How to Use a Hunting Knife

So you’ve killed a big buck, bull, or bird. Now comes an equally as difficult part—packing it out. Do do that, you’re going to need a hefty hunting knife to cut up the thick hide. Before we discuss that, take a look at some knives that are made right here in the USA. Or have a go with the best hunting knife currently on the market.

We’ve debated whether to use folding or fixed knives before, but regardless of which you take on your hunt, the process of packing out will remain generally the same. Some other tool like gutting hooks might be necessary depending on what type of game you’re after, but it all depends on hunter’s preference.

Here are the basic steps that are standing between you and getting that hard-earned kill in your stomach.

  • Field dressing
  • Skinning
  • Butchering

It goes without saying that eating the meat right then and there isn’t clean or sanitary in the slightest. Do people still do it? You bet.


Let’s say you’re hunting for the first time. The trick to packing out is not going in stabbing away at the meat with reckless abandon. If you do this, you’ll wear down your knife pretty quickly and spoil meat faster. Even thick, heavy duty steel can become frail when not handled with precision.

Hunting knives are not designed nor strong enough to cut up solid bone. For that, you may need a saw or bigger/heavier knife. Knives simply the field dressing process and the skinning process by separating innards from the body. For the purposes of this section, let’s say you’ve killed a big game animal.

Now, let’s field dress it.

  1. The first step after you’ve killed it is to get its innards and organs out. Use the hunting knife to make careful and small cuts along the underside of the animal, starting from its anus all the way up to the ribcage.
    • This opens a cavity to pull the innards out without much trouble.
  2. Use a heavy-duty knife to break open the rib cage all the way to the neck.
  3. Use the hunting knife to separate the innards from the lining of the muscles and body.

Now, onto skinning.

  1. Start from the top of the animal, near the thighs.
    • Some hunters prefer dedicated skinning knives, but hunting knives work fine. With a thicker animal, skinning knives may be preferable to speed up the process.
  2. To successfully skin the animal, use the knife to cut from underneath the skin.
  3. Pull the skin down from the lower body to the upper body.

Butchering the animal will require a heavy duty saw or butchering knife to cut away the meat from the bone. Now that you have a basic idea of how to use a hunting knife, go and try field dressing for yourself. You won’t be able to get it right if you don’t try!

Tell us what knives you prefer to use in field dressing and skinning in the comments below!