An MKC blade lies on the ground over a large paw print, representing the best hunting knives for different types of game.

The Best Hunting Knives for Different Game Types: From Big Game to Small Game

Learn the art of choosing the perfect hunting knife! From blade to handle, we break down what features you need for every type of game.
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Choosing the perfect hunting knife is no easy feat. There are several features to consider, from the blade to the handle material, as well as the reason why you’re using your knife.

A good hunting knife should double as a survival knife and be appropriate for the type of animal you’re hunting. For example, the knife you’ll need to skin a bear is very different from the knife you’ll need to filet a fish.

In this post, we explore the different types of game and which knife is best for each hunt.

Best Hunting Knives for Big Game

Big game hunting encompasses animals that are heavier than 350 pounds. Common big game animals in North America include elk, moose, bears, and bison.

The Stonewall Skinner Blade

Big game animals often have thick hides, so it’s helpful to have a skinning knife that can separate the hide (or skin) without damaging the meat. High-quality skinning knives can also cut and chop.

The Stonewall Skinner includes the following unique features to make it the ideal knife for hunting big game, from moose to bears:

  • A thick spine that can withstand abuse.
  • A thin edge to precisely slice like a laser.
  • A carbon-steel blade that offers the perfect balance of edge retention, toughness, and easy resharpening.
  • A G10 handle that’s strong, durable, and stable while still being lightweight and comfortable. It provides a superior grip, even when covered in blood.
  • An enlarged belly that allows for long, sweeping strokes that result in fewer punctured hides.

The Blackfoot Blade

If you regularly hunt both big and small game, you may want to invest in a blade that’s as versatile as your hunting trips.

The Blackfoot blade is the ultimate “do-it-all” knife. It’s small and light enough to pack for hunting medium game, like goats and deer, but also durable enough to completely gut, cape, skin, and debone big game animals like moose or elk. It’s the perfect combination of thinness, lightness, sharpness, and toughness.

If you can only bring one knife on your hunt, the Blackfoot is it.

Infographic: The Best Hunting Knives for Different Game Types: From Big Game to Small Game

Best Hunting Knives for Small and Medium Game

Medium game animals in North America include deer, wild sheep, goats, antelope, javelina, or other mammals that weigh between 50–350 pounds.

Small game animals are mammals that weigh under 40–50 pounds, including rabbits, squirrels, coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, weasels, and other similar species.

The Blackfoot Blade

As we mentioned, the Blackfoot is the perfect “do-it-all” hunting knife for all types of game — from big animals like moose to small game like rabbits and foxes.

These features make the Blackfoot adaptable to every hunt:

  • A versatile drop point blade shape useful for multiple tasks, from caping and delicate work to skinning and deboning.
  • A compact size. A 3.5″ blade length and a total length of 8″ ensures this blade can be brought on any hunt.
  • A G10 handle that’s strong, durable, lightweight, and offers a sturdy, comfortable grip — again, even when covered in blood.

The Speedgoat Blade

If you’re looking for a small, lightweight knife that’s still strong and sizable enough to do the “hard work,” like caping out a deer, choose an ultralight knife like the Speedgoat Blade.

The Speedgoat is a fixed-blade, ultralight knife that can cape, gut, skin, and bone, just like the Blackfoot. However, unlike the Blackfoot, the Speedgoat has a slightly thinner and more lightweight profile and comes with a practical paracord handle.

A few other distinguishing characteristics of the Speedgoat include:

  • An ultralight design created by skeletonizing the tang, wrapping the handle in paracord, and creating a thinner blade (less than 0.1″ thick at the spine).
  • A 550 paracord handle that not only minimizes the knife’s weight but also offers other uses, like tying down a tent, hanging meat in a tree, or acting as a sling in emergencies.
  • A full-size handle that won’t wear out your hands during extended use, unlike some ultralight knives that sacrifice comfort for size.

Best Hunting Knives for Birds and Fish

The most popular game birds in North America include pheasants, quail, pigeons, doves, ducks, and wild turkeys. The most popular game fish include bass, panfish, trout, and catfish.

The Mini-Speedgoat Blade

Generally speaking, birds and fish have thinner skin and smaller bones than mammals, so a large hunting knife can be overkill. Plus, a small fly fishing knife can cut fishing lines, remove hooks, cut bait, and slice netting, even if you aren’t fileting your fish on the riverbank.

After noticing the Speedgoat was the go-to blade for small game hunters, we created the Mini-Speedgoat as a smaller, thinner, lighter alternative. This blade is excellent for anglers and bird hunters, but also ideal for self-defense. It can comfortably attach to pockets, leggings, or other articles of clothing without hindering movement or performance.

The Mini-Speedgoat looks, acts, and performs just like the Speedgoat, but it’s 17% shorter and 40% lighter. Unlike the Speedgoat, the Mini-Speedgoat’s sheath comes with two unique clips. One clip allows you to carry your knife on a pack or belt loop, and the other keeps the sheath securely fastened to pants, shorts, leggings, or sports bras when removing the blade for use.

The Flathead Fillet Knife

We created the Flathead Filet Knife explicitly with anglers and fishermen in mind. It offers the perfect balance of flexibility for fileting and rigidity for boning.

The following unique features make this 12.5″ knife ideal to bring on a boat:

  • A MagnaCut stainless steel blade that can easily be resharpened and won’t corrode or rust in a saltwater environment.
  • A G10 handle that’s strong, durable, lightweight, and comfortable and provides excellent grip, even when wet.
Quote: The Best Hunting Knives for Different Game Types: From Big Game to Small Game

Final Thoughts

While certain characteristics are essential in any hunting knife — like a high-quality steel blade and durable handle — what truly makes a hunting knife perfect is choosing the right one for your hunting style.

If you frequently hunt big game, consider a skinning knife like the Stonewall Skinner. If you’re an angler, the Flathead Filet may prove most beneficial. If you hunt a range of animals — from elk to squirrels — the Blackfoot is a versatile option that can get the job done for almost any type of game.

Regardless of the type of game you hunt, Montana Knife Company has a long-lasting, durable knife for your unique needs.


by Josh Smith, Master Bladesmith and Founder of Montana Knife Company