Monday, October 3, 2016

OCTOBER - THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR

Utah Mountains in All Their Autumn Glory

The Grouse hunt in Utah continues. I haven't been able to get out as much as I'd like but the few times I've been out have been great. The birds haven't been as plentiful as I've seen in years pass but we are seeing a bird here and there. My main goal is to get the dogs in shape for an upcoming  out-of-state pheasant hunt and the chukar hunting that will soon follow.

The dogs are doing good though. Saturday Chief worked a young ruffed grouse well and had a pretty point on it. I was just good enough to knock it down for him. It was his first retrieve of the year as well. He did good but was a little reluctant to let me have it. Eventually we worked it out. It was a good day even though we only brought home the one bird. The mountains are just gorgeous. It's a blessing just to be out in them.







BIRD HUNTING KNIVES REVISITED

Case® Bird Hunter
I’m a knife guy, I have loved knives as long as I can remember. I love the usefulness and the craftsmanship. The marriage of natural or synthetic materials with sharpened steel is a beautiful thing. I was only 4 years old when I got my first pocket knife. I was young but the times and kids were different back then. It was tiny folding mini trapper with 2 blades that had yellow handle scales. I don’t remember how I got it. I may have just took it off my dad’s dresser (my dad also is kind of a knife junkie) or I may have stole it from my brother’s room. Whatever happened, that was that and it was mine forever or until I lost it.
I used it to dig holes, cut the rope on the hay bales (the ones I could reach on the bottom of the stack much to the disappointment of my father), sharpen sticks and whatever else I could find a use for. I have no idea whatever happened to it. I’ve been hopelessly addicted ever since and it’s rare that I don’t have a knife on me. 

A couple of years ago I built a post on upland bird knives and it has become one of the most frequented pages on this blog so I wanted to revisit this subject. As with most  things in life, as we gain experience and try new things, our techniques and philosophies change. When I wrote my original Bird Knife article I had one philosophy of what a good bird knife should be. After trying a couple different techniques, new products and learning some new concepts on how to treat and care for my birds once they are in the bag, plus how I  prepare game for the table changed some of my thinking on what I need in the field and what works best for me at home.

Link to original post 

There are literally hundreds or thousands of knives that would fit the bill of a small game knife. You can butcher a bird with any small sharp knife. You don’t need a specialty knife for small game processing, it just needs to be sharp. But, some knives function in this philosophy of use better than others. That is always a good excuse to buy a new knife, let’s face it, knives are cool and if your a guy like me you probably can’t help yourself. 

Below are some of my favorite knives and tools that I use for field knives and what I use for game processing. These are all knives and shears that I own and have enjoyed using. I’m kind of a knife nut and have a decent collection. Most of them are modern every day carry folding knives with pocket clips but I also own several folding and fixed blade hunting knives, traditional grandpa folders and survival and bushcraft style fixed blades. 

At home or back at camp when I'm ready to clean the birds and prepare them for the table I've found a small sharp knife and a pair of kitchen shears is what works best for me. I usually use the shears to remove the bottom of the legs, the neck and the wings at the elbow. Usually I skin my birds but occasionally if its a clean bird that doesn’t have too much shot damage I will pluck them and leave them whole. My birds usually go into the refrigerator in 3 pieces, the breast, 2 legs with thighs attached. Sometimes I save the heart and clean out the gizzard. At that point I let the bird meat age in the refrigerator for about a week  before I cook it or put it in the freezer.

My criteria for a bird hunting field knife is that it needs to be rather small in size, comfortable in the hand, lightweight, easy to carry, have a needle like, pointy tip to easily open birds crops and such, and the knife must be sharp and easy to resharpen. Also for my use and budget it should be rather inexpensive.

Field Folding Pocket Knives with Bird Hooks

Böker Bird Knife
Böker Bird Knife - I carry this knife nearly every time I go into the field even if I have another knife on me. I carry it mostly for the gut hook in case It’s a hot day or if the birds are going to sit in my vest for a long time. It’s a beautiful small, slender knife that is a joy to carry. The 440c stainless steel holds an edge pretty well and once it dulls it is easy to sharpen. The gut hook works great and is a good length. The blade does not lock but for what I use it for that is fine. It does have half-stops on the blade and hook. It’s a great little knife that if was ever lost I’d replace it with the same model the next day. Eventually I will do a post on how to properly use a gut hook. $55 - $65. Made in Germany.


Great Eastern Cutlery #48 Woodcock
Great Eastern Cutlery Woodcock - Just look at it. What is left to say. The woodcock comes in a variety of handle materials but I purchased the micarta version. It comes in either a stainless 440c steel or 1095 carbon steel blade. Mine is stainless just for easy clean-up and less maintenance reasons. This is a very well built folder that is a step above what you normally get in most folding pocket knives now-days. Materials and craftsmanship are top knotch.  My only issue is how it feels when your using the knife and the hook is closed. There is a sharp edge on the back of the hook that isn’t comfortable to hold. I have to adjust my grip back on the handle to avoid this spot. This 440c holds it’s edge better than most traditional pocket knives I’ve owned. Cost is around $85 at knivesshipfree.com. Made in USA.


The Case® Bird Hunter (pictured above) Case creates a wonderful bird-hook knife. This is also a very good option. I have this model in derlin yellow and amber bone. Out of all my bird hook knives the Case models are the most comfortable to use with the hook closed. On the the Böker and Great Eastern knives the hook sticks out of the knife handle quite a bit when it’s closed. The Case bird hunter is more flush against the handle scales. All angles on this knife are rounded and highly polished. Rumor is Case is may be discontinuing this model. I’ve noticed they have stopped producing these in some options. You may want to get one before they are gone. Case bird knife in amber bone at this time is $45 on bladehq.com. Made in the USA. 

I own all three of these bird hook traditional folders and my favorite today is the Böker. I just love using it. GEC bird hook however grabs entrails better than the other two. Case is the most comfortable to use but the steel on the other two is better. All three are great and you can’t go wrong with any of them.



Other Folders without bird hooks

Blurry Spyderco® Delica
Spyderco Delica - I’ve created a habit of almost always having a folding knife clipped inside my front pocket. I’ve had a pocket knife on me as long as I can remember and once I got my first Spyderco back in the early 90’s I’ve always had a knife with a pocket clip in my front left pocket. In the field I’m no different. I have my favorites but I also have my favorite folders that I like to take bird hunting. My criteria for a field folding knife is it needs to be lightweight, have a fine, sharp tip, have a very good pocket clip so it doesn’t inadvertently fall out when I reaching in and out of my pockets, I’ve lost a couple knives in my time so I like them to be on the inexpensive side. It also has to be tough and durable.
The Delica fits all those parameters. It is a great lightweight, somewhat inexpensive, multi-purpose folding knife that is great for many uses other than a bird hunting knife. Great as a every-day-carry (EDC) but I’ve found it does a great job as a small game knife. With it’s delicate (delica) very sharp tip it does a great job opening fish and game. The 2.875” blade is made from VG10 steel. The leaf shaped blade has a jimped upsweep on the back top part of the blade that helps locks the knife into place when your working with it.  VG10 steel is very tough and the edge lasts for a long time. Slightly longer than 440c or most other steels that I own. It weighs only 2.8 ounces so it’s perfect for anyone watching ounces such as backpackers and climbers.  It has a nice, grippy, reinforced nylon handle and comes in a variety of colors, even bright orange. It’s a great knife to own even if you don’t use it as a bird hunting knife. I’ve bought two because I like it so much. I own a gray and the orange version. It comes in plain edge and serrated versions. I prefer plain edge because it’s much easier to sharpen. It has a very solid lock up system that I trust completely. I love this knife. $60-$70. Made in Japan.


Case® Large Stockman
Large and Medium Stockman Pattern - I like the stockman pattern for bird hunting because I really like the the spey and sheepsfoot blades that come with a nice clip point blade. I use the smaller blades for de-burring my long haired dogs. I put the bur between the blade and my thumb and easily cut them out safely and painlessly for the dog. There is no sharp pointy end to accidentally cut the dog with. Works really well for the big spiky cockle burs we come across during the pheasant hunt. Case and a bunch of other companies build this pattern and you can get them from between $30 and $70 depending on the manufacturer and the steel used. I like the Case and Böker models. My favorite for bird hunting being my Case large stockman in Chrome Vanadium steel. The blades seem to be perfect sized for my needs.



Small Bird and Trout Fixed Blades



Ruko Bird & Trout Knife - This is a nice small fixed blade that makes a good small camp knife but I think it’s best use is as a game and fish cleaning knife. I like having a fixed blade on hand while hunting.
It’s convenient to just pull a knife from a sheath - do your work and then put it away without having to mess with folders and locks on other knives.  Like the Böker above it is made of 440c stainless steel that holds a very sharp edge, doesn’t retain it very long but it easily sharpened. It has a nice sharp tip that is great for opening fish or small game. It has a traditional stag horn handle that is actually very comfortable to use. Being a fixed blade it is super easy to clean and it comes with a nice leather compression sheath. I keep this in my truck or at home and use it mostly while cleaning birds. It has a beautiful classic look to it. Priced between $55 - $65. Made in Spain.


Case Leather Hunter M3 Finn - This is a cool old style knife that is a useful small companion blade as well as a hunting knife. It’s smaller than it looks and not the most comfortable knife to hold. If the handle was a half inch longer it would be perfect in my opinion. The blade is similar to the Ruko Bird and Trout knife but has some jimping along the spine that is nice to have especially with cleaning slippery fish and while cleaning birds.. There is just something cool about this knife that I just dig. The classic look and feel of the leather handle the odd style leather sheath, It’s like stepping in a time machine whenever I use it. It’s just fun for me. Opening crops and cleaning birds with this knife is an enjoyable thing. Case is a classic American knife company, everyone should own at least one Case knife in my opinion. Made with Case’s Tru-Sharp® steel it sharpens and holds an edge about the same as my 440c steel knifes. I believe I paid around $35-$40. Made in the USA.

Heavier Duty Wilderness Blades .

Kershaw Skyline with Aftermarket Kydex sheath
Kershaw Skyline Fixed Blade - I have this knife attached to my hunting vest with a bladetec lock system and kydex sheath. Its a nice, comfortable, light-weight,  smallish size fixed blade that I feel I can easily carry and have available for whatever I may need a knife for while grouse or chukar hunting. I don’t pack it while I’m pheasant hunting. It’s more of a woods knife but it’s small and delicate enough to open crops and other small game chores. It’s also strong enough that I could count on it for heavier tasks if a situation need it. I could use it help build a fire, makeshift shelter or whatever. It’s a nice, strong back up knife. Unfortunately it is out of production by Kershaw. But I wanted to share it for the philosophy of having a strong, lightweight knife with you while out in wilderness situations. Not quite a “survival knife”, whatever that means to you, but a blade I could do heavier chores with if needed.


Gerber Strong-arm - Looking at this knife it’s obvious that one of these knives is not like the others. I look at this knife as more of an emergency preparedness tool similar to my first aid kit or an emergency blanket. It’s not for cleaning birds or checking crops. It’s a just-in-case item. I only pack one of these types of knives if I’m going to be miles from my vehicle and in country that could become dangerous if things go wrong. I will carry it chukar hunting or mountain grouse hunting. Not necessary during a pheasant hunt. This is a just-in-case item that will help build a fire or make a shelter if I get lost or hurt or whatever. I’ve had this knife for a couple years now. It’s a nice solid knife that can take a ton of abuse and doesn’t weigh a lot. Previous years I’ve packed the Tops BOB or another heavy fixed blade. I think the StrongArm is a nice compromise between a heavy duty knife and weight. It’s made from 420 HC steel and is tougher than I thought it would be. It holds a good enough edge but is heavy enough to baton through wood if needed to make kindling and feather sticks. After using it on a couple camp outs I really think its going to work out well and fits my need for a outdoor survival knife. I don’t carry it on my belt while bird hunting. This goes inside my pack. However it does come with a really nice versatile sheath. You can pick these up everywhere for between $50-$60. Made in the USA.

Mora® Companion
Mora Companion - For around $15 you can get a knife that can do anything most any knife costing whatever amount can do. Bush crafters love this knife with good reason. It has a scandi-grind that is easy to maintain. It’s make from good materials, it’s super comfortable, very lightweight and costs about the same as a 12 pack. The sheath sucks but works, throw it in your pack and forget about it. With the sheath it weights less than 4 ounces. Cuts through wood and other materials like butter. You can’t go wrong. I prefer the Stainless Steel version because it requires less maintenance. Made in Sweden.

Out of all these more utility wilderness knives I usually prefer the Skyline. There are a tone of similar products out there if you like the idea of having a knife mounted to your vest like I do. There is some companies making kydex sheathes for mora companions. That would be an awesome option.




At Home:

Pamper Chef - Professional Shears - Don't throw away that next invite to a pampered chef party. Go just to get yourself a pair of their kitchen shears. These are the best kitchen shears I've used. The spring loaded design makes fine work like cutting herbs and such a breeze but they are heavy-duty enough to shear through a Pheasant thigh bone. The handle is very ergonomic and doesn't bind against your hand even if your left-handed. Get a pair, they make bird butchery an easy chore. $26.50 on pamperchef.com

Wusthoff Kitchen Shears - These are the shears that came with a knife set I bought my wife a couple years ago. Nothing too fancy but it does a good job. They come apart for easy cleaning and sharpening and I can easily use them let-handed. Not much to say they are scissors that cut right through bird bone. Every kitchen should have something similar. $12-$16. Made in Germany.



Like I said I have many other knives that could fit the bill for a bird hunting knife but these are my current favorites. I have a few others on my radar and I’m sure I could write a whole other article in a couple years.

BTW my preferred knife shops are Utah’s own BladeHQ.com, they have a store front in Lehi UT, KnifeSupply.com, KnivesShipFree.com and Amazon.com.