On a hunt, the work starts when the deer hits the ground. A good skinning knife can be critical at that time.
It was the middle 1970's, and I was walking deep into a Montana mountain draw while trying to push deer up toward my partner high above me. In the middle of the very bottom, a very inhospitable place, was gut pile remains from a fresh deer kill.
Stuck in the middle of the mass of tissue was a small rusty, dull knife. It was obvious that the cowboy who had worked on his harvested deer was done with that tool. I am sure it gave him fits when he was dressing the deer.
Selecting the correct knife for the job is more important the carrying the best rifle or the top-of- the-line ammunition. When your game animal or varmint class critter is down, it is time to go to work, and a good knife is crucial.
Benchmade Steep Country
SZCO Supplies Micarta
Klein Tools Cable
Havalon Piranta Z
Klein Tool 1570
9 Best Skinning Knives Reviewed
1. Benchmade Steep Country - The Best Skinning Knife
A good example of a best skinning knife, and one I use myself, is the Benchmade brand skinning knife. This knife is a best choice for several reasons. A skinning knife needs to fit the design profile of that specific tool.
First, the knife needs to be short with a short blade. The pattern of the knife needs to be rounded with no sharp points that can cut a skinned cape or full hide off an animal.
The Benchmade Steep Country meets the requirements of a good skinner. The blade is made of CPM-S3-530v stainless steel that offers good edge quality and rust resistance.
With a fixed blade full tang design, the knife is strong and will fill in when a tough job such as cutting through a spine or braking a pelvic bone is required in the field.
The knife ships with a high quality Kydex sheath that will adjust for several carry positions and features a lifetime guarantee.
2. SZCO Supplies Micarta File Works Skinning Knife
If you need a budget knife as a skinner, the Micarta File Works skinner could be a good starter choice. At a budget price, the knife boasts a stainless-steel blade with a Micarta grip and a full tang design.
The only question I have about this knife is how well the blade would take to a stone or steel as it dulled down during use. If the steel is soft, so much the better.
This knife comes from the manufacture with a good edge. Some of my friends may be questioning me, however. A budget knife like this cannot be much, but I can tell you that one of the very best skinning knives that I use every fall is almost a kitchen knife that cost almost same and looks like it should be in the kitchen bread drawer.
A good skinning knife? Don't leave home without it.
The shape of this knife is flat-out great. This is a classic skinner, and if it stays sharp and is easy to run a steel across, I am on board all the way.
3. Pocket Knife Folding Utility Klein Tools Cable skinning knife
The Klein Tools skinner is not impressive, but to the educated eye, this little knife is a dream. Taxidermists all over the world use a knife exactly like this tool for skinning. I know, as I was in the business for better than a decade back in the day.
This knife fits in your pocket and it won't drag you down as you ascend a mountain getting in position for a trophy shot. When that trophy is down, taking off the cape will be easy and not cutting it to pieces is guaranteed with this little skinner.
Blades in this knife are replaceable stainless steel, and there is no need to set steel against the edge when the knife dulls.
Mounting a rubber grip handle, the lock back system is installed in the grip frame itself. This knife also features a belt clip for open storage and carry.
The Helle52 is a short blade,198mm that carries a Curly Birch handle and a triple-laminated stainless-steel blade.
The professional grade Helle52, like several others here, is a knife that is smaller in blade-length and designed to work as a skinner versus a general-purpose butchering knife. It’s total length including handle is 8 inches. When you need to get into the area around the skull of a big game animal, this knife won't stall out and get snagged in a small space or cut the hide on your trophy cape.
Now the work begins. The hunt is only half the event when the knives come out to play.
The laminated stainless steel will sharpen with a steel quickly and hold an edge longer than some offered on the market today. Equipped with a Nordic style sheath, this is definitely an upper grade skinning knife.
5. Helle Speider Knife
Made smaller in size and handy to carry in the field or pack along with the hunter, this knife features the triple-layered stainless steel, and like its big brother above, is handmade in Norway. Viking steel, and Nordic leather make up a top-end small general-purpose skinner.
The Helle is not cheap at all; it is an example of a pro-grade tool that uses very high-grade steel in its blade. Also note that it is not a big knife. That is not a prerequisite of a good skinning knife at all.
6. Victorinox Beef Skinning Blade Fibrox Pro Handle
This knife is not a looker but is a get-it-done system. The blade will take an edge with a good quality steel and stay in the game longer than most.
Designed as a big game knife for elk, moose, red stage, or bear, this knife will roll off big heavy hides quickly.
Need to cut big game and pack into the Outback? This skinner is your answer. Grips on these knives are designed to stay tight even with a good deal of blood soaking the grip area. The slight curve on the underside allows the hand to stay centered, and not slide over and into the blade under stress. This is a great safety feature.
Currently I own a full set of these knives and have cut dozens of deer, antelope, buffalo, and other assorted critters with these tools.
Personal Collection of author's hunting Knives.
Center big game skinner (rounded blade). Left: small skinner game and fur. Right: Puma White Hunter: Classic collector skinning knife. Used during the 1960's. Bottom Puma White Hunter: Modern made dual purpose knife.
Top Bone knife, center: skinning knife lower general-purpose big-game elk knife. Field knives all have a different purpose.
Silver Stag fur pelt skinning knife. Coyote and cat pelts winter hunting.
In my opinion, a soft steel knife is best, as a small steel or sharpening stone in the field can keep the knife up and working. Some knives require getting to a sharping system or even wheel that is powered. This is not desirable when in the field, and I prefer a medium carbon black steel blade that I can keep a razor’s edge against.
Note that most of my blades illustrated here are rounded. That keeps them from damaging pelts or big game hide. Also, size matters here, and a small knife is a working knife and not just a good-looking piece of steel and grip.
7. Szco Supplies Small Skinner Patch Knife
At 4.75 inches in overall length, this very small skinner is just what the hunter ordered when pulling the socks off (hide) a South Dakota speed goat in the early season hot sun as you try to get it cut and loaded into some iced coolers fast.
With a stainless-steel blade, it will hold up for the one critter run, in most cases. Also held together with brass rivets into the handle and a nice leather sheath, this total bargain is almost unbelievable in terms of affordability.
8. Havalon Piranta Z Folding Blade Skinning Knife
A correct skinning knife imported with a black zytel military plastic handle. At a weight of 5.6 ounces, this is an uphill mountain-carry knife that a sheep or goat hunter can work with when he or she gets lucky.
The knife uses replacement blades that are razor sharp surgical steel. Popular with taxidermists because of the replacement steel blades and overall quality associated with this knife. Total length 7 ¼ inches open.
9. Klein Tool 1570-3 Cable/Lineman's Skinning Knife
This hook knife skinner is just what the hunter order. Small, compact and built for clean, smooth, detailed trophy cape-skinning of deer, goats, hogs, and other related game animals. Set in the area of other skinners, this is a lineman’s cable cutter hook but can serve well as a skinner.
Not intended as the only knife afield, but great for caping off skins or head mount work by a taxidermist or do-it-yourself hunter in the field, it can be just one more tool in the field toolbox.
Lakota Indians on the Pine Ridge South Dakota Reservation field dress a freshly- killed whitetail deer for the food shelf. Everything will be used, and the hide is very important when used for native arts and other related things.
Among these true Americans, one knife must do it all much of the time, and they select that tool with care. If that knife can't skin well, it is useless to these hunters. The lesson here is simply this: Don't buy that knife for looks, but buy it for its to get the job done when it is crunch time down range.