While Not As Plentiful As They Once Were, Quality Folding Hunters Can Still Be Had. These 4 Knives Meld The Robustness Of A Hunter With The Ease Of An EDC.
Folding knives have been used for hunting and skinning since they were first made. Today, the American knife industry has moved quite far in the direction of fixed blades for use in the field.
However, folding knives are seen in the pocket of just about every self-respecting individual these days and are still the top choice for daily use. Time and fashion being what they are, many pocket folders have become somewhat fragile and unsuitable for anything other than opening mail or packages. In short, they have lost their value as serious tools that can be used in the field as well as daily life. Nonetheless, luckily there are a number of very suitable hunting knives that fold and ride in the pocket.
The largest downside to folding hunters is they can be very difficult to clean and have the propensity to break under hard use. Folding knives promoted for hunting are, at least to me, a bit of an exaggeration in that they function but are much harder to get along with on big game. As a result, I try to limit my folders to small game where the weight of the animal has little bearing on blade stress.
Cleaning and maintaining a folding knife exposed to blood and other fluids is a challenge. The mechanical function of such knives can in many cases be impeded with fat, and likewise made dangerous if, for instance, a linerlock gets clogged up.
Washing a folding hunter is easy in some respects, but the best method remains soaking it in hot water with dish soap to dissolve fats and blood. Rust and corrosion can easily occur internally, so you’ll need to oil the knife after soaking it to prevent corrosion.
Lastly, ergonomics and blade length create the most limits for the big game hunter. Because most folders are designed to lay flat against the body in the pocket, they tend to be thin in profile, which can fatigue the hand if you have a great deal of work to do.
Since the blade fits in the handle, you’ll never really get as long a blade as you need for animals like deer without getting a handle that is proportionately as long. This makes for a degree of awkwardness in that you can only get more blade if you get more handle, and at that point a fixed blade is better.
Emerson Knives Market Skinner
I have developed a great fondness for Emerson knives. In fact, as much as I love carrying fixed-blade Winklers, I have ended up going about much of my daily life with an Emerson in my pocket. Much of the utility for me comes down to how well it fits my hand. The Market Skinner is a well-balanced and very functional cutting/slashing knife that has a mixture of hunting and tactical features.
The grip has a fine yet aggressive texture, and is easy to hold onto even when working with fatty meat. The blade has Emerson’s Wave Feature, thus allowing for instant opening coming out of the pocket.
I got to work in the kitchen on some small game and meat. The Market Skinner is designed to emulate the type of blade profiles used in old-world butcher shops to break down large cuts. Having spent the better part of my college years working for a high-end butcher shop, I had a good feel for what this type of knife could do.
For general use, the Emerson, above the others here, was probably the most functional for light-to-medium use. It was also by far the easiest to clean internally. Its open-handle design allows you to wash it easily.
The added upward curve at the Wave on the spine allowed me to put a great amount of pressure on the blade to cut deeply. When covered in fat it was functional. However, the very fine handle material was hard to clean and pulled fiber from my rags. Not a huge deal, just something to be aware of.
While it is profiled as a hunting blade, the tactical features are there and the knife is easy to use thanks to how quick it opens. The clip is righthanded and very stiff. If you intend to carry it lefthanded, Emerson offers a service to drill and tap the other side for you.
Boker Hunter’s Knife Duo
Styled in the manner most favored by German and European sportsmen, the Boker Hunter’s Knife Duo is not just a functional piece of art but also a very rugged tool. It is so nice looking that you’ll want to make sure to keep it that way—meaning don’t toss it in your gear drawer after a hunt.
Unlike the other test models, the Boker features two edged tools—one, a knife blade, the other a saw. In testing on a lamb rack, the saw performed extremely well and allowed me to make nice, even chops. The teeth are exceptionally aggressive, which is a positive for cutting bone, but they clog easily with fat and sinew.
The Hunter’s Knife Duo is made in Germany and the quality of each part is amazing. A notable feature is the real stag grip panels, a rarity on many production knives today. Care must be taken to not introduce this natural material to stress or harsh cleaning chemicals. Soap and water for cleanup is best, followed by a light coat of oil. In terms of mechanical function, this is a classic gentleman’s knife, slow to deploy and not designed with a day’s labor in mind.
Equal parts showpiece and tool, the Boker is best on small-to-medium game. Since it has no pocket clip, it will likely ride in a belt pouch or simply in a pocket.
The only real problem is the shape and contour of the handle. If your hands have blood or fat on them, the grip tends to be slippery. This is a very slick knife and every metal part is as smooth as glass. Under such conditions sawing also can be slightly hazardous, as can cutting should your hands slip up onto the blade. That being said since a true gentleman is never in a hurry, the Boker is the perfect find for rabbits, pheasant, and turkey, preferably with a fine double gun in hand.
Case Kickstart Mid-Folding Hunter
The smallest of the test knives, the Case Kickstart Mid-Folding Hunter performed very well considering its size and blade length. This is in no way a knife you would want to have if you were trying to take down a deer; however, for small game, medium cuts like lamb or chicken, or out harvesting spices in the garden, the Case is perfectly capable.
Like the Boker, it is a very, very slick knife—both visually and in terms of the limited amount of texture it has on the blade and grip. While it can be easy to work with, the knife is prone to slip or rotate in the hand.
In terms of cutting ability, it did just fine. The downward-swept blade lends itself to fine cuts, but very little else. The knife can be used and held like a pen. A full grip of the handle isn’t very safe.
The lock mechanism is easy to use—a bit too easy. The blade can be unlocked and closed with almost no effort, which can present a dangerous situation if you aren’t careful. Of note is that the blade is assisted, and it opens incredibly fast. It also has a pocket clip for easy carry.
A.G. Russell Folding Gent’s Hunter II
In the vein of classic sport folders from the 1960s and ’70s, the A.G. Russell Folding Gent’s Hunter II is designed along clean lines and minimalist features. It came out of the box with a very sharp edge and a functional, ergonomic grip. Despite being a full-size knife, it is the lightest of the review folders, lighter even than the smaller Case.
Using and cleaning the A.G. Russell was about the same as the others. However, the wood panels required a coat of oil after I used soap on them to remove fat. The blade sliced meat very easily, and it was also rigid enough to approach some larger projects and game. While I’d probably take the Market Skinner if I knew I was working on an adult deer, the A.G. Russell would come in a close second, its only downside being that it got slippery when wet.
This knife is right on the money for a walking hunter going after rabbit or fowl. It’s very light and sharp and still maintains classic lines. Because it is so light, it seems to disappear in the pocket and, if carried daily, won’t draw any unwanted attention. It has “classy” written all over it.
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