Photos by Ralph Smith

For some time, I’ve maintained that big-game hunters need only one faithful blade, a sturdy clip-point folder that can handle gutting, skinning, and quartering duties.

Then I spent nearly three weeks in British Columbia’s backcountry, where I relied on four different knives to handle rough and fine cutting duties. If you intend to cape a head, bone a carcass, chop tent stakes, clean a fish, and carve a roast, you need some combination of at least two of the blades below.

Each of these knives has a drop point. The strongest and most versatile hunting-blade type, a drop point has a beefier tip than a clip point, which looks similar. Which is which? Look at the spine of your blade. If it drops down and then swoops back up at the tip, it’s a clip point. The spine of a drop-point knife drops gracefully down to the tip. Compared to a clip-point, a drop point keeps more metal near the tip, making it stronger for a variety of hunting chores, especially those that go beyond simple slicing.

What’s different about each of these drop points, besides their size and style, is the length and slimness (or, in the case of the Cabela’s, stoutness) of the utilitarian blade.

1. A.G. Russell Bird & Trout


A slimmer version of A.G. Russell’s innovative Deer Hunter drop-point knife, this 3 1⁄16-inch blade is ground all the way to the tip and features an indestructible composite handle and a molded fiberglass sheath. In D2 steel, the blade of the Bird & Trout will gut and take apart a big mule deer without needing resharpening. ($30-$45;

2. Spyderco Endura4


A utility folder, this big knife–it measures 5 inches closed–is on the upper end of pocket knives. But the 3 3⁄4-inch flat-ground blade is sized right for deer-size game, and the blade is shaped properly for gutting, skinning, and most camp chores. As with the Havalon (right), the bright handle prevents the Spyderco from getting lost in the field. ($110;

3. Cabelas’s Outfitter Series


This Gerber-made sheath knife features a stout 3.4-inch stainless blade that is easy to sharpen in the field, which is good because the 420 steel doesn’t hold an edge well. The big knife took apart an entire B.C. moose, but I had to touch up the blade periodically. The grip is easy to handle in any weather, or when covered in slick blood. ($50;

4. Havalon Piranta (pictured on top of page)
There’s a good reason most taxidermists have a Havalon in their pocket. This lock-blade folder, with its replaceable blades of surgical steel, is the ultimate skinning and caping knife. But the 3-ounce tool is also capable of gutting an elk, if you’re careful. The scary-sharp blades are a little flimsy–the high-tension steel can snap if forced–but replacing them is a cinch. Anyone who has ever laid their bone-handled knife on the ground will appreciate the bright colors of the hard-to-lose Havalon. Each knife ships with 12 replacement blades. ($55;