Hey! Glad you’re back. Pull up a stump and warm yourself by the fire under the big pine. We were talking about favorite hunting knives, and I was about to tell you why my Top Three is my Top Three.
The Schrade was the knife my dad carried all of his hunting career as far as I know. Its blade is honed down to almost nothing by ceaseless sharpening. At any given moment Pa could have literally shaved with that knife. It gutted a boatload of deer because Pa had no patience with the other guys in camp who went gingerly about dressing deer. He’d give them about a minute then tell them to “get out of the way,” get in and get it done!
I carry this knife (that’s probably close to 90 years old?) most often when I’m on a nostalgia hunt, also hunting with Pa’s Savage 99 .250 Savage. Both are still completely capable of getting their respective jobs done very nicely. This knife was such a part of Dad’s hunting persona that when I was in Cub Scouts I made a “custom” tooled sheath for it for my leather-working project. Today it’s held together with tape, but it still holds his knife
The West-Cut was my own first “hunting knife.” It was the object of my dreams for a long, long time stuck in a piece of Styrofoam high on a shelf behind the counter of the Gambles Hardware store in Plymouth, Wisconsin. (Gambles was one of those great old hardware stores with creaky wooden floors and stuff stacked everywhere. Guaranteed the day they went out of business they still had ammo in inventory that would have been considered “collectors’ items.”)
To get out of riding the bus home from school in good weather, my brother and I were allowed to walk to the factory where my dad worked and catch a ride home with him. Gambles was on the way, so I can’t tell you how many times I stopped to visit that knife before my parents finally gave in and bought it for me to carry in my first, licensed hunting season at age 12.
I thought I’d convinced them I’d need a knife to gut my first deer I was sure to get, but of course, that didn’t happen for nine seasons! This knife is what a boy would consider a real hunting knife – right shape, leather wrapped grip — this was it! I don’t carry this one much today, but it’s still one of my favorites because of its history and its look.
My been-around-the-world-with-me knife is the Remington R-3 with Derlin Stag handles. This knife has been party to gutting, dressing and skinning so many deer of all kinds I’ve lost count. There was one year I was involved in the production of a deer field dressing video. I used this knife to dress at least 40 deer that season alone (always while wearing the same clothes so we could easily cut the video together)! It’s also handled many bear, caribou and pronghorn, multiple moose and several elk. It’s even done some cutting on a Dall’s Sheep and a musk ox over the years. In Africa I wasn’t permitted to do any real gutting or skinning, but I ceremoniously “helped” a bit just so the knife could add kudu, gemsbok, springbok, warthog and zebra to its credits.
It’s a sturdy knife that takes and holds an edge well. And believe me, I don’t baby my “go to” knife. It’s a tool. I carry it in its original, but now well-worn leather belt sheath.
So what do my favorite hunting knives have in common? Pretty much one thing—they are small. You don’t need a big knife to handle a big animal. In fact, it most cases a big knife is a hindrance. I just chuckle when I see a guy with a big old “Bowie Knife” hanging from his hip. Maybe those things are made for fighting or butchering whales or elephants neither of which I know anything about, but when it comes to gutting, skinning and cutting up any North American critter give me a 4-inch blade. With it I’ll follow my Pa’s advice of “get in and get it done!”