I think of knives and blade tools as fun gear. They are cool to look at, exciting to buy, and a pleasure to toy around with. This creates a sort of problem for hunters, who tend to accumulate a lot of excess blades that they don’t really need. If you’ve got endless funds for gear, this isn’t a problem. But if your knife-buying habits mean you can’t buy, say, a good pair of boots, they’re impeding your ability to hunt as hard as you can. Which is to say, I’ve seen a lot of hunts ruined by foot problems, but I’ve never seen a hunt ruined by a knife problem. So what knives and blade tools do you really need? It depends on what you’re doing.
Think ahead when selecting blade tools and ask yourself what you’ll really need. Here, a bowfisherman uses his multi-tool’s file to hone the edge of his machete on an overnight swamp hunt.
Multi-tool—never leave home without it. Your multi-tool should have a serrated blade, a bone saw, needle-nose pliers, and a bit receiver that can handle whatever bits are necessary to do quick repairs on your rifle, bow, or other equipment. Pictured here (A) is a SOG B66-N Power Assist. A great thing about SOG multi-tools is that you can customize them with whatever blades you want.
Skinning knife. While you can certainly hack your way through a skinning job with a multi-tool, a quality skinning knife is nice to have along. In fact, it should be regarded as essential. Excellent options include (B) custom knife by Brian Goode; (C) SOG Huntspoint skinning knife; (D) Phil Wilson Smoke Creek drop point; (E) Havalon Piranta (a replacement-blade razor knife that is lightweight, compact, and extremely sharp). Utility knife. Lets you keep your skinning knife sharp and ready for its intended purpose; can be used for cutting everything from rope to wood to cheese. Pictured here: (F) SOG Pentagon Elite (folding, with serrated blade); (G) SOG NW Ranger (fixed, not serrated). Bone saw. Useful when hunting big game, especially in the backcountry. Allows you to dismantle carcasses efficiently and cleanly, with no jagged bones, and to remove skullcaps when you want to keep the antlers or horns of an animal without having to pack out the entire head. Also handy around camp for fire making and various woodcraft tasks. Pictured here (H) is the Knives of Alaska bone saw. Wood saw. Can easily double as a bone saw, but the more aggressive tooth pattern makes it better suited for wood. Great for building blinds, trimming shooting lanes, or cutting firewood and performing camp chores on extended backcountry trips. Pictured here (I) is a SOG folding camp saw. Lightweight hatchet. A tad heavier and more cumbersome than a bone saw, but it’s equally functional for butchering. Also works great as a camp tool for driving tent stakes, splitting kindling, and fashioning emergency tools and equipment from native wood supplies. Pictured here (J): SOG F09-N hand axe.
A basic hunting kit for overnight ventures. Weighs under two pounds when loaded for several nights afield. Fits easily inside a hip cargo pocket or pack lid. A: OR Backcountry Organizer, size medium. B: Driver bits for basic firearm/bow/outboard engine repairs and adjustments; compatible with the 1/4-inch driver on an SOG multi-tool. C: Black Diamond headlamp. D: SOG Dark Energy 240-lumen flashlight. E: Insect repellent wipes, Benadryl, Tylenol, ChapStick, lens cleaning towelette, antibiotic oint-ment. F: Resealable waterproof envelope for adhesive bandages, gauze, alcohol prep wipes, etc. G: Adhesive bandages and gauze pads. H: Wipes. I: Dental floss with heavy-duty needle tucked inside container. J: Toothpaste and collapsible toothbrush. K: Fishing kit. A chewing tobacco container containing a few flies, split shot, and 20 feet of 6-pound test. L: Spare batteries to fit flashlight, headlamp, GPS, and range finder. M: Waterproof matches in airtight container. N: Lighter wrapped with emergency supply