best Deer Hunting Knife
Any time you select a new knife, the first thing you should look at is the blade material. There are several varieties of stainless steel and high carbon steels that can be sharpened easily and will retain that sharpness for a good period of time. If you’re unsure of the properties of a metal, do a quick internet search to find out the major qualities, such as hardness, rust resistance, etc. Make sure your new deer hunting knife is made from quality metal, so it will perform how you need it to when you need it to. Blade material is the most important concern when knife shopping.
The next item to consider when looking for a good deer hunting knife is blade shape. Look for a blade with a straight back and a drop point. The straight back allows you to cut with precision, and the drop point allows you to cut in smaller, more critical areas when needed. Many hunters prefer a blade with a gut hook on top, which I must admit is a nice feature to have for field dressing. In addition to shape, I recommend buying fixed blade knives for deer hunting, but folders are alright if they lock.
Another important consideration for your new knife is the length of the blade. Remember how you plan on using the knife and where you need to use it. Your deer hunting knife must be able to field dress your deer at a minimum, and skin and quarter it if necessary. When you field dress a deer, any knife with a blade length longer than 6 inches can be difficult to use inside the body cavity. For this reason, I recommend a knife with a blade length around 4 inches. Longer or shorter is fine, it’s a matter of personal preference and whatever makes you most comfortable. Just remember that your 14 inch bowie knife may look cool, but it’s pretty useless when you need to gut a deer.
Handle Material and Guard
This is an area that most people tend to overlook when they shop for a new knife. Most of us concentrate on the blade and then take whatever handle material the knife company puts on it. This can be a dangerous mistake. When you field dress a deer, blood gets all over your hands and things get really slippery. Look for a handle material that is textured, so your hand doesn’t slip, and a hand guard is the best way to keep your hand from sliding forward onto the blade. Avoid smooth wood handles and knives without guards, because you will get cut!
Whenever you buy a fixed-blade knife or a large folding knife, make sure that it comes with a sheath. A sheath allows you to put your knife on your belt, where it can be easily reached and used. You don’t want to have to search through your pack for your knife when it should be right on your hip! Of course you want a leather sheath, but some knives come with sheaths made from different materials like nylon fabric. Cheaper materials will work fine in the short term, and the main thing is that you have a sheath to use your new knife safely. You can always have a leatherworker make you a nice sheath for your knife down the road.
Recommended Best Deer Hunting Knife Reviews
Now that we know what items to look for when shopping for the best deer hunting knife, here are my top five knives with brief reviews:
#1 Frontiersman Fixed Blade Knife
This fixed blade knife from Buck Knives has a classic design that’s very functional as well.
The Frontiersman is crafted from 420HC (high carbon) stainless steel that is a higher hardness than regular 420 stainless steel. This material retains edge shape and sharpness longer than other materials, so it’s ideal for a hunting knife.
Buck Knives uses this material extensively for its premium knives for corrosion resistance, strength, and edge retention.
Buck gave the Frontiersman a 6 ¼” blade that has a straight back and a drop point. This bowie-style blade has a satin finish that looks nice and should be easy to clean. This is a full-tang knife for strength and durability. The length of this blade could be a little troublesome for gutting, but this is a very popular style of hunting knife.
Handle and Guard
The handle material on the Frontiersman is black micarta, an extremely tough material that’s easy to clean. The hand guard, pins, and pommel are all polished aluminum, so they look really good against the black micarta handle material. This is a great-looking and functional knife.
If you buy the Frontiersman from Buck, you won’t be disappointed in the sheath you get with it. It’s made from high-quality black genuine leather, and features a large metal snap to hold the knife firmly in place. It has heavy v-stitching and rivets in the corners, so it’s not going to fall apart. This is a quality sheath to go with a quality knife.
Great materials, looks, and sheath combined with Buck’s Forever Warranty make this knife that’s made right here in the U.S.A. a good value that will last a lifetime.
#2 Steep Country Hunter Fixed Blade Knife
This hunting knife from industry leader Benchmade features a simple design and looks like a skinning machine!
The Steep Country Hunter has a drop point blade that’s 3 ½” long. It has a straight back that features grooves for your thumb or forefinger to achieve more precise control when skinning.
This is a full-tang knife with a plain edge and satin finish, which looks great.
The metal Benchmade uses for this knife is a little exotic. It’s made from CPM S30V, which is a 1.45% carbon content stainless steel that is widely recognized as a superior choice for knife making. This metal is usually reserved for surgical equipment and spaceship parts, but when you buy a Benchmade, you always get the best! If you want a sharper, tougher knife, this is the one for you.
Handle and Guard
This knife doesn’t have a traditional metal hand/finger guard. Instead, Benchmade shaped the handle into a drastic curve to fit your forefinger which should prevent your hand from slipping forward. The handle material is Zytel, a durable polymer that can be formed and textured to provide a positive grip. You don’t have to worry about your hand slipping with the Steep Country Hunter.
The sheath that comes with this high-quality knife is made from Kydex. Kydex is a leather alternative that is waterproof, scratchproof, and holds its shape very well. The sheath has a large metal snap to hold the knife in place, and it has two bolts and a rivet to keep it all together. This is a lightweight yet durable sheath that matches this high-tech knife perfectly.
Made in the U.S.A., Lifetime Warranty, and Benchmade’s free lifetime sharpening make this a knife that has everything deer hunters look for in a knife.
#3 Puma Skinner Stag Handle Hunting Knife
The Skinner from Puma is a great knife that you might want to carry with you all year long. This is a knife from a brand that’s been around since 1769!
This knife is a little different from the others included here in that it has a trailing point blade shape.
Trailing point knives are good for slicing and skinning with their large curved cutting areas, so they work well for deer. The Skinner has a 4.7 inch blade, and an overall length of 9.4 inches. It’s a full-tang knife for maximum strength as well.
To construct The Skinner, Puma chose to use 440C stainless steel. This metal is a premium type of stainless steel perfect for use in knife making because of its high resistance to corrosion and ability to be sharpened to razor sharp perfection! You’ll love how easy it is to sharpen this knife, and how long it manages to hold an edge.
The belt sheath you get with The Skinner is made from top-grain leather that has been tanned and finished. This leather not only looks great, it’s already prepared to last you over the long haul! This is a great quality sheath to match a great quality knife.
The handle here is made from two scales of genuine stag that has dropped naturally, so no deer were harmed in the making of your new knife. A polished brass guard will protect your fingers, and two brass pins hold the handle in place. One feature you might like on this knife is the thumb indent on the top of the blade with grooves to allow for more precise control.
Handmade with the best materials and a lifetime warranty make this knife from Puma a great choice for many hunters.
#4 Custom Damascus Handmade Hunting Knife
This little hunting knife from Perkin Knives has the quality of knives that usually cost several hundred dollars more.
The metal used to make this knife is simply a work of art. When they forged this blade, they took 1095 and 15N25 steel and folded and welded them together until they reached 200 layers!
That’s how they make Damascus steel, which has the different layers running through it like the grains in wood. When you realize how much work went into just forging this blade, I think you’ll be surprised at the price. Damascus blades have long been prized for their beauty, strength, and sharpness.
This beautiful and unique Damascus blade is a drop point shape, full-tang, and the blade itself is 4 inches long. Overall length of this knife is 8 ¼ inches. This blade is perfectly sized and shaped for field dressing a deer, or even quartering it if you need to.
Handle and Guard
The handle scales on this knife are beautiful burlwood, stained a dark mahogany and lacquered to a beautiful shine. Beautiful brass mosaic pins hold everything together, and a nice polished brass guard is there for your protection. Every part of this knife reflects the quality and care of making it by hand.
Perkin didn’t let up when it came time to craft a sheath to go with this hunting knife. The included sheath is top-grain leather with double rows of heavy stitching and a sturdy leather belt loop to hold it on. The Perkin logo is embossed on the front, and the leather is beautifully formed to fit your knife like a glove. The leather is already tanned and treated so you don’t have to do it!
For the quality of materials and amount of work that went into making this knife and sheath, you’re really not going to believe the price they’re asking for it.
#5 Buck Zipper Fixed Blade Knife
The Buck Zipper is an awesome fixed blade knife from Buck Knives made with field dressing a deer in mind.
This knife has a modified drop point shaped blade, with a guthook on the backside a little ways back from the tip. If you haven’t tried one before, you’ll love how easy it is to use a guthook that really works to open up your deer.
This is a full-tang knife with a 4 ⅛ inch blade and overall length of 8 ½ inches. This blade length and style is the same as my own favorite skinner.
The Buck Zipper is made from Buck’s famous 420HC stainless steel so it retains edge shape and sharpness longer than lower carbon varieties. Buck loves this material’s retention, strength, and corrosion resistance. You’ll love that it’s strong, stays sharp, and it’s easy to clean.
For the handle material on the Buck Zipper, Buck chose to go with a textured rubber. From my personal experience, I’ve found that this style of handle gives you excellent grip when gutting, but can be pretty difficult to clean afterwards. The polished brass pommel and guard accent this knife very nicely.
When it came to the sheath for the Buck Zipper, Buck Knives did a bit of a stumble. This sheath is “Heavy Duty” Nylon, with a plastic snap to hold in the knife. I personally don’t care for it, and would get something else. If this doesn’t bother you, you’re still getting a great knife!
Don’t forget that Buck Knives are made in the U.S.A. and come with a Forever Lifetime Warranty. This is another great knife at a reasonable price.
Okay fellow deer hunters, here is the hard part. I always like to pick a winner when I research a product, and this is the toughest choice I’ve had so far. Seriously, all five of these knives are great quality and will work well for you, but there can be only one. The winner is the Custom Damascus Handmade Hunting Knife made by Perkin Knives. Hours of intense labor went into making this superior quality and wonderfully functional hunting knife, and you’re never going to believe how low the price is for Damascus steel. If you want an awesome knife to take deer hunting for the rest of your life, the Custom Damascus from Perkin is the best value you’ll find.