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What length knife is best for skinning a deer?

Phew!! This would need a book! Like most stalkers, I like knives and am often tempted by an attractive specimen (yes; still talking knives) and I suspect most of us are influenced as much by art as practicality when making a choice.

Stalking deer off and on for more than 40 years means I have amassed quite a collection of knives, both suitable and unsuitable, and have reached certain conclusions. These are, of course, my own choices and might not suit everyone.

Nowadays I use three knives more than any others.

My constant stalking companion is a folding Kershaw Black Horse II in a belt pouch – I much prefer a folder for every day carry – and the others live in the Land Rover in a plastic storage box with hoist, gambrels, plastic bags, cleaning wipes, first aid kit etc.

The other two knives in regular use are also by Kershaw and they are a five-inch filleting knife and a broad bladed jobbie with a gut hook. I dislike blades with serrated edges.

I love bespoke knives and have often gazed in wonder, like the little boy with his face pressed against the sweet shop window, at the beautiful yet practical creations on Geoff Hague’s stand at Game Fairs.

Geoff tells me he makes folders exclusively nowadays ( but a poor old pensioner like me can’t justify the cost of such treasures.

If you want just one knife, then a folder with a drop point blade and a cutting edge of 3 to 3½ inches will do everything required. Folders do get mucky but they are much easier, and less visible, to carry. The inevitable crud is easily enough washed out if you do it before it dries hard.

Blade material is always a compromise because the easier it is to sharpen, the quicker will it lose its edge; and vice versa.

In my days at sea and also when working in the fish market in Auckland, New Zealand, we used good old Green River knives which are in the quick and easy carbon steel category and perfectly satisfactory.

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a serviceable knife but there’s no doubt that a bespoke, handmade one is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

Sharpening even hard stainless steel blades is a lot easier than it used to be with all the idiot-proof kit available, so perhaps we had better have a more complete look at knives and sharpening equipment at some time in the future.