Best Hunting Knives at SHOT Show 2017

Our expert picks the top knives for big game hunting and bushcraft

KA-BAR JAROSZ GLOBETROTTER
The KA-BAR JAROSZ GLOBETROTTERKA-BAR

At the SHOT show you’ll find hunting knives in every flavor imaginable. Every knife maker has its preferences on design and method of doing things, and for consumers that means lots of variety. There were some great knives on the floor this year.

When I look at a knife, more than looking at how handsome it is, I’m looking at how well it will work for me as a hunter. Here’s a look at what I came up with as my top hunting knives of SHOT 2017.

CAMILLUS BT-8.5 (bird & trout)

CAMILLUS BT-8.5 (bird & trout)
CAMILLUS BT-8.5 (bird & trout)CAMILLUS

As far as hunting knives go, I tend to gravitate toward smaller blades, simply because they are more versatile. Big blades are great for big stuff, but you're much more limited on the tasks you can accomplish with ease. This is a good full-size knife, easily sharpened, and has a somewhat large blade for my tastes, but the contouring and notches on the back of the blade allow for more precise control on finer tasks. It's officially a bird and trout knife, but I see plenty of big-game being dressed and butchered with this blade. Blade: Fixed 3.5," AUS-8 Steel; price: $32

GERBER MYTH COMPACT FIXED

GERBER MYTH COMPACT FIXED
GERBER MYTH COMPACT FIXEDGERBER

Another knife that caught my eye is this small fixed blade. I doubt you'll see it in any other roundups, as most would dismiss it as being something along the lines of a kitchen knife. Well, it's actually very similar in design to the knives I use exclusively for skinning fur bearers, and other taxidermy prep work. I've even skinned brown bears with them. The thin, flexible blade is perfect for a lot of tasks, and if you've got a little patience and a stone handy, it will handle skinning and quartering just about any big game animal. Blade: Fixed 3.3," 7CR17MOV; price: $17

SPYDERCO BUSHCRAFT

SPYDERCO BUSHCRAFT
SPYDERCO BUSHCRAFTSPYDERCO

If you're looking for fancy or frills, this isn't your knife. It's a utilitarian bushcraft knife to the core, albeit handsomely made. It's hefty and solid, which aid in its intended purpose as an all-around camp and bush survival knife, but the blade has a shape very conducive to big game dressing as well. My first thought upon examining it was "moose knife." It's not ideal for the finer tasks, but it's made for tough jobs and to handle abuse. Blade: Fixed 4.1," 0-1 STEEL; price: $339

BROWNING SPEED LOAD CERAMIC

BROWNING SPEED LOAD CERAMIC
BROWNING SPEED LOAD CERAMICBROWNING

Insult my blade sharpening skills all you want, but because I'm a backpack hunter, folding replaceable blade knives have a special place in my heart. Remote, lightweight hunts are a natural niche for lightweight replaceable blade knives. Ceramic blades have long been used in kitchen cutlery. They are hard, and hold a very sharp edge well. Until now, the downside has been that they are more brittle than steel, and if your knife breaks in the field, you are hosed. Now that has changed. These blades are comparable in strength to the surgical scalpel type blades, and those work just fine for me. Blades: Replaceable Ceramic; price: $40

   

SOG KIKU 4" FIXED

SOG KIKU 4” FIXED
SOG KIKU 4” FIXEDSOG

Most Fieldcraft knives are beyond what I find useful in size, but this is an exception. This is another one that would be a great all-around camp and big-game knife. The blade contours aren’t too “Rambo” for me, and the handle design provides for a good purchase in less than ideal conditions. The VG-10 Japanese steel can be a little tougher to get that perfect edge, but it will hold it a lot longer than inferior steels. If you are looking to dress, skin, and quarter big critters with a minimal amount of time on the diamond stone, this is one you may want to look at. Blade: Fixed, 4” VG-10 JAPANESE STEEL; price $254

CRKT HOMEFRONT

CRKT HOMEFRONT
CRKT HOMEFRONTCRKT

If I am being realistic, I get the most hunting use out of my folding knives. Whether that's getting lunch ready, cutting up animals, or whittling sticks, my folder is usually my go-to. However, it can be a real pain cleaning all the blood, fat, and hair that inevitably gets caked into the handle. That's why this one caught my eye. This knife can be field stripped quickly (with no tools needed) and reassembled just as easily. Other than that, it's a no-frills knife, but with a good blade shape for a variety of tasks. At least in new condition, it feels very solid in build, and there's zero slop in the blade or takedown lever, which eases my concern that it might come apart in my hand or pocket. Blade: Folding 3.5," AUS 8 STEEL; price: $150

KA-BAR JAROSZ GLOBETROTTER

KA-BAR JAROSZ GLOBETROTTER
KA-BAR JAROSZ GLOBETROTTERKA-BAR

Frills aren't what you should be looking for in a useful hunting knife, and you won't find any here. Although this could be considered a bushcraft knife, the smaller size agrees with my taste more than many others. Sure, it would be plenty adequate for light duty random work of that nature, but it has a solid, simple design that will work well for any big game. And, you will have more control over your blade than with bigger options. Sometimes not having a lot of features to brag about also means there's not as much to complain about, and that's the case here. BLADE: Fixed 3.5," 1095 CRO-VAN STEEL; price: $98