Photographs by Michael O’Neil
A hunter needs a knife. But not just any knife. A hunter needs a knife tailored to the tasks it will perform. Just as a moose hunter requires more than a pocketknife, a squirrel hunter would find a Bowie overkill. For wingshooters, there are knives purpose-built for field-dressing, skinning and breaking down birds. These knives tend to have shorter, thinner blades and handles that allow for complete control for delicate work. Some even have throwback gut hooks for removing innards—although these days that job is mostly accomplished by hand. They come as both fixed-blades and folders, with those choosing fixed-blades often citing strength, no moving parts and easy cleaning as advantages, while those opting for folders appreciating compact convenience and easy carry. We tested four popular models to see which were a cut above.
KEVIN’S TROUT & BIRD WARTHOG IVORY KNIFE
The Kevin’s Trout & Bird Warthog Ivory Knife is not only a sleek performer but also beautiful to behold. The 3¼” drop-point blade is made of stainless steel that is hollow ground and hand polished. The blade tip is easily controlled for delicate work, and there is plenty of “belly” (cutting edge) for slicing. The handle material is polished warthog tusk—giving each knife one-of-a-kind character—and is comfortable to grip, with a finger guard behind the heel of the blade. The heirloom quality of this knife would make it a lovely gift or a proud pass-along.
Overall length: 71/8″.
Weight: 3.1 oz.
Price (with leather sheath): $349.
BOKER BIRD KNIFE
Made by the Boker Company, in Solingen, Germany, the Boker Bird Knife is ideal for the precise work of processing gamebirds. The folder’s 3¼” blade is stainless steel, and its clip-point design excels at piercing and making precision cuts. An elongated gut hook can be used to remove entrails, if the user is so inclined, and an attractive rosewood handle provides a traditional look and decent grip. The knife has no finger guard, and the blade does not lock open—so users need to be wary when applying excessive pressure on the blade. The knife’s slim profile makes it easy to carry in a pocket, and there is a lanyard ring.
Closed length: 4″.
Weight: 2.7 oz.
BEAR & SON 6½” STAG DELRIN BIRD & TROUT KNIFE
A few-frills option for wingshooters is the Bear & Son 6½” Stag Delrin Bird & Trout Knife. The knife sports a 3″ hollow-ground, stainless-steel blade with a subtle trailing-point profile. The blade remains fairly thick out to the point, rendering it less effective at making fine cuts. In addition, the finger groove is actually in the heel of the blade—not ideal for those with large digits or when doing slippery work. The contoured handle is made of Stag Delrin, a synthetic material that resembles antler and offers a good grip.
Weight: 2.9 oz.
Price (with leather sheath): $47.
Bear & Son Cutlery.
BROWNING WICKED WING
The Browning Wicked Wing is a substantial knife that feels like it would be better for processing big ducks and geese than quail. The 3½” stainless-steel blade with trailing-point design is excellent for finesse work, and the large belly provides plenty of edge for breasting out and skinning birds. The blade locks open, and anti-slip grooves in the finger guard and on the blade’s spine offer extra control. The two-tone, fiberglass-laminate scales (handle material) provide excellent grip. The knife comes with a thumb stud (which tends to hang up on pockets), a pocket clip and a lanyard eyelet.
Closed length: 4½”.
Weight: 3.9 oz. Price: $50.