By Dan Kidder
Whether you are breaking down your game in the field or fabricating cuts of meat in your kitchen, the indispensable tool everyone needs is a good sharp knife that not only takes an amazing edge but is quick and easy to sharpen on the go. For that, the standard blade is 420 stainless steel. It is hard enough to hold a decent age, yet soft enough to allow anyone to quickly touch it up with a stone, steel, or carbide wedge.
Basic 420 Stainless is the standard butcher knife material because it takes minimal care to prevent rusting and staining of the metal. This metal is also less reactive to acids and astringent cleaners. It is tough enough to allow significant lateral force to be applied without cracking or chipping.
Outdoor Edge makes a variety of field dressing knives out of 420J2 Stainless. Their latest offering is the WildPak, a three-knife set with taper ground edges and comfortable rubberized handles. The antler shape embossed into the handle is more than just decorative. It perfectly molds with your hand for improved grip and control. The material out of which the handle is made is spongy enough to provide a grip even when wet with blood, but firm enough to give incredible comfort and controllability. It comes in a blaze orange so it is easy to find if you set it down in leaves or grass.
The blades are eight hundredths of an inch thick for greater flexibility that is needed for removing meat from bone. Each of the blades provides full-tang construction for greater strength along the length of the entire knife. The kit includes the WildSkin skinning knife with a gut hook, the WildCape caping knife, and the WildBone boning and filet knife. The entire kit also includes a serious 6-inch bone and wood saw with the same material in the handle as the knives, a rib cage spreader, a carbide sharpener, vinyl gloves, and is included in a hard-sided case for transport or storage. The weight of the entire set is just 2.3 pounds and is compact and lightweight enough to toss in your pack for breaking down your animal on the spot.
The WildSkin knife has a 3.75 in blade with a draw-style gut hook on the back. It is 8.5 inches overall length with a modified trailing point. The prominent gut hook on the back is a virtual zipper for opening the skin without risking slicing open the entrails.
The WildCape will become your go-to knife for every purpose from cutting cordage, separating tendons, general purpose use. The 2.5-inch blade is ideal for a variety of general camp uses as well as for fine detail work breaking down your animal. The 8-inch overall length makes it a perfect fit for a variety of tasks. A ricasso on the upper edge, as well as an extended choil provide precision control of the blade for fine detail work.
Thin and wicked, the WildBone boning/fillet knife has nice flexible blade for sliding meat cleanly off the bone and is also excellent for removing the skin from fish. A short ricasso just forward of the choil is just long enough to pinch between your fingers for superb control. The 5-inch long blade gives the knife an overall length of 9.4 inches.
The saw features a push-style handle made of the same material as the knives for an excellent grip with less fatigue than a straight handle. The bi-directional teeth cut in the forward and rearward directions to speed cutting through both wood and bone. A slight flex of the blade helps prevent binding, as does the polished stainless-steel construction. A reinforcing shroud between the handle and the 6-inch blade give it even more strength for heavy cutting power.
The stainless steel rib spreader hinges in the center for ease of storage, but unfolds to provide 10 inches of spread. Lightening holes in the body reduce weight and still provide ample strength to spread even narrow ribs. A heavy steel rivet acts as the pivot hinge and it includes a stop to prevent it from collapsing.
The kit includes an Outdoor Edge carbide sharpener to quickly touch up your blade in the field. The super hard carbide V glides over the edge aligning and polishing it to a razor sharpness. The handle is made of the same material as the knife handles and includes a safety guard.
Each piece of this set is a useful tool for dressing game by itself, but as a kit, you have all of the tools you need to quickly break down an animal in the field and process it like a professional. And at around $40 for the entire set, you can have professional grade tools without the professional grade price tag. This is an indispensable tool in my hunting pack and you should consider adding it to yours.