what's the toughest critter you dress with your knife?

Aug 15, 1999
Thought I might generate a little conversation about this topic.

I've dressed a lot of different critters with my knives, mostly Missouri stuff. The two toughest animals in Missouri are the turtles and the wild turkeys.

A lot of us skin the turkeys, and due to the fact they're so dusty and dirty, skinning them really tests the blades. A lot of good factory folders and straight knives are good for one or two birds. Good handmades of 154cm or ats34 will do more, and still pop hair, altho not as good as freshly sharpened.

Deer down here are not too bad, my Gordon DeFreese (Gordon Knives) has done 5 deer, and still scary sharp.

My Cold Steel Master Hunter second does 3-4 with the same results.

Turtles are so muddy and laden with dirt that my good hand mades will not pop hair after 2-3 of them. Of course I could soak them a day or two to clean them up, but never do.

We don't have wild boars running around here, nor do we have javalinas. I expect that they would be up there with bears for maximum testing media. We don't have a black bear season here yet, so I have not tested knives on bears or pigs.

Anyone else have some comments??

Thomas Zinn
Oh, man!! You`re playing right into Yek`s hands ,starting this thread. Heaven help us!

never a dull moment
Between the stuff I clean around here, which for me is rabbit squirrel,and deer, the squirrel's are the toughest by far.

can't wait for snickersnee's response on this one!
I live in Florida but I Bow hunt for deer in New York.
After seeing what's hunted and how it's hunted here in Florida, the Florida critters are going to win out!!
Around my part of the world the toughest things are Antelope and bear hair, elk briskets, and for other critters, pelting out a beaver that has a layer of heavy fat (the fat is really gritty) I have only done one mountain goat, but he was pretty tough too.

Ed Caffrey
"The Montana Bladesmith"

What Ed said with the addition of an occasional Buffalo. They are the worst I have ever done with a knife. The hide is a good 2" to 3" thick on their neck! And they are full of dirt as well.

Here in Oregon its elk i did two this year one with my Dozier pro guide knife and one with my Randell #5. both knives worked great.
I always sharpen my knives after using them on big game animals just to keep them at their best.
I do plenty of squirrels also.

Once did 26 squirrels with an ats 34 knife that I made for my brother in law(it was a scrap of steel from another knife, and finished looking like a steak knife with a little guard)and it was shaving sharp after.

I dress squirrels the old hill folk way, tail cut first then peel standing on the tail etc.etc.

How did the knives hold up on the bears and buffs.Could you do more than one? And the elks, could you do more than one?

Thomas Zinn
I too live in Missouri, and I have gutted,
skinned and caped most every edible critter
indigenous to this state.Skinned some that
are not edible, at least for my tastes.
But the toughest critter I ever caped and quartered was a Russian Boar.
We used my Buck 110 on 2 very large hogs.
I sharpened it before we left on our trip
so it was very sharp.It got the job done
but it was very dull afterwards.
When we were finished the owner of the property that we hunted on asked me to sharpen his knives.
Well,that's my story.

I got into knifemaking because I needed a knife to dress moose. I used to have to take 3 or 4 knives in my pack and a sharpening stone for when they went dull.
Did a lot of research and finally came up with a knife that would dress a full moose and still be sharp, experienced hunters usually get two done without resharpening.

What makes moose so difficult is the fact that most of the time we not only dress the animal but skin and quarter it as well in order to carry it out of inaccessable swamps and such. Hides are full of sand and grit and bone really turns an edge quickly. The fact that the critter is the size of a small quarter horse adds to the difficulty.


The toughest to skin animal I've ever done is a large aligator. All those scales and scutes can make it difficult. Not to mention that hide gets thick. The shear weight of the animal can cause problems too, so you usualy want to chop it into pieces before getting underway. I've come to the conclusion that chopping off the tail but leaving the head on so you can tie a rope around it and drag it into a tree is the way to go. The hide can be a pain to peel off the tail anyway, and I usualy leave the scutes on the back unless I'm going to make something out of them.

Boar are no joke either, but the worst part is that thick shield.

Shark actualy cuts pretty easy, but tends to take an edge off a knife.

My A2 Project one works well on all three. My fixed blades are always high carbon, and most have been 1095. While I'm not saying that they come out sharp after the job, they can do it without needing to be resharpened.
Moose hair has to be one of the most abrasive substances around. It'll take the edge off just about anything.
Has to be an armadillo . Those things are hard to hull out . You really need a sharp ice cream scoop.
Armadillo? You eat those things?

What I have found that is really tough is a Sturegon. Try skinning one of those. That hide is super tough, like armour.

Deer and elk elk hair really dull a blade. Try and get under the hide. Keeps a lot of
cut hair off the meat that way too.

I bet gators would be tough.
A cardboard box is the toughest thing I attack. Man, I envy you guys. I love to read this stuff.

Drac Noroc

A mind is like a
parachute, it only functions when open.

AKTI # BA00013

I need to agree with Dr.Lathe, florida critters are tuff and gritty. The critters that i have cleaned through the years are deer,turkey,rattle snake, countless hogs and the occasional gator(LEAGALY OF COURSE).Dont laugh to hard at me but a majority of these critters have been cleaned by a 13.00 skining knife i bought at k-mart years ago.I own a number of customs and high end production knives that would surely make the job of dressing game alot less like work!
I guess im to damn perverse
Mike k.
Here in Michigan it would be a toss-up between black bear and elk. The bear have a thicker hide and much more fat to remove. On the other hand, elk are quite a bit larger.

Through in a few whitetails, numerous squirrels, ducks, geese, pheasants & grouse, and any knife will earn its keep during hunting season.

I have a custom Talonite Cetan on order from Rob Simonich and its due here before the start of deer season. It promises to make deer camp much easier this year.

A six foot moniter lizard with a generic $15.00 tanto, purchased from Cultery World in 1989.
The cheese for my bologna sandwich.

Two or three of those and even my toughest blade is ruined!

Man, I live in Los Angeles. The only wild things around here are the gangbangers, and as much as I'd like to skin a couple of 'em, it's not worth my trouble.
eric r

I believe that aging your cheese and bologna in the sun will cause it to dull your knives like that. I don't know if is the hardness of the sandwich fillers, or the chemical reaction (corrosive action) on your knife steel.

Recommend aging the sandwich fillers a little less.

As to the gang bangers, here in Missouri we have been trying to get our legislators to open a season on them, sorta like the early teal season we have here, to sharpen deer hunters up for the regular season.

So far, the legislators have not bought our ideas.

Thomas Zinn