Tiny Knives for Deer Cleaning

Tiny knives like these can be used for cleaning and gutting deer, but longer blades and larger knives are more efficient.

  As a guy who commonly writes about knives I came to realize decades ago that huge knives were not needed for 90 percent of deer skinning and gutting. I also found that almost any steel knife would do, provided that it had a sharp edge.  and that steel blades would outperform knives made of stone, bone and wood (although these work too).

  However, I had never investigated the lower limits of blade length. I decided to take three knives with the shortest blades that I owned to try out on a deer hunt at  Georgia’s Hard Labor Creek State Park. I was shooting an original Brunswick Rifle that used a patched round ball. My knife/knives would need to cut the tough cotton patch material (no problem for any of them) as well as work up the deer.

Horton, Buck and Hartsook knives used to work up Georgia deer.

  All the knives were provided by the manufacturers. The larger knife on the left is a pocket-clip, lock-back folder distributed by Horton that is made in China, the central knife is a small lock back also imported from China and sold by Buck while the fixed-blade neck knife is made by Hartsook Knives in Kernersville, N.C.  (www.hartsookknivesinc.com). None of these knives were  recommended by their makers for processing deer.  These are ultra-lightweight knives made of good steel designed to handle general cutting chores.

Small Buck knife almost lost among the leaves.

  Two problems arose with these knives. One was anticipated, but the other was not. The short blade lengths required more cuts, so the skinning and gutting tasks took longer, both outside and inside the animal. When working blind inside the carcass I seriously found myself wanting a longer blade. The other problem is once a knife was put down, it was easy to lose it in the leaf  litter. I had enough trouble finding them once they were put down in the daylight. It would have been very difficult to recover one of these tiny knives in the dark if  it was put down or dropped.  

  The hatchet shown in the top photo was used to chop the pelvis and ribs to open the carcass. Meat cutting with these knifes was a pain. Yes, they were sharp and would cut, but there was not sufficient blade length to be efficient. They were acceptable for working off the hide from the skull plate were a scalpel might have been used, but not for all-around deer cleaning and processing.

  These can work. Throw one in your survival kit as a back-up, but take something with a bit longer blade for serious work.

5 thoughts on “Tiny Knives for Deer Cleaning

  1. Hi Hovey,

    Your comments about putting a knife down when field dressing an animal are more serious than most folks know. A butcher will usually have a knife pouch and a steel hung low on a belt from his waist and his knife or knives will be returned to that pouch for safe keeping and retrieval anytime he needs both hands free to do other things. Hunters generally do not wear such a “tool pouch” and at best they will only have a belt sheath or scabbard that does not so easily fall to hand as a properly hung pouch does. Hunters all too often will simply put the subject knife down, on the ground or carcass, and then lose sight of it. Sometimes the subsequent searching for it results in an accidental cut to a finger or more! The loss of a good knife, and perhaps the only decent knife available, can be a real pain too. But a short length of high visibilty surveyor tape can be tied to any knife or fire starter tools to make them much easier to find should they be dropped in the snow or other ground cover etc.

  2. Excellent comment Ralph. There have been a few hunter’s knives with international orange grips. The last that I recall was a Beretta folding skeletal blade, and I have also seen ocasional fixed-blade orange-gripped knives. Beretta still makes that pattern knife, although I don’t have an orange one at the moment.

    The next post on knives will be one where I use lightweight knives with somewhat longer blades, and I will include a photo of the Beretta. It works fine, but has a very sharp point which tends to puncture hides and hands. I like it for pocket carry and utility, but it is not the best for game processing.

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