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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Bozeman, MT

    Default Knife Improvement - Looking for input

    I am sure most of you know I use Gerber Vital and Big Game Vital knives. I have been using their products for about five years. I really like them compared to past replaceable blade options I had used.

    This season they asked me to do some research. They told me to use every sort of knife I could find. Yeah, they took me to Cabela's last summer and we bought every knife that had some sort of feature I might find interesting for the elk hunter. It has been an interesting endeavor.

    I sent them video of the tasks most important when processing an elk in the field, using the gutless method. They have sent me some other ideas based on my feedback and they have asked me to try some new samples. Some are very interesting upgrades, some will just stay as samples.

    They have been asking me a ton of questions. I've provided answers. I think they have appreciated what I have asked for and suggested. We are talking about doing an elk hunting-specific knife based on some of the ideas I am presenting and supported by much of the video I have that shows the part of elk processing that require a different application than a do-all knife.

    I told them I had access to a large pool of serious knife users here on Hunt Talk. They asked if I would seek comments here. So that is what I am doing.

    Given I only have my hunting/trapping experiences to draw from, I am interested in comments and perspectives you have. I am mostly interested in a few things.

    1. What style of knife you currently use, and brand if you care to share?

    2. What you would like to see as upgrades to what you currently use?

    3. Are you primarily and elk hunter or other big game?

    4. Do you mostly do the gutless method or do you do the traditional field dressing/gutting?

    I am also curious how much of a factor the following might be to other hunters, given how they use a knife - weight, blade durability versus sharpening ease, size, folding versus fixed blade, and replaceable blade versus resharpenable blade. And, any other ideas you are seeking when buying a knife.

    Thanks for any help you are willing to provide.
    My name is Randy Newberg and I approved this post. What is written is my opinion, and my opinion only.

    "Hunt when you can. You're gonna run outta health before you run outta money."

  2. #2


    Currently using a Havalon Piranta my biggest issue is it's pain to clean, tissue gets stuck in the belt clip and folding mechanism. It's hard to clean the knife in a stream and/or with a water bottle and seems to take a bit of time with a wire brush to get it sanitary. I hunt elk every year, but I usually draw 3-4 big game tags a year so I wouldn't say I'm primarily an elk hunter. Almost always do the gutless method.

    I think the havalon is the perfect size/weight for my needs and I haven't had an issue with blade durability.

    Honestly I have played around with the idea of just carrying a scalpel handle into field, putting a blade on only when I have an animal down and removing the blade when I'm done butchering.

  3. #3


    1. Fixed blade drop point (Buck 536)
    2. I suppose if someone could invent a blade that never dulls and is always razor sharp that'd be awesome.
    3. Primarily elk and deer, but I've shot a lot more deer than elk
    4. Traditional field dressing for deer and elk if it's possible to get the animal out whole, otherwise I do gutless

    I switched over to a fixed blade instead of a folder a few years back after I realized that I took more time to clean up the knife getting animal pices out of it than I did taking care of the animal itself.
    "You are a fool to argue health insurance with Nemont, Resource management with Buzz, or spelling with Moosie.." - Jose Cuervo

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Bend, Orygun


    Havalon piranta and mini sog folder that comes with qad arrow rests; used on elk and Antelope. Gutless always. I find those two to be perfect, simple blade replacement on the havalon and the sog stays sharp enough for it's only job, knees.
    Maybe a 30% increase in size for the havalon, maybe. A fillet blade is a good option for boning the front shoulder.
    A toothbrush works well for knife cleanup.
    Last edited by WapitiBob; 11-26-2018 at 10:06 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    SW Michigan


    When you had Todd Orr on your Podcast I was impressed with him. I bought one of his knives, a small 4” blade skinner. That knife went thru 3 cow elk this year with no sharpening. On the 3rd and final one it had to finally get a touch up. My Gerber Vital did not get used very much. I kept it as a backup due to its light weight and small size. It since has become my daily pocket knife. I used it on my antelope and whitetail this Year with no complaints.

    I like having a good solid blade and a small replacement blade, they complement each other on elk size game. At this time I don’t see a need for a upgrade, but I would like to try a big game Vital to see how well the blades hold up to bending/breaking on larger animals. The Vital makes me nervous that I will snap a blade and cut myself In the process. I broke 4 on my bull. IE: skinning away antler bases or cutting the hoof joint off a quarter. Being able to pry a little with the skinner felt safer.

    I have done Elk, Deer, Bear, and Antelope.

    Gutless on anything I have to pack out. Otherwise traditional gutting.

    Hope that helps

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Not Virginia anymore!


    Apparently everything I own needs to be brightly colored cause I've left no less than half a dozen pieces of gear in the field this fall. I laid my knife down while hanging an elk quarter and couldn't find it after spending 15 minutes scouring the mountain. Luckily I had another one with me. I won't buy another knife unless it's orange. With that said, I can't find my Havalon...

    My next knife will be a folding model that I'll primarily use for deer, antelope, and trout. 99% of the time I use the gutless method.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Lake of the ozarks Missouri


    I use outdoor edge replaceable blade, and a buck fixed blade for western hunts and do gutless. Around home I do traditional gutting and use the outdoor edge and a Gerber fixed blade. I wouldn’t mind seeing a replaceable knife with a sheath and spot for spare blades. A bit tougher replaceable blades would be nice. Rubberized handles are nice and bright colors so you can find them if you drop them.
    I work so I can hunt

  8. #8


    I use a Tyto 1.1, because like wllm1313, my Havalon Piranta is a PIA to get clean. I still carry the Piranta in my pack as a back-up, but rarely use it. I also carry a SOG Flash II as my everyday pocket knife, which also makes it into my pocket while hunting. The scalpel blades are great for cutting and slicing, but if you need to get into a joint and pry it apart, you'll be spending more time putting in new blades than you will be working.

    I can't think of anything I'd switch about the Tyto, it's light, easy to clean, and handles well (I did strip off the janky paracord.) If Gerber were to make a fixed handle for their scalpel blades, it would be a winner in my opinion.

    I elk hunt, deer, and varmint/predator hunt. With elk, I primarily use the gutless method, for deer it depends on where I'm hunting. If I have to pack it out, gutless, if it's in my family's hayfield, I'll hang it upside down from the tractor and work standing up...

  9. Default

    Been using a folding Gerber (Gator?) for about ten years. That knife has butchered probably 20 elk (gutless method) and a bunch (30 or so) that many deer in that time. I love the design, my only complaint is it's hard to keep super sharp. I haven't been a big fan of the Havelon since I often use a lot of side pressure and prying as I work and snapped the blades on the one time I used a Havelon. Not a fan of having a sharp blade snapped off inside the body cavity of an animal I'm working on.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Bitterroot Valley, MT
    Blog Entries


    Gerber Vital
    I'd like a larger gut hook that actually slices well. (I think Havalon makes one, but its small. They also have a saw, but again small.)
    I'd like something reflective on the handle for when I drop it in grass and have to hunt for it (happens a few times a season).
    I'd like more texture or grippy surface on the handle.
    When the Vital gets used and gets gunk in in the blade secure mechanism, it looses the feature that beats it out over the havalon: ability to change blades without pliers. When its dirty, that spring doesn't release and I have to get the leatherman out.
    Why in the world is there no sheath with the Gerber Vital??? Seriously...
    I do all big game. On elk its gutless if possible. Everything else, its about half gutless, half old school.
    "There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm." ~TR

    "He was a mighty hunter before the Lord." ~Genesis 10:9

  11. #11


    Quote Originally Posted by wllm1313 View Post

    Honestly I have played around with the idea of just carrying a scalpel handle into field, putting a blade on only when I have an animal down and removing the blade when I'm done butchering.
    There was a woman at the last gun show I attended who had scalpel handles and blades and I thought the same thing. I bet it would work great. I have also used a folding utility knife with replaceable blades and it worked great. Sometimes KISS works well for me. And the blades are dirt cheap.

    Wyoming knife for splitting the hide open, and then anything from a large skinning knife to a orange pocket knife for the rest. I also have lost many things in the field including knives so orange is a good thing.

    There is a local fella who does sharpening at the farmers market hit my both of the blades for my Wyoming knife and my other knives before season starts so I just touch them up as needed.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    In the Sagebrush of Montana


    I use Gerber Vital and Benchmade Steep Country. The Vital uses the thin replaceable blades and I know there are some thicker replaceable blades that don't fit. I like the Benchmade Steep Country design and it holds a pretty good edge. I'd prefer a better sheath for the Benchmade.

  13. #13


    Outdoor edge, mostly. Replaceable blade.
    I like the case it comes in
    I like the scalpel type sharpness and being able to replace the blades.
    I like the rubber handle and color - orange. Can buy replaceable blades in bulk for cheap.
    Don;'t like the manor to replace the blades. Hard to push that little button to get the release. It's usually full of tissue and crap
    and so is the channel the new blade goes in. sliced a finger replacing blades. Ended up using a leatherman also, to replace blades safely.
    No safe place to put the used blades.

    Also carry a stout folding knife of some sort for all of the prying. no clear favorite. Kinda looking around for a fixed blade with quality
    steel for re=sharpening, as it would be sturdier.

    I have lost one also. After I got back. Figured it would keep happening so don't like paying more than $30
    Last edited by Tradewind; 11-26-2018 at 11:30 PM.

  14. Default

    I use 2 knives in the field. I prefer a fixed blade and have been using the same buck knife with a gut hook on it since I was 12 years old (now 32). Hunt Elk, Deer, and Antelope. The other knife I love is the Outdoor edge Flip Zip. I just think its slick to use. I don't care for the replaceable blades - just too much reliance on a few flimsy blades for me. I carry a pocket sharpening stone to add the edge back if I think it is necessary during a field dressing. I have used gutless method the past several years.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Bitterroot Valley


    I used a Gerber Vital for the first time this year. I've used a Havalon Piranta the previous 10 years or so. I switched to the Gerber due to the ease of blade changing. Yep, the blade change mechanism can get gunked up. Really, my biggest gripe echoes 406Life's comment: no sheath for the Gerber. Not a deal breaker, just something I use to grumble about.

    I do the gutless method on pretty much everything unless the truck is close and its no bigger than a deer. I've used the replaceable blade knives (Havalon mostly) on deer, elk, caribou and moose. My dad was a manager of a knife company most of my life growing up. I have more knives of various blade and handle configurations than I know what to do with. They rarely leave my gun safe anymore. Lightweight and replaceable blade sharpness seem to win out when I put a knife in my hunting pack each fall.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Somewhere in the basalt rocks


    Knives of Alaska Alpha Wolf
    An orange handle would be nice so I don’t have to hunt for it
    Various big game
    Gutless for elk, mix of gutless vs traditional methods for deer
    Fear the beard....

  17. #17


    1. A Buck fixed-blade drop point. Not sure of the model. It’s stout and comfortable, holds an edge and is enough to handle an entire elk on its own. I don’t really care for the disposable blade idea, even though I suck at sharpening and see the allure. I’d just prefer to not throw away more crap than I have to. I paid a professional sharpener $5 a knife this fall and it was worth many times more than that. I plan to buy a better sharpener this year so I can do it myself, but if results are still poor I’ll use him again.

    2. I’d like if it had a more visible handle. I had to search for it multiple times while working on my elk this year.

    3. Deer and elk—way more deer than elk

    4. Gutless if far from the truck, traditional gutting if close

    Also, I’m not concerned with being ultra light weight. I’d rather have something stout that is comfortable in hand and that I know I can depend on.

  18. #18


    For years I used a fixed blade Buck Knife, until I left it on my bumper and drove off, since then I use a Havalon Paranta, and this is a superb knife, the EKA G3 swing blade (I think Outdoor edge copied it but their steel isn't as good)
    What I like about the above, the brightly coloured handle, and when they need cleaning its straight into the dishwasher.
    What I don't like, the blade can be a pain to change on the Havalon, and on the EKA getting the gutting hook sharp again, I say gutting hook, but when you do the gutless method it is unbeatable for going under the back skin/legs, and if you do field dress traditional it's impossible to damage the guts, almost!
    If Gerber went down the EKA route then perhaps a sharpener attached to the sheath?

    I hunt deer in the UK because that's all we have, but the EKA made short work on the ELK I shot in Montana

    I only dress the deer out traditional at home for 2 reasons, 1 it can only be delivered to the game dealer whole, and 2 we have to inspect the lymph nodes for disease, now the last point might not appear relevant to you, but it might in the future with CWD/TB etc, if you suspect the animal isn't as it should be then the lymph nodes should give you some indication, but sorry I digress.

    On my most recent visit I bought a Todd Orr knife, a thing of beauty, but I haven't tried it yet, its just too beautiful, but I will!

    Happy to try the prototype if they follow my advice Randy, just ask them to pop one in the post, I shoot a LOT of deer every year in the UK, happy to field test it


    Last edited by devon deer; 11-27-2018 at 04:47 AM.
    That's what the actress said to the bishop

  19. #19


    I like nice knives and have a number of them, but they rarely leave the basement now, as I use Havalon almost exclusively. Small, light, no sharpening (and orange). The two areas for improvement: (i) as others have noted, fewer nooks and crannies in the design/construction to junk up with meat and hair, and (ii) some type of less-fidgety quick blade change mechanism.

    We can't leave deer carcasses in the field up here so historically have gut deer, but used gutless for this fall's antelope.
    Freedom Is Not Free

  20. Default

    I use a CRKT for everything.Stays sharp forever clips in my pocket and if needed sharpens with a few strokes.I use bone saw for joints etc.
    Never done gutless...How do you get heart ,liver and all the goodies out?

  21. #21


    1. havalon with the thicker blades, always sharp, emergency room says too sharp, the tiniest mini leatherman I always carry to change blades and pick cactus thorns
    2. fixed blade pendelton lite hunter, for elk joints doing gutless or removing heads from spine, I have bought many of this knife for gifts, sharpens easy to a razor with a little green diamond stone, caribou, moose, elk, bighorns, all gutless with these 2 knives
    3. I like the rubber grip and orange handles on the outdoor edge replacement blade knife, it skins good, gets gunked up to replace blade, with that size handle might as well have fixed blade
    4. I have numerous custom knives I have bought and used, Winston knives some of my favorite, but at 200-300 ea, when you loose one it hurts, and they don't perform any better than the pendelton as far as I can see
    5. little deeper handle havalon with a little deeper and thicker blade bright orange with some rubber grip maybe , not as big as outdoor edge though

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Fort Peck, MT


    I use a custom Bob Dozier D2 drop point and either a Gerber Vital or Havalon. The Dozier went through a bull and several deer before hitting its wall. The thing is a lead weight but I am currently contemplating JLS and Ben Lamb’s advice of drilling a few holes in that Micarta handle to try and get it under 4 ounces.
    "I'll put some whiskey into my whiskey"

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Bixby Oklahoma


    1. I keep a Browning FDT in my pack. I like that it is foldable and has a gut hook that has stayed sharp for several seasons through two elk and probably 12 whitetail. I keep a Knives of Alaska set at camp/truck for final breaking down an animal.
    2. High visability non slip handle and a forefinger groove or bolster to keep hand from slipping onto the blade.
    3. Primarily whitetail.
    4. Traditionally field dress everything.

  24. #24


    #1. Havalon Piranta and Buck 110 (S30V)
    #2. I prefer a knife blade with more belly than the piranta and less of a point than the 110. I drop point is as pointy as I like and I prefer a semi-skinner type profile. If the blade is not easily replacable and the replacement blades inexpensive, I like a blade to really hold an edge. I've found sintered steels like S30V to do this very, very well.
    #3. Primarliy deer, but do hunt elk. For me, knife choice is not dependent on the species of game.
    #4. Gutless on things that need packing and traditional on stuff easy to get to the truck, with a nod towards traditional as I get to do that more.

    My suggestions would be for more blade options for the replaceable blade knives that have a touch longer cutting surface and less of a point. Something more akin to a skinner if possible. For the larger knives, I'm mostly interested in blade shape and steel.

  25. #25


    My go to everyday knife is a Buck Spitfire. I've bought it multiple times in the last 4 years because I'm careless and lose it. The slim design fits comfortably in a pocket, yet still holds good in hand. I will never carry a knife that doesn't have a clip, and the handle is solid orange. It has cleaned a few deer, a pig, traditional way and many small game. Con is over time mostly from cleaning animals (I think) is the blade will take more force it open.

    For skinning I use Outdoor Edge Cutlery Wild-Pair Knives. Use them for deer and pigs gutless method and small game. I by no means swear by these knives, but they work for me and don't see a major need to make a switch yet. I've never used the gut hook, so it's just there. A common pro which I will say again is the solid orange handle. If you can add something reflective that doesn't affect the grip even better.

    I've don't have a problem keeping knifes sharp which is the main reason I haven't swapped to replaceable blades. Those two knifes have cleaned multiple deer and pigs in between touch ups. I do like having the pair of knives to swap out or throw one to a buddy.

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