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Hunting knives: what to look for in different game species

I have been thinking about hunting knives a lot lately. Since I haven't killed a game animal, this has been a purely academic exercise for me so far.

Where I grew up, the total hunting focus was on deer. My personal hunting interest lies in Javelina and Elk as the primary two.

What difference in knife form do you see in a knife that is targeted specifically at small pigs vs. deer sized game vs. Elk and other large species?

A recurrent theme seems to be some form of game hatchet or saw and a mid sized traditional hunting knife for large animals. Does this hold true for smaller animals? Does a large single knife work well or is there too much of a compromise to work very well?

With regards to steel selection, are the things I see everyday in normal kitchen and general utility use applicable out in the field when used on game animals? I have a strong perference in general for A-2 and BG-42 for most applications. D-2 seems to be popular and I wonder how Talonite holds up as a hunting knife material.

Finally, what makers and models come highly recommended (both custom and factory).

Thanks and Stay Sharp,


Oct 4, 1998
I have had the wonderful opportunity to hunt and take most of the large game and nearly all of the small game on North America (musk ox, bison, a couple of the mountain sheep being the exceptions).

My belief on hunting knives is that small, easily handled, very sharp blades are a MUST! I have used a Bob Dozier Yukon Pro Skinner to field dress, skin, and help process game as diverse as ruffed grouse, squirrel and duck, to moose, elk, and brown bear. This knife just plain and simple works! It stays sharp a long, long, long time (easily through 4-5 whitetailed deer or two very large elk). It is easy to resharpen. It has just about the perfect shape and balance (IMHO). And, it costs less than almost all of the other customs you'll find.

It is ground from D2, which seemingly from my expreience works extremely well for such purposes. A small hatchet or hammer or even a stone or log can be used against the spine of the blade to help break briskets and pelvic bones. If so desired, a small hatchet or game saw could also be used (I like the Browning folding pack saw).

I believe from my own personal experience that a larger knife would not work nearly as well (especially if the animal is a trophy you wish to have mounted).

My $0.02 worth.

AJ, that knife is not listed on his web site at

Is it comparable to one of those?


When you arrive at the fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra

[This message has been edited by Hoodoo (edited 04 December 1999).]
Once you have your winter meat on the ground the REAL WORK begins. A small animal like the javelina is light enough to pack after field dressing. With a large deer or elk you'll need to break them down to packable pieces. The greater the distance to your truck or pack horses the more important it is to leave excess weight (bone,hide,etc.) in the field.
A hunting knife or field dressing combination set must perform these tasks as efficiently as possible or it's not worth packing. A large knife is heavier, more difficult to control and places a much greater load on your wrist. A shorter blade transfers more of the load to your forearm, result, less wrist fatigue.
When it comes to steel selection D-2 has proven itself for edge retention and durability.

P.J. Turner Knife Mfg, Inc.
Uluchet, What's an Uluchet? Find out at...

Hoodoo - got my Dozier Yukon Pro Skinner from A.G. Russell quite a while back. He still has them in stock. Hope this helps.



[This message has been edited by AJ (edited 05 December 1999).]

[This message has been edited by AJ (edited 05 December 1999).]
Hoodoo-99% of my collection are hunting knives. I have recently began collecting pairs of specific makers. From Bob Dozier, I have the Professional Skinner and the Straight Hunter. Both D2, both kydex sheaths. Great knives, great prices, and they perform wonderfully. I recently picked up a little Small Game from Neil Blackwood, also in D2, which will be my bird, fish, and small game blade. On the way is a Lynn Griffith Tracker (formerly Large Hunter) which looks like it will be my primary whitetail knife. While I am happy with the performance of the Dozier's on deer, I think Lynn's slimmer blade profile will be even more useful in-hand. I will probably carry both the Dozier Pro Skinner and the Griffith Tracker next deer season, and am confident that this pair will handle anything I want to do the the animal. Neil's knife will accompany me on all non-deer hunts. If you decide on a Dozier, you should consider posting on the Knives Wanted forum-I got both of mine there for great prices and fast shipping. Good luck, and let us know what you decide on.
I think a Dozier will be my next fixed blade. They look good. But I have to take a knife buying hiatus for a little while at least. I've bought more knives in the past month than carter's got little liver pills (boy does that phrase show my age or what!). I just ordered a Marble Woodcraft with a micarta handle directly from Marble and that will be my last purchase until after the New Year (yeah, right).

Thanks for all the suggestions. I found the Yukon Skinner at A.G. Russel. Seems like he sells a really fine product for a good price.


When you arrive at the fork in the road, take it.
Yogi Berra
Since I now live in Colorado finding the right knife for elk has been a recent focus of my knife hunting. When you go for elk you generally need to have a couple tools, a sharp knife and a bone cutter of some sort. (I also got a Cabella's game cart). A friend of mine recently quartered an elk with nothing but a Mauser folding hunting knife with sharp edge and saw, but he sure doesn't want to do it again.

My current elk knife is a Buck Master Series Vanguard with BG-42 blade. It has a well shaped drop-point blade, nice handle, and small finger guard. I don't like the Doziers because they lack the finger guard. When my hand is slippery with blood and I'm choking up on the blade with the knife inverted, I insist on a small guard.

The trouble with this knife is that it is a little large for small game. I wish the point were smaller. I'm working on a custom design to have Mike Irie make out of BG-42 for me (I prefer BG-42 to D-2 for ease of sharpening). As I was playing around with various knives that I own I found it was hard to beat the utility of one of my cheapest knives, a Frosts of Sweden "Swedish Army Knife" that only costs $6.60 from Blowoutknives.com.


The clip point and narrower blade makes this a good design for large or small game while the handle just plain works. The steel is something like Sandvic 12C27 which takes a razor edge, but is nowhere near as tough as D2. My custom knife will borrow a lot from this design.

For splitting game I prefer a small hatchet. I've got a Normark Skinning Axe for the purpose. My son carries a small Gerber back paxe.



Dozier makes some smaller knives as well... the Canoe Knife and the Slim Outdoorsman come to mind. He will also custom grind a knife to your specifications (not sure if he'll use BG42, but otherwise you can name it). Bob is a super guy, and awesome just to talk with about knives. His knives are built to use, and use hard, and he'll go out of his way to make sure you're happy with his work.

Give him a call.

As long as you are cleaning 4-legged mammals the basic gutting processes are similar for rabbits up to elk. You need to open the abdominal cavity without cutting into the digestive tract. You need to cut around the anus to detach the intestines without cutting through them. You need to cut around the diaphragm and remove heart and lungs. You need to split ribs and the pelvis. For much of this you are better off with a somewhat short and narrow blade. You need a handle that gives you a secure grip without being clumsy. You need to get around things you are cutting. You are likely to use the blade inverted for opening the abdominal cavity or use a gutting hook on the blade.

A blade to do everything would be about 4 inches. It would be something like a straight boning knife in shape. As your game gets smaller a smaller knife would be handy down to about 2.75 inches long for rabbits. For me it is very important to have the knife razor sharp. I want elastic tissues to part with just a light touch. AUS-8 or BG-42 are good.

you may hate me for this, but I know a lot of people who prefer a good old fashioned stock knife.Then they sharpen it like this:
Clip blade- razor sharp normal edge thickness. good for general utility while hunting and making cuts while skinning.
Sheepsfoot blade- Razor sharp normal edge thickness. Point is great for starting cuts.
Spey blade- Razor sharp, leave edge somewhat wedge shaped.Go back and roughen the outer 1/3 with a coarse stone just enough to give it bite.This is the main skinning blade. It can be used to make cuts and is great for pushing the hide away.I know everyone hates a knife doesn't hqve a locking blade, I prefer a lock knife too. Just take 2 knives with you. A strong fixed blade or larger folding knife would be great for larger camp chores and then you still have a small knife for detail work.Have fun hunting.

Fix it right the first time, use Baling Wire !
Although I have some others I think that one of the better functioning knives that I have is a 4in carbon steel Mora knife, a $5 model with a funky plastic handle and sheath, and one with an ugly but useful single guard that doesn't seem to get in the way.