(The following is a guest post from Kevin Steffey, founder of www.deerhuntingfield.com)
Why do I need a hunting knife?
by Kevin Steffey
Anyone who travels through the outdoors should be equipped with at least one good quality knife, but hunters specifically would do well to add a specialized hunting knife to their equipment. The average pocket knife is suitable for simple, routine tasks such as cutting rope. More specialized knives can go a step further by giving the user a broader range of duties such as bushcrafting and wilderness survival. For the hunter, a knife designed specifically for the unique demands of hunting should be highly considered before your next hunt.
Most popular and widely carried pocket knives are insufficient tools for doing things such as field dressing a deer. Imagine investing all of the time necessary to execute a successful hunt only to discover that your kill is much too large for you to carry out of the wilderness intact. Under such a circumstance it would be necessary to remove parts of the animal you won’t need and then to separate the meat into packable pieces. If you haven’t performed this often crucial activity before, it is important to understand what all is involved in the process so that you can bring home that valuable meat.
There is no strict, written rule on exactly how to field dress a particular animal, and some species require more specialized steps than others. Keep in mind that the end goal is a carcass that is portable, clean, and safe for eventual eating. With time and experience each person will develop their own personal shortcuts or individual methods to achieve a similar result, but the basic steps are as follows:
- With the deer on its back, make care not to enter the body cavity with your knife, cut the hide from the genitals to the chest.
- Gently pull the cut skin back from the cut to about 6 inches on either side
- Carefully cut through the body cavity moving from back to front. This is best done with a gut hook, but can be accomplished by carefully lifting up the skin with a finger as you cut so as to avoid cutting into the intestines.
- Cut through the sternum. It is recommended that you use a strong, hefty blade at this point because the sternum can be difficult to separate.
- Reach inside the carcass and remove the heart and lungs.
- Carefully remove the intestines and other organs, and then rinse the cavity if possible. At this point it is helpful to use a serrated blade to cut the pelvis bone which provides better access.
Much of the weight of the animal has been removed by this point and depending upon the size can be much easier to carry back to camp or home where a more thorough butchering can be accomplished in a safer and controlled environment.
As can be seen from these steps, there is a huge advantage to be equipped with a proper tool. In this example a quality deer hunting knife would be a very good idea. This is because most pocket knives and even some utility knives aren’t well suited to this kind of use and abuse. They may be able to accomplish some of the simpler cutting tasks, but are unlikely candidates for cutting through bone or safely cutting through the hide.
A proper hunting knife will be well suited to accomplish all of the steps necessary in one tool. Naturally, due to personal preference in the dressing process, there are a variety of knives available on the market. In most cases hunting knives are not only functional, but can be beautiful conversation pieces as well. Be careful though not to place more value on style than on function.
A stylish knife that looks good on your hip may or may not be able to perform properly when the time comes to put it to work. In addition, you may find that some knives are better suited to your individual style than others may be. It isn’t uncommon for some hunters to carry multiple knives just in case the unforeseen problem arises. A good piece of advice would be to talk with other hunters in your area to see what works best and perhaps even join them on a hunt so you can experience how they use their knives. Once you think you have a decent grasp of the uses of a hunting knife equip your kit accordingly.
Experience is the best teacher and the better equipped you are to meet the challenges of processing your kill, the higher the chance will be that you will bring home as much of it as possible. Don’t be short-sighted and end up spoiling your meat or losing portions that could have been used if you had the right knife. The choices and variety of knives on the market can seem overwhelming, but be open to trying one or two different types in order to find out which one is just right for your hand, skill, and personal style.
Kevin Steffey is an avid hunter and freelance writer. He loves spending time in the field with his rifle more than almost anything else, and occupies his off-time discussing deer and their habits online. He is a founder at www.deerhuntingfield.com