Some knives are designed for everyday cutting jobs. Others are fashioned primarily for self-defense. Hunting knives, on the other hand, are meant to help you dress game and process its meat after the kill. Of course, that’s not it’s only job, as you’ll probably reach for the same knife when taking on various errands at camp, whether it be making kindling, cutting rope, or slicing up a piece of fabric to patch a hole on your tent. However, the primary concern will always be field dressing game meat efficiently, so that you can keep it as fresh as possible.
As such, that’s the function you should put at the forefront when choosing a hunting knife. With the right one, you can quickly and easily remove an animal’s internal organs and prepare it for transport in the field, as well as skin and butcher it once you’re back at camp. And no, you don’t need something big or gnarly-looking – just one that can do the job and do it right.
These are the best hunting knives to dress and prep your game meat in the wild.
Morakniv Craftline Basic 546
We know… it’s not a good idea to skimp when it comes to a hunting knife. Despite its economical price, though, this knife is an absolute workhorse when it comes to dressing medium-size game. Yes, you can also use it with big game when necessary, although it might require a bit more elbow grease because of the more modest blade material. While it doesn’t hold edge quite as capably as more expensive options in the list, the 3.6-inch stainless steel blade lends itself very well to sharpening, so as long you’re willing to put in regular maintenance, this cheap thing can last you a while. At this price, you can buy two or three, so you’ve got backup, just in case.
While far from the most popular hunting knife, we’ve actually grown find of this compact hunting knife, which we’d recommend more for smaller game and light meat processing, since the edge on the D2 steel blade can really dull off once you go to work on much bigger animals. It comes pretty sharp off the box, although you’d probably want to hone it a bit, as there’s really still room for improvement, especially if you want to use it for dressing animals in the field. A clip point shape gives the blade a delicate tip for piercing, while the extended bolster and jimping on the spine lets you put your finger on top for greater control. They pair that blade polypropylene handle that’s been rubberized to ensure a secure grip in hand. If you want a starter-level hunting knife and don’t mind having to do some honing in the field, this makes for a really capable affordable option.
Designed for budget-conscious hunters, this fixed blade all-rounder is a capable hunting knife for skinning and prepping in the field, all while handling itself well on the butcher table afterwards. The forward trailing point flat ground blade is made from 8Cr13MoV steel, so it doesn’t hold edge nearly as well as more expensive knives, but it does lend itself well to sharpening, so you can always be on the field with a knife that’s ready to get down and dirty. Is it the best knife you can get? Heck no, but it definitely performs above its pay grade, making it a great value addition to anyone’s hunting stash.
Want to use a folding hunting knife for your dressing duties in the field? This sleek-looking folder should fare well in your hunting endeavors, with its 3.5-inch deep belly blade making it ideal for skinning and taking out organs, with a deep jimping in the back of the handle allowing for a really firm grip even when cutting through tougher parts. The folding mechanism is sturdy, too, so it should handle itself well when it comes to more demanding tasks, although you’ll probably still want to opt for a fixed blade if you plan to dress some really big game.
The Gunny is a compact version of the outfit’s knife that was originally developed for the Force Recon Unit of the US Marine Corp. Shortly upon release, it became instantly popular among the recreational crowd, with people lauding its performance in bushcrafting, hunting, and other outdoor pursuits. This model, in particular, has been tailored specifically for the needs of hunters, receiving a sabre grind that’s meant to hold edge a lot better, allowing you to go from processing one game to the next without the need for resharpening. It’s also slightly thinner right behind the edge, leaving it suited for making deep cuts in tight spots, while the drop point shape works well for those spine-down, edge up cuts that you do when cutting up a large animal’s torso. This one appears to be either discontinued or phased out (for now anyway), although there are still some out there for sale. In fact, we found it with a steep discount from the link below.
Originally a limited edition model, this hunting knife has proven so good it’s become a staple in the outfit’s lineup. That’s because people appreciate its small yet incredibly effective 3-inch blade and ergonomic handle, a combo that allows you to get any dressing job done in the field. The blade is offered in two variants, although we highly recommend the S30V steel, a highly ductile alloy that retains edge in a downright impressive manner. Seriously, if you’ve had your knife dull out on you in the middle of a skinning job, you’ll want to switch to something with this material to keep it from happening again.
Because of its popularity, Buck Knives offers a number of customizations for this model. Specifically, you can choose different finishes, handle materials, sheaths, and even opt to give it an engraving to get you a knife with real heirloom potential.
Handmade in Spain, this heavy-duty knife has a 4.9-inch blade cut in Mova-58 steel, a very hard blade that cuts through every part of your game with relative ease, all while retaining its razor-sharp edge for much longer than you can probably even imagine. It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s no-nonsense, with a blade so thick, it can handle any hard cut, and a cocobolo wood handle so well-contoured, you just feel completely in control the entire time. The catch? It’s huge, coming in at around 10 inches long, so this will make for a substantial presence hanging on your belt. Don’t worry, it looks absolutely badass, so you can wear it with pride.
With a drop point blade cut in super-premium CPM-S35VN stainless steel, this hunting knife boasts superior edge retention, allowing you to process an entire pig in the field and be ready for another one without the need for any tune-up. It also comes super-sharp, so you want to be careful wielding this thing because that edge can inflict some serious cuts, whether accidental or not. Of course, that same blade steel is notorious for being hard to sharpen once it does finally dull, although Argali does offer free factory sharpening for the duration of the knife’s lifespan, so you have that option if you’re not quite as skilled when it comes to knife maintenance.
At first, we were actually surprised by the size – it seems way smaller than this knife’s reputation has suggested in the past. One use, though, and you understand why many people seem to love this knife’s smaller 3.25-inch blade, as it makes erstwhile difficult field jobs an inarguably much easier affair. Do note, it doesn’t come with a mount, so you’ll have to buy a belt attachment separately if you want a way to conveniently carry it around.
We love the smaller size of this knife, which makes it incredibly easy to control in hand, despite being pretty heavy for its size. Of course, you’re not going to have much control if it doesn’t cut through thick tendons and tough skin, which it does very well with the excessively sharp edge on that Elmax blade. If you’re familiar with Elmax, then you have an idea of this material’s reputation for toughness – the darn thing just takes abuse and retains edge like it’s nothing. It can also come in handy for outdoor tasks in a pinch (we’ve used it to split small pieces of wood), but game processing is where it really excels and where you can get the most squeeze for its juice. Like other knives made with excessively hard steels, the biggest downside here is honing and resharpening – either prepare to sit through 30 minutes (or more) of grinding or take it to the professionals, since it’s hard as heck.
We love the look of this hunting knife, with its small 2.9-inch blade and contoured 4.25-inch handle. That compact blade comes in handy when making accurate incisions, with a precision more akin to scalpels than a standard hunting blade, while the blade’s S35VN steel construction really strikes a great balance of toughness, edge retention, and sharpening ease. Of course, the limited size of the blade might present some challenges when dressing big game, but it should handle everything but the most voluminous animals pretty well. We also love the contoured shape of the handle that promotes a really secure grip, especially when you’re cutting into tougher parts of your animal.
At 1.7-ounces, this hunting knife feels like almost like an extension of your hand while you slice through everything from skin and hair to tendons and joints. It’s scary sharp and makes quick work of nearly anything you throw its way. For meat processing, we’ve found it to be especially useful when working in tight spots, with both the light weight and ultra-slim profile coming in handy when trimming fat and cutting out tenderloins, although you can use it for, pretty much, every step of field dressing without much complaints. Sure, getting that much blood on the seven feet of paracord wrapped around the handle feels like it’s going to make a mess, but it mostly just washes out anyway, so you won’t even have to take the paracord out for cleaning (well… occasionally, you might need to). The 52100 high-carbon ball-bearing Magnacut steel holds edge incredibly well, too, and unlike some of the better edge-retaining blades out there, this one actually takes well to honing and resharpening using DIY tools, so you won’t need to have it professionally worked on even when it does dull out.
Designed for big game hunting, this classic knife has a 4.2-inch S90V premium steel drop point blade and a stabilized wood handle, a combo that gives it impressive function in the wild. It has a slightly clipped tip that enables quick penetration of any hide, while the thick spine allows it to handle any pressure you encounter when digging deep into the animal. The blade is the real high point here, as it retains edge very well even after you’ve just finished gutting out a big catch, while the contours of the edge offers a really stable grip. The handles feel a bit slim, so those with bigger hands might find it a bit odd, although you can always wrap some paracord to give it a little more meat to hold onto.