Since the man began hunting, he was choosing a good hunting knife, and it has always been a challenging task. Skinning is the crucial part of the process. While taking care of your hunting gear, you shouldn’t forget about the skinning knife – a knife every hunter should own. A good skinner will save your time and greatly ease the skinning of your game. Thoroughly chosen to suit your personal purposes, a quality skinner will even protect your wrist from injuries. Today’s hunting knives come in many different blade shapes and blade materials. It is up to you to learn the characteristics of various types and to select one that will be better suited for your particular tasks. Below are the tips that will describe the crucial factors in choosing the best skinning knife.
Two crucial factors are often emphasized by experts – a perfect skinning knife shall:
While being convenient and easy to carry, folders are not so reliable and easy to clean as fixed-blade knives. A blade fixed to the handle is much better suited for rough tasks such as skinning. A fixed blade knife is sturdy, less likely to break, and way easier to keep clean.
A good skinning knife should have a thin and light blade with razor-like sharpness to quickly and neatly separate the skin from the meat. Heavy blades will quickly fatigue your hands in the process, so choose a lightweight knife for agile, smooth operation.
The three popular hunting knife blade shapes are: the Clip Point, the Drop Point, and the Trailing Point. Each of the three designs has its virtues and shortcomings.
The Trailing Point blade has a back edge that curves upward: a long curve along the length of the spine positions the tip of the blade above the spine. This increases the length of the sweep; however, the user has less control over the tip of the blade. This type of blade has a large curved cutting area, which makes Trailing Point knives perfect for slicing or skinning. This type of blade is most common in skinning and filet knives.
A skinner is the knife used for skinning large game. A good skinner should be thin, lightweight, and have a fixed blade. A thinner blade will make it easy for you to cut under and along the hide of an animal without tearing it, to quickly and neatly separate the hide from the meat. A lighter knife will not fatigue your hands in the process and will provide an agile, smooth operation. An ergonomic handle that resists slippage will make your use of the skinner easier and more maneuverable.
The Trailing Point blade is recommended by hunting experts as the best blade type for skinning tasks. A long curve along the length of the spine increases the length of the sweep and provides a large curved cutting area, which makes Trailing Point knives perfect for slicing or skinning.
The length of the blade inversely affects the knife’s reach and the extent of control you have over your knife. That means, a short knife blade is easier to control and manipulate, but it has less reach. On the contrary, a longer knife blade furnishes you with much more reach, but gives you less control over the knife.
Most agree that a skinning knife shall not be long, as a long blade will be inconvenient for intricate skinning tasks, or might even break when subject to rough operation. Those large 6-inch camp knives aren’t good at fine cuts necessary when skinning the game. Most hunters choose a skinning knife with a 4” blade, and knives with a 3” blade work well for skinning small game.
Typically, a skinner knife has a curved blade to provide easier cuts under and along the hide of an animal, to quickly and neatly separate the hide from the meat. A curved blade with a large cutting area increases the length of the sweep: this allows for maximal use of the heel region of the blade. A curved blade, provided it is sharp enough, will make a perfectly even stroke when separating the skin from the meat. Also, a curved shape minimizes the risk of piercing the hide during skinning.
This knife designed by legendary maker Ethan Becker is a heavyweight in the world of skinning knives. Its beefy blade is so tough it can handle splitting kindling for the fire as well as skinning a 10-point. This large knife is 10.5 inches long and weighs one pound. Its virtue is that it’s able to cut through really sturdy material.
This extremely lightweight (just 2.1 ounces) American-made knife with the skeletonized handle allows for easy movement and adjustments when skinning. The S35VN stainless steel blade keeps a sharp edge well and is sturdy enough to get into the guts and bones of a carcass. The scales provide an excellent grip that’s easy to maintain even when wet. Apart from skinning operations, Argali Serac can be used as an all-around hunting knife to process an entire animal.
The 113 Ranger Skinner is a refined, smaller version of the classic Buck Vanguard for easier use in the field. This knife combines the best features of Buck’s famous Ranger and Vanguard. The 3 ⅛-inch drop point blade suits finely for skinning and provides neat control, without any accidental hide punctures or jags. The blade is made of 420 high-carbon steel, comes razor-sharp right out of the box and holds an edge perfectly.
Noblie specializes in custom knives, and this deer skinning knife is no exception. Produced via traditional methods of metalwork and decoration, this fixed blade knife is made out of Bohler N695 steel and features a skinner blade, with decorative choil and groove. The handle is made out of assembled metal and ebony parts, and has a finger groove and two decorative rivets. The titanium bolster is embellished with engravings.
The 119 Special is one of the most relied upon knives by hunters and outdoorsmen. This fixed-blade hunting knife has a large clip blade, which allows for better control at the tip with a larger cutting surface at the belly. The handle is made out of extremely durable phenolic that is designed to endure years of rough operation. Designed in 1942, durable and affordable, this hunting knife has been enjoyed by generations of hunters.
The Gerber Gator is considered among the best folding skinning knives. It is tough and sturdy enough to process any game with ease. The deep clip point in the stainless steel blade will help get the last bit of skin off of the carcass easily. The glass-filled nylon handle provides excellent grip even when bloody or wet. The lockback mechanism keeps the blade secure when in use.
This knife has a powerful blade to cut through bones and perform other rough skinning tasks. It was designed especially for hunters who hunt on extended, strenuous expeditions. This fixed blade knife has a minimum weight, yet still has enough heft to do skinning tasks smoothly. The Light Hunter skinning knife is hand made from the very tough and cryogenically-treated D-2 tool steel. Equipped with a large gut-hook, it is suitable for skinning large animals such as elks.
This upswept skinner has an offset, sweeping fixed blade that is wider near the bolster. This allows for the bulk of the skinning to be done by the ample belly. The offset handle provides an easy way to smoothly move the knife. The 3.13-inch blade is a bit longer than in similar knives, however it is very lightweight (the whole outfit is just 3.3 ounces). The clip point 440 stainless blade is hollow ground.
The blade and adjoining gut hook are uniquely contoured to provide easy skinning of large game, saving body strain and time. This knife boasts great edge retention. Also, it is easy to hold and maneuverable in dealing even with the awkward contours of big game due to its unique round expansion along the belly of the blade. The handle is equipped with intuitive finger grooves for greater ergonomic function, making the knife a smart, functional addition to a hunter’s kit bag.
Cinco is not qualified strictly as a skinning knife, but that is one of the tasks that it handles smoothly. This folder is easy to deploy with a single hand, due to a flipper that expedites opening. The synthetic handle scales provide excellent grip even when wet. The drop-point blade provides easy field dressing and skinning, but also works well for tougher tasks like cutting tendons.
This thin and lightweight folder is sturdy enough to effortlessly cut through an elk hide. Equipped with a high quality, smooth blade, this knife can be used to get into tough spots while skinning. Kershaw Blur Black is a great all-around knife, but it is particularly good at skinning. Easy for beginners, this knife has been many hunters’ go-to knife for years.
The Grizzly Creek by Benchmade is designed for the discerning hunter and is equipped with all the utility you need in an all-around hunting knife. It works especially well for large game like deer and elk. The knife is equipped with a tucked-in gut hook. Its very sharp and reliable blade makes it perfect for any field dressing tasks. Moreover, Benchmade provides full warranty at no cost for the life of the knife.
If you’re looking for a skinning knife with a gut hook, check out this compact field dressing kit. This solution includes two knives, both of the renowned Gerber quality known for generations. Along with the larger blade, there is a small skinning knife that works well for tighter contours and hard-to-get-to areas. This combination furnishes you with basically all you’ll need for intricate skinning, dressing and hanging tasks.
This one is a great all-around small game knife. Well-suited for trappers or everyday carry, this elegant folder can do many tasks, from getting behind intricate areas of small game to taking the hide off a fur-bearing animal. The thick drop point blade works well for a variety of jobs, making it a great every day carry knife.
The Cold Steel Large Voyager is a great multipurpose skinning knife as it does many skinning tasks pretty well. The textured nylon handle provides plenty of grip, and finger detents make sure your grasp will be tight no matter how slippery, bloody or wet the job. The thick blade allows for challenging jobs, and the fine drop-point allows for plenty of accuracy.
This knife with a serrated edge is known to be among the best all-around field dressing knife for deer and elk. Its craftsman quality makes it excellently smooth at cutting through hide, guts, cartilage, or bone. CUTCO is often named by knife enthusiasts as USA’s top knife company. This knife holds the company’s high standard, being at once a superb all-around hunting knife and a great deer skinning knife.
This every-day-carry folding knife has an integrated pocket clip on the glassylon handle. The pocket clip is removable and replaceable. The knife comes with 6 replacement blades. The sturdy blade holder has a serrated thumb rest for better control, and dual thumb studs for quick one-hand opening. The lockback design keeps the blade from folding in your hand during operation. The Razor-Lite EDC Folding Knife is a multi-purpose and easy to maintain EDC knife. Its replaceable surgical steel blades make it a great hunting utensil.
The Piranta-Z from Havalon features changeable blades, which is a huge advantage in many hunting situations. A dozen steel blades easily clip into the polymer handle. In case a blade has been damaged or gone dull midway, you can replace it with a new one in seconds. The manufacturer is aware that hunting folders can be a nuisance in terms of cleaning, that is why there is a maintenance feature: the back of the knife opens for easy cleaning. With all the merits, this knife is not capable of cutting bone.
A specialized skinning knife is designed to efficiently separate the skin from the meat, minimizing damage to both. Its curved blade and ergonomic handle make the process smoother and more precise.
What’s the difference between a skinning knife and other hunting knives?
While many hunting knives are versatile, a skinning knife specifically has a curved blade that allows for easier separation of skin and flesh, reducing the risk of punctures or tears.
Fixed blades are generally preferred for skinning due to their strength and stability. However, folding knives can be more portable and convenient for some hunters.
What blade material is best for a deer skinning knife?
High carbon steel or stainless steel are popular choices due to their edge retention and corrosion resistance. The exact preference might vary based on maintenance habits and environmental conditions.
Regular cleaning, occasional sharpening, and proper storage are essential. After each use, clean the knife with warm soapy water, dry it thoroughly, and store it in a dry place. Sharpen the blade as needed to maintain its edge.
While not mandatory, a gut hook can help initiate cuts and open the animal more cleanly. Some hunters find it beneficial, while others prefer a simple curved blade.
The handle material plays a role in grip, comfort, and durability. Materials like G-10, micarta, and rubber provide excellent grip, while wood and bone offer a traditional aesthetic.
Field dressing refers to the initial process of removing the internal organs of the hunted game. Skinning involves removing the outer skin. While some knives can handle both tasks, a specialized skinning knife is designed for the latter.
Many sporting goods stores, specialty hunting shops, and online retailers offer a range of skinning knives. Always read reviews, seek recommendations, and prioritize trusted brands.
If you want a hand made skinning knife – choose a Noblie hunting knife. Noblie hunting knives are sturdy and reliable as they feature a full-tang 4-5 mm thick blade made out of stainless Bohler N695 steel hardened to 58-60 HRC. Knife scales are made of hard ebony wood. Sheaths are made of black leather. We offer various blade types – skinner, drop point, trailing point – for you to choose a hunting knife that is best for your particular purposes.
Each Noblie knife is packed in a beautiful wooden box. Explore Noblie hunting knives here.
Selecting the best deer skinning knife is a fusion of tradition, precision, and personal preference. While the market offers a plethora of options, the true value of a skinning knife is realized in its performance — its ability to glide through the task with ease, minimizing waste and ensuring the respect a hunter owes to the game. A good skinning knife doesn’t just simplify the process; it turns it into a skillful art. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a novice embarking on your first expedition, investing in the right tool is paramount. Remember, it’s not just about the hunt, but also honoring the animal through proper field dressing. As you holster your chosen blade, know that it’s more than just metal and handle; it’s a testament to the timeless bond between hunter and nature.
Author: Aleks Nemtcev