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Budget Gear Review: Five Best Hunting Knives (2016)

The hunting knife market is flooded with excellent options, which makes it extremely difficult for a buyer to set out to get the best knife. In truth, for web site out there that tells you which knife is the absolute best one—there are a dozen more web sites telling you a totally different knife is the best one.

Rather than try to tell you which knife is the absolute best, we at Outdoorhill would rather share our five favorite knives that won’t require you to take out a personal loan to buy. Our mantra is the same you’ve heard your father, grandfather, or maybe a crazy uncle, say over and over: use the right tool for the job. When hunting, you want a knife that is rugged enough to withstand hellish conditions, process your game, and remain stowed until the next season without being an overpriced paperweight.

The hunting knives you need to consider when buying:

Hunting knives are tools that we use to cut through tough animal hides, sinew, bone, and who knows what else. If you’re lucky enough to have inherited a quality knife from a family member, take care of it—and it will take care of you. If you aren’t carrying an heirloom blade on your hunt, you’ll want to make sure you cover these areas when shopping for quality hunting steel.

What to look for in a hunting knife

Cost

A quality hunting knife won’t cost ten dollars at the local general store, but that doesn’t mean you should throw two weeks’ pay at one either. There are excellent budget options out there, and since your hunting knife isn’t your primary carry option, it will need to do a great job in the field—and that’s all. When you’re on a budget, skip the fancy looks and elaborate sheaths, opting for a rugged blade that you can put to use with simple maintenance such as a quick sharpening or lubrication will hold more value than a knife with a ton of bling.

Overall Quality

Finding the balance between quality steel, a good handle, a durable sheath, and combining it with a reasonable price can be tricky. When looking at hunting knives, start with the blade. Is it going to suit your needs for butchering the type of game you hunt? Next, inspect the handle. You’re going to be processing game with this knife—which is an inherently messy task. A good grip that will protect you from accidents is worth far more than an exotic knife that is too slick to hold safely. Although a sheath is important in a hunting knife—an inexpensive sheath will often times work as good as an expensive one; if the sheath appears to be more heavily crafted than the knife it’s paired with, you’d be wise to pass on that knife.

Weight

Looking like Jeremiah Johnson won’t earn you any bonus points in the woods, Pilgrim. Buy a knife that will safely manage your game processing without adding needless ounces to your kit. Hunters who are planning to take their bag limit of ducks don’t need to carry a ten inch bowie knife, and like we’ve already mentioned, you’ll want the right tool for the job. An excessively bulky knife can make your job not only difficult, but unsafe. We’re not suggesting you get the lightest knife on the market—getting an extremely lightweight knife could be just as dangerous when butchering, say, a bear. If you need a heavy duty knife, get one. Everyone has different preference when it comes to knife weight—we just want to caution against buying a knife that may be too heavy, or too light, for your intended use.

Size

Just as with weight, the overall length of a knife will make a difference to the user. A knife made for breasting out birds, skinning rabbits, or processing small game, isn’t going to be ideal for field dressing a deer, elk, moose, or other large game. An overall length of about nine inches will suffice for covering a lot of large game—and while it may be slightly large for the finest tasks—it could be used for some smaller game processing. If you strictly hunt small game, you may want to narrow your search to smaller hunting knives.

Fixed vs. Folding

We’re recommending fixed blade knives today, and part of that recommendation is strictly due to the less likely rate of failure when in the field. There are dozens of great folding knives out there, and there are undoubtedly some excellent hunting knives that are folders, but when searching for the best hunting knife while remaining on a budget—we recommend fixed blades.

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Outdoorhill Top Five Recommendations

1. Buck Knives 0118

You may only carry your hunting knife a few times a year during deer season, but you want it to last a lifetime. Buck Knives are backed by Buck’s warranty which they call “Buck Forever”.

The design is clean, maybe even simple, but these sure are quality blades. Hearty enough to butcher large game, and agile enough for some finer tasks—you’ll have a hard time finding a better knife for the money.

Editor Rating:

Things We Liked

  • Lifetime “Buck Forever” warranty
  • Genuine leather sheath
  • Sharpens easily
  • Useful for skinning and boning
  • Potentially the only hunting knife you’ll ever buy

Things We Didn't Like

  • Blade could be a bit wider
  • No holes for a lanyard

2. CRKT Ken Onion Skinner

The feel of your hunting knife is a big deal. When you pick up a knife you want it to just feel good in your hand, no need to modify the grip or wrap it up in any way.

The CRKT Ken Onion Skinner just feels plain good. The hollow ground stainless steel blade will most certainly hold an edge, and deliver quality slicing for dealing with tough animal hides.

Editor Rating:

The lanyard and sheath give you excellent options to stow the knife either while hunting, or when processing game. Weighing in at a mere 3.7 ounces, this knife is an excellent way to add a quality tool to your kit without adding a lot of weight.

Things We Liked

  • Respected name
  • Stainless steel blade
  • Lanyard and sheath for easy carry
  • Very lightweight
  • Excellent grip

Things We Didn't Like

  • Only quarter tang
  • May not be best for boning

3. Case Cutlery 00517 375-4G Gut Hook Hunter

This isn’t any old gut hook hunting knife, this is a Case knife. The name Case is synonymous with quality knives crafted from top notch components. The gut hook is saber ground and the blade is made of True Sharp surgical steel, so you know this will make for a great tool—not just something fancy to hang from your belt.

Editor Rating:

With a leather grip, and included leather sheath, the Case 375-4G Gut Hook Hunter will grip and store as nicely as it processes your game.

Things We Liked

  • Leather sheath included
  • True sharp surgical steel blade
  • Gut hook for game processing
  • Made in the USA
  • Sturdy design

Things We Didn't Like

  • Leather grip will wear with time and use
  • A bit more maintenance with a gut hook knifet 1 year

4. SOG Huntspoint Fixed Blade

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools has really expanded their offerings in the past few years, including some great tools for hunters. The Huntspoint is a fixed blade knife that boasts a full tang design, as well as a nice handle. The glass-reinforced nylon of the handle is mated nicely with rubber to give a slightly softer but tacky grip—this will come in handy when skinning or butchering.

The orange grip makes it stand out enough to keep track of it easily, but not so much that it’s going to be distracting on your belt. With an included sheath and lanyard hole, the SOG Huntspoint fixed blade is a quality hunting knife that will go with you anywhere.

Editor Rating:

Things We Liked

  • AUS-8 stainless steel
  • Lanyard hole
  • Glass-reinforced nylon combined with rubber handle provides grip
  • Orange color makes it easy to keep track of
  • Full tang construction

Things We Didn't Like

  • Low quality sheath
  • Blade could be thicker

5. Gerber Myth Pro Gut Hook

Sometimes less is more—like the smaller price tag of the Gerber Myth, for example. This knife is rather inexpensive, just $36 as of this article, but it really packs in value by including a textured rubber handle, gut hook, and providing a sheath that has a built-in sharpener.

If you’re looking for a sturdy hunting knife that packs a lot of features at a low price point, this is the one.

Editor Rating:

Things We Liked

  • Texturized rubber handle for grip
  • Sheath has a sharpener included
  • Designed by professional hunters and guides
  • Great price
  • Full tang

Things We Didn't Like

  • Hard plastic sheath may be uncomfortable
  • May not hold an edge as long as other options

Final thoughts

When operating on a budget you may be forced to make sacrifices. It’s no secret that you get what you pay for, and when shopping for quality hunting gear you want to maximize value. With that in mind, we at Outdoorhill really like to end our budget gear reviews by choosing our favorite product of the bunch.

The number one option in this category, for us, is the Buck 0118 Personal. The model names (read: numbers) are slightly confusing if you’re not familiar with Buck products—but trust us on this knife. Buck’s timeless design, and Buck Forever Warranty will keep this knife in your kit for years and years to come.

If you’re looking to get a hunting knife without spending a small fortune, the Buck 0118 Personal comes in at just over fifty dollars for the black model (the wood grip model is sixty dollars and some change). The genuine leather sheath, excellent quality steel, and sturdy grip will ensure you’ve got a knife that will butcher game time and time again.

We like that this knife is neither excessively large, nor too fine. It’s a great all-around knife for both skinning and butchering, and the sturdiness of the handle makes for safe use. With a little sharpening and lubrication, this knife could easily be handed down as an heirloom to the next generation of hunters in your family.

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