When only the very best will do.
A hunting knife is something on which you can spend as little, or as much, as you wish. And it may take some time before the differences in quality become evident. A cheap knife will probably serve you well — under light usage — for awhile. But if you want something that will shine in the line of duty, and hopefully outlast you, you need to consider a premium product.
Jay Maines of Sunrise River Custom Knives in Wyoming, MN has been making custom knives for over 20 years, but his appreciation for quality cutlery goes back even further. As a soldier in Viet Nam over 40 years ago, he came to rely upon his Randall Knife, which still serves him faithfully to this day. Jay constructs his knives in the Randall tradition of strength, durability and workmanship. He offers a dazzling array of knives for many applications, including hunting and skinning. I had an opportunity to review his model 306 skinning knife for this article.
The 306 is a compact knife with a classic skinning profile. The blade is thinner than a hunter, which results in less resistance during cutting. The deep-swept blade makes quick work of separating skin from the carcass.
A close-up view of the blade reveals some nice touches. First is the finger hole. I simply will not use a skinning knife without such a feature. When working inside an animal, things get really slimy really fast, and the grip on the knife becomes somewhat tenuous without a finger hole. Also note the recess in the spine of the knife for the thumb. This is a thoughtful touch that many other knifemakers leave out. Finally, the serration along the back provides an alternative cutting surface for when appropriate.
What the picture can’t reveal is the high quality, heat-treated steel that goes into every Sunrise knife. This quickly becomes evident, though, as you use the knife. Mine held its edge beautifully while skinning and gutting a wild hog. When it needs a sharpening, it takes an edge very quickly, and holds it for a long time.
Sunrise River skinning knives come with a fleece-lined bag for storage, and a very thick, tightly-fitting sheath for the field.
Sunrise River custom knives are clearly a high-end product, for the serious user. Could you get by with something lesser? Almost certainly. But if quality of materials and craftsmanship matter to you, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better choice. You might swallow hard at the price, but as fashion designer Guccio Gucci so wisely observed, “quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”