Of course, your hunting knife should have secondary characteristics that make it useful for survival, camping, and all-around utility. But the big job, the one it must conquer, is getting the meat field dressed quickly so it’s preserved and will taste great on your dinner plate.
What to look for? The knife should hold an edge or be easily field sharpened. It should fit well in the hand to protect the user from accidental injury. And a good hunting knife is usually stout enough to crack bone.
It doesn’t need to be big or bulky like some sort of weapon. Remember, the animal is already dead when the knife comes into play. Use the links below to quickly navigate to what piques your interests, and don’t miss our Buyer’s Guide, comparison chart, and frequently asked questions sections.
The Best Hunting Knives of 2023
- Best Overall Hunting Knife: Benchmade Raghorn
- Best Budget Hunting Knife: Outdoor Edge WildPak 8-Piece Hunting Knife Set
- Runner-Up Hunting Knife: MKC Stonewall Skinner
- A Super Value Folding Knife: Morakniv Basic
- Best Ultralight Hunting Knife: Argali Carbon Knife
- Best Replaceable Blade Hunting Knife: Gerber Gear Vital Big Game Folder
- Best Processing Knife: Benchmade Meatcrafter
- Excellent steel holds an edge for a very long time
- Blaze orange blade won’t get lost
- Great ergonomics
- The sheath doesn’t attach to a belt easily
- Steel 420J2 stainless steel
- Weight 2 lbs., 6.4 oz.
- Blade length Various
- Overall length Various
- Low cost
- Has everything you need
- Comes with a carrying case and sharpener
- Knives need resharpening often, dull quickly
- Too bulky for backcountry hunting
- Excellent steel
- Versatile, large-bellied blade shape
- Grippy, ergonomic handle
- Hard to find
- Great price for a quality knife
- Comfortable handle
- Won't hold an edge like higher-end knives
- Not full-tang
- Perfect shape for efficiency
- Excellent steel
- Not easy to attach sheath to belt or other external straps
- Steel Replaceable stainless steel scalpel blades
- Weight 4.9 oz.
- Blade length 3.75"
- Overall length 9.75"
- Easy and safe blade changes
- Razor-sharp new blades every time
- Ergonomic handle
- Cannot accomplish hard-use tasks.
- User should carry a second knife for camp
- Steel S45VN (also availabe in several other steels)
- Weight 3.24 oz.
- Blade length 6.08"
- Overall length 11.06"
- Excellent handle for long hours of work
- Blade shape optimized for meat processing
- Super sharp, slicey, thin blade
- Perfect for butchering game in camp or at home
- Too large to carry in the field
- Not intended for gutting or quartering game
- Steel 420HC (S30V available in customs)
- Weight 5.2 oz.
- Blade length 3.12"
- Length overall 7.25"
- Great blade shape for big-game processing
- Good handle
- Upgraded steel is excellent
- Reasonable price
- Better steel available
- Folding knife option
- Fast opening
- Decent steel
- Not as safe as fixed blade
- Better steel available
- Excellent blade shape
- Good handle
- Hand made
- Expensive for D2 steel
- Good value
- OK steel for the price
- Easy to maintain
- Won't hold an edge like modern steel
- Exceptional steel
- Very light
- Near perfect minimal design
- Made specifically for cleaning game
- The minimal handle makes hard-use tricky
- Steels 440C primary blade, D2 tendon blade
- Weight 6.6 oz.
- Blade length 3.75"
- Length overall 8.9"
- Unique design gives two cutting implements
- Tendon tool makes tough cuts
- Primary blade saved for fine work
- Specifically designed for elk hunting
- 440C steel only OK
- Folding design
- Very cheap
- Secure locking ring
- Simple camp knife can process small game
- Not suitable for large game
- The absolute minimum for cleaning small game
- Mediocre steel
|Hunting Knife||Steel||Weight||Blade Length||Length Overall||Price|
|Benchmade Raghorn||CPM-CruWear||3.5 oz.||4.64″||8.88″||$420|
|Outdoor Edge WildPak 8-Piece Hunting Knife Set||420J2 stainless steel||2.4 pounds||Various||Various||$54|
|Montana Knife Company Stonewall Skinner||Magnacut||5.5 oz.||4.75″||9.25″||$325|
|Morakniv Basic||Sandvik Stainless||4.1 oz.||3.6″||8.25″||$13|
|Argali Carbon Knife||S35VN||1.8 oz.||3.25″||7.25″||$193|
|Gerber Gear Vital Big Game Folder||Replaceable stainless steel scalpel blades||4.9 oz.||3.75″||9.75″||$51|
|Benchmade Meatcrafter||S45VN (also available in several other steels)||3.24 oz.||6.08″||11.06″||$370|
|Buck 113 Ranger Skinner Knife||420HC (S30V available in customs)||5.2 oz.||3.12″||7.25″||$106|
|Kershaw CQC-11K||D2||5.8 oz.||3.5″||8.5″||$91|
|DiamondBlade Pinnacle 1||Friction-forged D2||4 oz.||2.55″||7.25″||$315|
|Buck Pursuit Large Knife||420HC||6.4 oz.||4.5″||9.5″||$60|
|Benchmade Altitude Fixed-Blade Knife||S90V||1.6 oz.||3.08″||7.38″||$200|
|Gerber Randy Newberg DTS||440C primary blade, D2 tendon blade||6.6 oz.||3.75″||8.9″||$60|
|Opinel No. 8 Beechwood Handle Knife||12C27 Sandvik stainless steel||1.5 oz.||3.25″||7.5″||$18|
Why You Should Trust Us
I and our team are avid hunters with decades of experience in the field. And we also happen to be total “knife knuts.” We put the knives listed here through rigorous testing in the field. Some of the knives listed here have gone through more than 10 years of testing. We also travel to trade shows to meet with brands and learn about their newest products. We then put those through tests to decide if they’re worthy of this guide. Ultimately, we recommend the same knives here as we do to our best friends and hunting buddies.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Knives for Hunters
I know I’m going out on a limb here with this kind of “best of” column. Whenever you say “best,” someone’s going to get left out. Someone’s going to get their feelings hurt.
But I’m OK with that. Suck it up, buttercup. And feel free to tell me why your knife deserves to be on this list. There are a ton of great blades in the world, and the GearJunkie staff wants to hear about your favorite.
You may have gleaned this from the above selections, but to be completely clear: I don’t like huge knives for hunting, as I feel they are more dangerous to the user when it’s dark, rainy, slippery, or God knows what else. They’re also heavier.
And I don’t like gut-hooks, as I feel a well-handled knife does the job of opening the body cavity just fine. If that’s your bag, all right. It’s just not mine.
Finally, I prefer fixed-blade knives in general for hunting. That’s because, if they need to shift into survival or bushcraft mode, you have a tool you can baton through firewood with less risk. That said, folding knives can serve you well and I do include some here.
We included retail prices with our selections, but many of the knives above can be had for big discounts during sales. When investing, keep in mind that a good hunting knife can last for a literal lifetime, so it’s not a place to scrimp. Buy one you’ll love, and you’ll love it forever. Buy one you hate, and well, you’ll be stuck hating it forever, or buying another soon. Happy hunting!
Frequently Asked Questions
In short, you sharpen a hunting knife the same way as you would any other outdoor knife. That means using a sharpening tool and following its instructions. You can use a sharpening stone, a powered sharpener like a WorkSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener, or a guided sharpening tool like the Worksharp Precision Knife Sharpener or Lansky Precision Knife Sharpening Kit. Using those tools is straightforward but requires reading and following instructions beyond the scope of this article.
It’s worth noting that several top brands offer free or cheap knife re-sharpening. For example, Benchmade, Argali, and Montana Knife Company all offer free lifetime sharpening of their knives. For hunters, that’s a great deal and something worth taking advantage of every year.
If I had to pick one “best” hunting knife brand, I would probably say Benchmade. But Buck, Kershaw, Gerber, Spyderco, Havlon, and many other brands make great hunting knives.
A good hunting knife will first and foremost be razor sharp. High-quality steel that will hold an edge for a long time helps keep that sharpness during the long process of cleaning a game animal. Next, you want a great handle that won’t slip in your hand. Finally, make sure the knife blade shape is appropriate. I personally prefer a blade around 3.5 to 4 inches long with a drop-point or clip-point shape.
You sure can, at least while hunting. Many good fixed-blade hunting knives come with a belt sheath designed for this purpose. Just be sure not to run afoul of the law while walking around cities or towns with open or concealed-carry knife restrictions.
To clean a hunting knife, simply wash it with soap and water. But don’t put them in the dishwasher as the powerful heat and detergents could damage the handle. Make sure to dry them well before storing them. If you have high-carbon steel, wipe them down with a light coating of oil before storage to inhibit rust.