I think all hunters can agree that a good trusty knife is one of the most important pieces of gear to take into the wild. Many knifes serve many different purposes; which is why I have always preferred my Buck PackLight series which comes with a large skinning knife, caper and a gut hook, or as I like to call it, the “unzipper.” With any large game animal, it is easy to start an incision “unzip” the belly with the gut hook and then use the skinning and caper knife to finish the job.
The problem comes when you go on a hunt that is more remote than the usual hunt and where there may not be electricity. When your knives get dull, how do you handle it? There are a few different ways to sharpen a knife such with a wet stone which is time consuming and not for every blade shape, electric sharpener which can be with a stone or belt but will require electricity. Pull through sharpeners will vary in size but are for the most part portable, and guided rod sharpeners which require a bench of sorts but will give you a long-lasting sharp blade. I will briefly discuss each of these options and then talk about a new method I have found which eliminates the need for any sharpener and saves quite a bit of time.
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Some of these systems require more skill than one would initially think. The most skill required is wet stone and guide rod systems but they will give one the sharpest blade for the most cuts. These options seem to take up the most of your time in set up and operation whether assembling the guide rod or swapping and oiling stones. Electric and pull through systems seem to give a good sharpening faster than the previous two, but I find blades dull relatively quicker. Now I prefer a guide rod system for my hunting knives when I am home or at camp, but on this last hunt, we harvested three wild boar and two deer and needed another option.
It was then where my father-in-law introduced me to Havalon knives and the world of replaceable blades. The idea is simple, when your blade dulls, pop it off and swap it out for a fresh razor-sharp scalpel like blade and continue on. You can store the used blade in the foil wrapper and recycle them when you return, or discard them. I prefer storing them in a blade disposal box until it is full, then bringing it to my local recycling center. You might want to check with your recycling center first as some do not take used blades. You can get a dozen replacement blades for under ten bucks and they last long enough to justify buying them. I relate it to the decision to keep sharpening a straight razor versus buying disposable razors, each person has their preferred methods either out of pride or convenience.
I have no issues with sharpening my own hunting knives and will still continue to do so, however I will from this point on never leave camp with out a Havalon or similar replaceable blade knife knowing I won’t have to stop to sharpen my knife. Plus, with more hunters getting out into the wild, people are finding themselves venturing out further and further; with the light weight and versatility, swapping out multi pack knife sets for this single knife will reduce weight carried. Last, I want to highlight how easy this little knife is to use when not only removing an animal’s hide, but fleshing the hide for tanning. This blade will glide across and reduce your time noticeably.
Whichever kind of knife and sharpener you chose, just be sure not to leave home without your trusty knife.