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5 Best Hunting Knives of 2023

In my years stalking through the woods and tracking elk over rugged terrain, I've come to realize that a knife isn't just a piece of gear—it's a part of me. It embodies my prowess, my precision, and my sheer love for the hunt. With a premium blade at my side, every trip is transformed from a mere outing to a legendary one. Now, I know the market's flooded with options, every blade gleaming with promises. But trust me, not all stainless steel is made equal, and blade length can make or break your experience out there. As a  hunter, I've narrowed down the 5 best hunting knives of 2023 for you. Each of these great hunting knives stands out not just in craftsmanship, but in the tales of wilderness it can help you weave. Join me as I share my handpicked models, the cutting-edge of hunting quality.

 Cold Steel Axis Machete

Interested to know what my 10  picks for hunting gear are?  Check the list of the best hunting gear for every hunter

Content Table

How do I test hunting knives?

Field testing is the best way to truly test a hunting knife, and that's exactly how I go about it. Let's dive into the specifics.

First, there's the sharpening test. Before a recent trip tracking deer in the dense woodlands of Montana, I took a selection of blade knives and put them to a sharpening challenge. Using a standard whetstone, I gauged how each knife responded to the sharpening process, then observed how they maintained that sharpness through the skinning and field dressing processes.

Weight is paramount, especially when you're on the move. On a separate trip, chasing big game animals across the plains of Wyoming, I wanted a knife that felt almost weightless but still packed a punch. A lightweight knife is crucial during such hunts, where every ounce in your gear counts. During this trip, Cold Steel truly impressed, offering that perfect balance between lightweight construction and rugged utility.

Fixed-blade knives, in my experience, offer unparalleled reliability. On a memorable trip in the Rockies, where the terrains are as challenging as the game, the fixed blades from Mossy Oak were exceptional. Whether I was setting up camp, prepping food, or field dressing an elk, the strength and performance of the fixed blade stood out.

All in all, my hunting trips aren't just pursuits of game but also a chance to put these tools to the test. From dense forests to open plains, each environment offers its own challenges, and that's where the real mettle of a knife for hunting is truly tested.

Which is the best hunting knife?

different hunting knifes

Things to consider

When you're looking for the perfect hunting knife for you, the primary purpose of its use becomes pivotal. I've encountered several aspects to consider when looking for an ultralight yet efficient tool.

Purpose: Before anything, I clarify the tasks I need my knife for. The difference between a large hunting knife suitable for big-game hunting and a compact tool for smaller tasks can be significant.

Blade Material: My preference has leaned towards a stainless steel blade for its outstanding edge retention and resistance to rust. It's a material that has consistently proven its worth to me.

Blade Shape and Type: I've found that the blade's shape can be crucial. While the folding blade offers compactness, it's also essential to ensure it has the right shape for the task at hand. For instance, the Cold Steel Air Lite is a great knife with a folding blade that many admire for its utility and design.

Weight: As someone who values mobility, the ultralight feature in a knife is of prime importance. It ensures that even a big-game hunting knife doesn't weigh me down during long hunting treks.

Edge Retention: A knife is only as good as its sharpness. Through various hunts, I've realized that a great knife will have outstanding retention, reducing the frequency of sharpening and ensuring reliability when needed most.

Safety and Portability: The folding blade design has been a favorite due to its safety and portability. It's compact when not in use and can be safely locked to prevent accidents.

Budget and Brand: Even though I haven't listed specific price ranges, the Buck 110, Cold Steel Air Lite out as an example of a trusted brand delivering quality. Don't spend a fortune on the knife, there are plenty of brands that are affordable and priced reasonably. 

Ultimately, I've learned that the best hunting knife marries functionality with your needs. Whether you need an ultralight tool or a dedicated big-game hunting knife, ensure it's one that complements your hunting style and requirements.

Top 5 Hunting Knifes of 2023

Best Fixed Blade Knife

Hogue Sig Sauer EX-F03 

  • 154CM stainless steel
  • Cryogenically heat treated
  • Hollow flat grind - hand honed edge
  • Solid black G10 scales with checkered texture
  • Quick-deploying, nylon belt sheath with rotating belt clip

 

I've had the privilege of experiencing a vast array of knives on my hunting trips. Among them, the Hogue Sig Sauer stands tall as one of the best fixed blade options.

What stands out:

Upon handling the Hogue Sig Sauer EX-F03, its build quality is immediately apparent. The blade, made of 154CM stainless steel, is renowned for its durability and sharpness. This steel undergoes a cryogenically heat-treated process which enhances its edge retention and overall longevity. The hollow flat grind coupled with a hand-honed edge ensures precision in every cut. The solid black G10 scales with their checkered texture not only lend a sleek look to the knife but also provide a secure, non-slip grip even in wet conditions.

What I don't like:

 It is not a cheap option and despite its numerous attributes, there are areas where the knife could be improved. The design, though functional with its quick-deploying feature, feels a bit generic.  The blade is 2.25in and the knife might feel a touch heavy for those who prioritize ultralight gear.

Why I recommend it:

Its features, like the nylon belt sheath with a rotating belt clip, the Hogue Sig Sauer EX-F03 Fixed Blade Knife is not just a tool, it's a reliable companion for any hunting trip. The unique combination of its stainless steel, heat-treated for enhanced performance, and its ergonomic G10 scales make this knife an asset. I recommend it to fellow hunters who value both functionality and aesthetics in their gear. With this knife, you're not just equipped, you're prepared for the demands of the wild.

Best Skinning Knife

Outdoor Edge Razor Blaze Knife

skinning knife

hunting knifes

  • Folding knife with replaceble blade
  • Rubberized handle
  • Push button blade release
  • Includes (6) blades and nylon sheath

In my extensive hunting journeys, I've always emphasized the importance of having the right tools for specific tasks. When it comes to skinning, the choice of knife is paramount. The Outdoor Edge Razor Blaze Knife is the top choice in my arsenal and rightly claims the title of the Best Skinning Knife.

What stands out:

The heart of any knife lies in its blade and Japanese steel is the best of the best. The blade steel is crafted to ensure that it can tackle everything you need when you're out in the wilderness, especially during big game hunting. The feature that truly sets this knife apart is its folding design with a replaceable blade system. This ensures that if I ever dull a blade in the field, I'm not left stranded. I can swiftly switch to a fresh blade and continue with my task. Additionally, the rubberized handle provides a secure grip, even in damp conditions or when my hands are slick from the task at hand. With the push-button blade release, changing blades becomes a seamless task, reducing downtime and ensuring efficiency. 

What I don't like:

 However, as much as I adore the Outdoor Edge Razor Blaze Knife, having a replaceable blade hunting system means you always need to carry extra blades, which, at times, feels cumbersome. While the knife includes six blades and a durable nylon sheath, there's always that lingering thought about running out, especially during prolonged hunting trips.

Why I recommend it:

When you need a perfect knife for hunting big game, a skinning knife like the Outdoor Edge Razor Blaze stands out with its sharpness. The rubberized handle and the push-button blade release system, make it a cut above the rest. This knife embodies everything you need for efficient skinning, and its thoughtful design ensures safety and ease of use. The inclusion of six blades and a nylon sheath makes it a comprehensive package for any hunter.

Best Folding Hunting Knife

Cold Steel Crawford Folding Knife

folding hunting knife

folding knife

  • Blade Length: 3 1/2"
  • Handle: 4 7/8" Long Zy-Ex
  • Overall Length: 8 3/8"
  • Steel: 4034SS

In the ever-evolving world of hunting gear, the significance of a reliable folding knife cannot be understated. Through many hunting seasons, I've found that the Cold Steel Crawford rises to the occasion, solidifying its spot as the best folding knife in my collection.

What stands out:

One of the initial features that grabbed my attention was the knife's handle. At 4 7/8" long, made from Zy-Ex, it promises an excellent grip. This material, combined with its design, provides a grippy texture ensuring the knife won't easily slip, even under wet or challenging conditions. The blade, crafted from 4034SS high-quality steel, guarantees durability and sharpness. With a blade length of 3 1/2" and an overall length of 8 3/8", the Cold Steel Crawford Folding Knife has been meticulously designed for versatility, making it an ideal camp knife or survival knife.

What I don't like:

While the Cold Steel Crawford Knife is a remarkable tool, its steel, 4034SS, though of high quality, may earn some critique from someone who prefers more premium steel variants.

Why I recommend it:

I can vouch for the Cold Steel Crawford Folding Knife's reliability. Its design, emphasizing grip and durability, positions it as an indispensable hunting tool whether you're setting up camp, prepping a game, or facing unexpected survival scenarios. Its steel, combined with a well-thought-out handle, ensures that when you wield this knife, you're armed with precision and confidence. For those on the hunt for a folding knife that promises performance and versatility, the Cold Steel Crawford is a worthy contender.

Best Budget Knife

Browning Mountain Ti2 Knife

budget hunting knife

 

budget hunting knife

  • Medium Frame Lock Back Knife
  • 2.75" 7Cr17MoV stainless blade
  • Thumb stud opening
  • Two toned machined stainless handle
  • Browning emblem cutout
  • Lanyard hole

What Stands Out: First, it's a Medium Frame Lock Back Knife, compact yet well made. The 2.75"small blade crafted from stainless steel is both durable and sharp. Its thumb stud opening ensures quick and easy blade deployment. The two-toned machined stainless handle not only provides an elegant look but also a solid grip. An aesthetic touch that caught my eye is the Browning emblem cutout, embodying the iconic hunting legacy of Browning. Plus, the inclusion of a lanyard hole is always a practical addition for any hunter on the move.

What I Don't Like: While the machined stainless handle is visually striking, it can sometimes feel a bit slick, especially in damp conditions. And while the Chinese stainless steel is decent, it might require more frequent sharpening compared to some higher-end steels.

Why I Recommend It: The Browning Mountain Ti2 offers a unique blend of style and functionality. Its design details, from the emblem cutout to the two-toned handle, make it stand out. Combined with the assurance of lifetime sharpening, it's a knife that can accompany you on countless hunts, providing reliability without breaking the bank. If you're seeking a blend of aesthetics and utility, the Mountain Ti2 might just help you find your perfect hunting companion.

Hunting Knife Set

Muddy Field Master Knife Set

hunting knife set

hunting knife

  • 8Cr13MoV
  • 4.5“ stainless blade finish
  • Handle material: G10 black
  • Dual nylon pouch

What Stands Out: The knife's blade, measuring 4.5", is made from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel known for its balance of hardness and corrosion resistance. I've found this type of steel to be quite reliable in maintaining a sharp edge over time. The blade finish gives it a sleek look. The handle is another highlight: crafted from G10 black material, it provides not only durability but also a comfortable grip during prolonged use. Furthermore, the set's inclusion of a dual nylon pouch is a practical touch, making it easy to transport and ensuring that the knife is well-protected.

What I Don't Like: While steel is commendable steel, especially at its price point, it doesn't quite compare to some of the high-end steel in terms of edge retention. This means slightly more frequent sharpening sessions might be needed. 

Why I Recommend It: The Muddy Field Master Set of knives offers a blend of functionality and style. With its durable blade material and ergonomic handle, it's well-suited for various outdoor tasks. The dual nylon pouch is a thoughtful inclusion, making it convenient for travel. If you're seeking a reliable knife set without breaking the bank, this might be a worthy addition.

How to maintain your hunting knife

Maintaining my hunting knife is a practice that I take very seriously. First and foremost, after each use, especially with a boning knife, I clean the blade thoroughly to remove any debris or residue. I understand that letting substances sit on the blade can lead to corrosion or damage. After cleaning, I always dry the knife completely, as moisture is a primary cause of rust. Regularly, I hone the edge to keep it sharp using a honing rod or sharpening stone, ensuring it's always ready when I go hunting. Storing the knife is also crucial. I keep it in a dry place, preferably in a sheath that allows it to breathe. Periodically, I might apply a light coat of mineral oil to protect the blade and handle, especially if it's made of wood. You would likely find, as I have, that with consistent care, our hunting tools have served us well for many years.

hunting knife processing kit

FAQ's

Why do some hunting knives feature notches?

Hunting knives come with a range of specialized notches to aid in processing game and other field tasks. Thejimping on the spine offers an enhanced thumb grip, ideal for many hunters caping or making precise cuts. A choil between the blade and handle of a drop point blade, for instance, offers a closer grip for detailed work and streamlines sharpening. Thefuller, often misinterpreted as a "blood groove," is ingeniously crafted to lighten the blade without compromising its strength. Additionally, some knives are designed withstriking notches for generating sparks andwire cutter notches for added versatility. Each notch has been thoughtfully integrated, reflecting the multifaceted needs of the modern hunter.

Can you bring a hunting knife on the plane?

No, you cannot bring a hunting knife on a plane, especially in your carry-on luggage. Regardless of the steel blade, gut hook feature, blade shape, or whether it's one of the top hunting knives on the market, security regulations prohibit such items in the cabin. Even a folding hunting knife or a simple pocket knife with a replaceable blade is not permitted. If you must travel with your hunting knife, it should be securely packed in your checked luggage. Always check with airline and local regulations before flying to ensure you're compliant with their policies.

Final Thoughts

When navigating the vast world of hunting knives, brands like Montana Knife Company and Benchmade consistently rise to the top, thanks to their unwavering commitment to quality and performance. My choices, as detailed above, were based on personal experiences, hands-on testing, and the understanding that a hunter requires tools that complement their skills and instincts. Each of the knives highlighted boasts unique features, making them exceptional in their respective categories. The goal was to provide recommendations that ensure safety, reliability, and efficiency for any hunting adventure.

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Tomas Deksnys

Tomas Deksnys

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