The Best Knives for Skinning Elk

Written by jeremiah blanchard
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The Best Knives for Skinning Elk
Elk is North America's largest mammal with antlers, and a favourite for hunters. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Hunters and taxidermists need to have durable, sharp blades in order to skin game. A variety of skinning knives are on the market today, and other knives can be used for skinning as well. For skinning elk, a durable blade is essential to cut through the tough skin. Though many types of knives are available for skinning game, the best skinning knives have specific features.

Skinning Knives

Skinning knives are made specifically for what their name implies, and come in a variety of styles. Typically, the best type of skinning knife to use for elk has a thin blade that is able to bend slightly in order to work along grooves and curves. The best are made from surgical-grade steel, and have a hook-shaped blade able to pierce and slice around small areas. The handle should be slightly longer than the actual blade for ease of handling and applying pressure. As a rule of thumb, most taxidermists have a variety of these skinning knives, some longer and some shorter, for skinning specific parts of the animal.

Fixed-Blade Knives

Elk can grow to be very large, and have a thick coat. For the initial gutting and fleshing, a strong fixed-blade hunting knife is the best bet in this category. The best of these blades are typically over 7 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. These blades need to be very sharp to cut through the flesh and very strong to separate the hipbone from the pelvic bone. The best fixed blades have a strong phenolic or wooden handle and are forged into thick, hardened stainless steel. These knives are also very easy to clean off as compared to folding knives.

Folding Knives

Folding knives can be used for a variety of purposes, including skinning elk. Though these knives are much smaller, they can be used to slice the hide and flesh away on areas not suitable for a larger knife. The best folding knives to use for skinning are made from solid metal, which allows for easy cleaning after skinning. Serrated edges on folding knives can be useful for some applications, but can tear away at the elk hide, leaving unwanted jagged edges. The best are solid, very sharp blades, slightly flexible and at least 3 inches long.

Fleshing Knives

A fleshing or gutting knife is a blade designed with the specific purpose of cutting flesh. This blade has a special tip that hooks back toward the handle that looks somewhat like a fishhook barb. This is used for slicing through the belly and around organs in a straight line. These blades can be very long or short. For skinning elk, these blades should be durable, very sharp and a bit longer for easier handling and cutting through thick flesh.

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