There are so many opinions on what is the perfect hunting knife, that there are entire books written on the subject. A hunting knife is a very personal piece of kit, probably up there with the rifle.
There have been many discussions around the fire on what type of knife is best suited for skinning and butchering Sambar. And at times the most vocal participants are those who have mostly used their favorite knife on small game such as rabbits and foxes and perhaps have progressed to goats or similar.
The thing most new hunters do not realize is the physical size of Sambar deer, in particular if it happens to be a stag. And it is not unusual for the same hunters to discover, when confronted with the task of capeing and venison recovery for the first time, that the knife they are using is not suitable and in most cases not even sufficiently sharp.
The one thing you will quickly learn dealing with an animal the size of a Sambar, is they can be very hard on your knife. It is not uncommon to find that the cutting edge and point gets damaged from cutting through the joints or neck bone of a Sambar.
So what is a good knife? What I have found over the years is to use what the pro's use. In this I mean butchers. You will find that most will probably only have 2 -3 knives with which they can process an entire beast.
For the hunter I would narrow this down to 2 knives. The fist knife is what is termed as a skinning knife.They are inexpensive and available from most hunting shops, knife shops and butcher supplies. What you are looking for is one that is about 5 to 6 inches in blade length.
Frost 6 inch Skinner
The one pictured above is also hollow ground for easy sharpening. Although this tends to make the cutting edge more easily damaged.
The second knife in your hunting kit should be a boning knife. This knife you will not need to carry with you in the field. This knife is however better suited for butchering your deer. With its narrower and more flexible blade it far more suitable for removing meat from bone and then separating the meat into final cuts that are ready for the freezer.
Frost 6 inch Boner
The last item that you absolutely must have is a sharpening steel. The one thing that you will learn quickly is that regardless of what type of knife you use, it will need repeated sharpening during either capeing or butchering your deer. This is especially relevant if the deer happens to be a stag that has recently wallowed. Sambar deer hide is very course and also quite thick, particularly around the neck/shoulder and rump areas. This combined with the dirt that is in the hair of the hide will dull any knife cutting edge quickly.
9 inch Steel
There is a wide variety of steels available. These range from plain ones as pictured above to diamond coated and many others. Be mindful of ones that are short in length and do not have some sort of finger guard, as it is pretty easy to cut ones hand during sharpening.
Now all that remains is how to carry your skinning knife and steel?
Above all else, ensure that what ever knife you choose is as sharp as you can make it. This will make the job of sharpening with a steel, capeing and butchering your venison less difficult.
Written by Ken Leatham