I worked for three of the top four Beef Packing companies for a number of years. I integrated what I learn there to fit it into my Outdoor world. I don't have a clue how many bear, antelope, deer, elk and moose that I've boned. The knives that I recommend will not be combat/survival knives, they'll be the ones that fit best in the Outdoorsman's world.
When I was a kid there weren't but about five different knife brands to choose from. Now go to your local Bass Pro Shop and see how many styles and brands they offer. It's unbelievable.
Certain tools fit certain jobs better than others. You can dig a hole with a spoon but a shovel works better. The same applies with knives. To take care of your trophy you need four different styles of knives. Do I always carry all four? No.
When buying a knife I look at two things.
- Different brands. I have a handful of manufacturers that I favor: Havalon Knives, Knives of Alaska and Puma.
- Deigns. Just because it's made by a good knife maker doesn't mean that it's a good design.
The last few years it seems like there's been a mad rush to design the hardest knife on the market. To me, they've gone overboard. A soft knife is easier to sharpen but the edge doesn't last as long. A hard one is harder to sharpen but doesn't get dull as fast. It's not a right or wrong, just a matter of preference. If you're in the backcountry you don't want one to go dull in the middle of the job but by the same token, Smith Abrasives makes a lot of little lightweight knife sharpening gizmos you can throw in your backpack.
Check out the Havalon Piranta. It's a lightweight foldup knife. If it gets dull, simply pull off the blade and replace it with another razor sharp one. They are fastly becoming a hit among outdoorsmen.
To mark the pattern you'll need a clip point blade. If you're saving the hide you'll want a skinning knife with a drop point so you don't cut through the hide as easily. Can you skin with a regular blade? Sure, I've skinned over 100 deer with my foldup knife, a skinning knife just works better if you want to save the hide.
For boning, I like a 6-inch semi-flexible blade. Also check out the Havalon Baracuta. It folds up which makes it a lot safer to carry and is wickedly sharp.
As a kid I used pocketknives to skin around the eyes and ears of all my unlucky trophies that I trapped. Now taxidermist use scalpels. That's what I mean, every job requires a different cutting tool. If you're skinning out a lot of heads and feet you'll want a caping knife. The Havalon Piranta is a great caping knife.
A lot of which knife you carry may be due to sentimental value. What if your uncle that taught you how to hunt gives you his favorite hunting knife before he dies? What could be cooler than that? If you have a favorite knife that your dad or uncle gave you and I didn't recommend it, so what? Carry it and be happy.
- To sharpen hard knives buy a Smith Abrasives fine diamond stone.
- I'm not a metallurgist so I can't tell you the best types of metal, I've just tried to tell you the best shapes and knives that work for me.
- On Amazon Kindle you can buy an 11 page article for 99 cents on knife sharpening, titled "Knife Sharpening".