Someone’s gotta say it, so it might as well be me. Hunting is more than killing something. It’s about spending time in the outdoors, honing perishable field craft skills, encountering the creatures that call the woods home, and sharing a passion with friends and family. That’s where it started for me. When I was very young my family moved in with my Grandparents. Times were hard and their little two bedroom house was cramped, to say the least. Still, I wouldn’t have traded those formative years for anything (10 bucks says my parents don’t have the same fond memories). My Grandfather was a man’s man. He was a carpenter, tinkerer, handyman, inventor, horseman, disciplinarian and hunter. One of the things I remember most about him was his pocket knife. I can still see him sitting in his overstuffed arm chair watching TV and sharpening it. If memory serves, I recall his knife being a bone handle, single blade, folding Case knife that went anywhere his pockets went. He used it for everything from removing splinters from my hands or slicing the onion he ate with every meal to gutting and skinning all manner of game after a successful hunt.
A sharp knife, like a quality bow, straight arrows, and the proper broadhead, is indispensable to time in the woods. The myriad knives available is almost mind boggling which begs the question, what knife is the right knife? There are several factors to consider when choosing the right knife for you.
The Right Equipment For The Job
The first thing to consider is what you want to do. Different knives serve different purposes. I mentioned that my Grandpa wore several hats. While his constant companion was that Case pocketknife, he had other knives for other jobs. He cut carpet with an old-fashioned carpet knife. When he shoed the horses he used a special knife to trim their hooves. The point is that every job has the right knife. You don’t want to gut a deer with a butcher knife or bone out an elk with a paring knife. I recently had the opportunity to skin my first fox. So I grabbed my go-to gutting blade and went to work. And it didn’t take me long to do a fantastic job of destroying the pelt. Obviously I didn’t know what I was doing (despite watching about a million YouTube videos) but selecting the wrong equipment for the job made my failure that much more spectacular. Consider what you want to accomplish, find the right knife and get it done…right.
Ok. Here’s where I make someone upset. Not the intent and I apologize but let’s face it, men and women are built differently. On average, men tend to be bigger than women. And as much as we men want to be seen as the next Jim Bowie or Paul Bunyan with our massive arms, barrel chests, and ginormous hands, chances are we are not what we think. There are many real men with very small hands and some women with catchers mitts. My Grandpa, despite being bigger than life, weighed a buck thirty soaking wet and had little old wrinkly hands. It’s important to be realists and assess ourselves and our abilities properly. This simple principle may explain why my Grandpa’s favorite knife was not a Samurai sword but a small, single blade pocket knife. It fit him. Find a knife that fits you. Is it that same small Case or Buck knife? Is it the 8 inch Bowie knife? Or something in between. Remember, there is nothing inherently womanly about a small pocket knife and nothing inherently manly about a Rambo style knife of doom! Does it fit you? Does it sit right in your hand and feel right to your fingers? If so, that’s probably the one.
That Thing in the Drawer
Remember that part about my Grandpa watching TV? IT’s one of those scenes I’ll never forget. In one hand he held a small stone. With the other he drew his knife blade slowly back and forth for hours at a time until he could shave his arm with it. (Somehow the good ol’ arm shave is still the universal standard of sharpness, isn’t it?) In order for any knife to be effective it must be sharp. The sharper the better. There are a million ways to get your knife sharp and keep it that way. Some hunters prefer a whetstone. Others an oilstone. Still others swear by ceramics, steels, or diamond plates. Those with more modern tastes might prefer an electric sharpener. At the end of the day, the method you use is unimportant. The important thing it to use a method your are comfortable with, and that your are able to use effectively. Grandpa used only his little, dry stone … but he had bald arms!
One thing on everyones minds these days is money money money. So before running out and buying that new cutlery you saw on TV or that uber cool beast blade all the famous hunters use do a little Cost-Benefit Analysis. That is, what bang will you get for your buck? You may want to spend $6328 on a multi tool hand forged from a single piece of all American tungsten steel, or you may want to bid $3.84 on a simple knife on eBay. Either way, will you be able to use your knife enough to justify the cost. Or do you not care how much it will cost you? That’s OK, too. You make that call but do it wisely.
You Know What I Like
When selecting a knife, the power of preference cannot be understated. My Grandfather may have had many reasons for carrying that old Case around, but in the end he simply loved it. It was part of him. Ask yourself, what do I like? Does a particular knife suit you? Do you like it’s color, size, texture, weight, and length? It’s im perative that you LIKE your knife or it won’t be long until you break up with it and let it gather dust somewhere while you search for a newer, better one. No one likes seeing a good friendship go bad.
More Than Killing
Ask any hunter you know. I believe that if they have spent anytime behind a bow or a gun or a sling shot, they will tell you that their knife is their most indispensable tool. Like my Grandpa’s Case, a knife, properly chosen and cared for can be your best tool as well. And never forget that while hunting is more killing, a good harvest now and then ain’t bad either!