Sharpen Your Hunting Knife the Right Way

sharp knife

The hunting knife is an essential tool for any outdoorsman.

Though not often used to kill the actual animal, knives still come in handy for field dressing, skinning the animal, and other processes that need to be performed before the carcass is taken home. With no knife on hand, the inside of your vehicle could soon resemble the floor of a slaughterhouse.

It’s not enough to just purchase a good knife that can be used during hunting trips however. You must also know how to properly maintain your knife and that involves sharpening.

Find out more about how to properly sharpen the knife you will use for hunting by reading on.

Pick Out the Tool to Use for Sharpening

If you don’t spend a lot of time with knives, you may be surprised to learn that there is more than one way to sharpen a knife. There is also more than one tool that can be used for the aforementioned job.

The tools in question include whetstones, pull-through sharpeners, and electric sharpeners. Leather straps can also be used although you seldom see them utilized today. Honing rods are more for finishing a knife’s edge as opposed to sharpening it.

Going back to the sharpening tools, there are pros and cons to all of them.

Electric sharpeners are great because they do almost all of the work for you. It may be tougher for you to get your knife as sharp as it can possibly be with the help of an electric tool however.

Pull-through sharpeners can be similarly easy to work with, but they present the same issue as their electric counterparts in that they may not sharpen the knife to the level you are looking for.

The traditional whetstones continue to be your best bet if your goal is to get your knife as sharp as it can possibly be. It will take some practice and studying to use them properly, but your efforts will be rewarded.

Given that you don’t need to know much about how to properly use the electric and pull-through sharpeners, we’ll focus more on working with whetstones in this article.

Select the Type of Whetstone to Use

Let’s say that you’ve settled on using a whetstone on your knife. Will any type of whetstone do?

Natural whetstones are prized for their durability and their terrific finish, but they can be costly and some are not uniformly made. You may struggle with them if you have little to no experience with whetstones.

A diamond whetstone can sharpen your knife in a hurry, but if you are too forceful while using it, the stone itself can wind up damaging your tool.

Ceramic whetstones come with the same issues as diamond whetstones without offering the same benefits. Feel free to pass on them.
According to Whetstone Central, a synthetic whetstone with a grit rating of 400/1000 will work best for those who are still getting used to sharpening. A synthetic whetstone with that type of rating will provide users with a sizable margin of error while still showing them some potential flaws in their technique. It’s a great learning tool and you could benefit from using it early on.

Other Tools You Will Need

The preparation process doesn’t end with you choosing a whetstone. You will also have to gather other items that will be needed during the sharpening process. The good news is that you probably have these items already.

Water is something you will need. You will want to soak your whetstone in some water before using it. Simply get a bowl, fill it up with some water to cover the whetstone and allow it to soak for around five minutes or so. The water is needed to get the whetstone to work as intended.

Next up, you will want to place some oil on the whetstone before you get started. The oil’s primary job is to reduce the amount of heat produced during the sharpening process. It should also help keep the whetstone clean.

You should also grab a towel to clean the whetstone before you start sharpening. Once you’re done, you can also use the towel to clean any residue on your knife.

The Sharpening Process

We’re now done with all the prep so let’s get into the process of sharpening your knife. By the way, feel free to put on your hunting gloves for this undertaking. Doing so should protect you from any unnecessary injuries.

To start, you will want to position your knife properly against the already lubricated whetstone. Position the knife at an angle somewhere between 25 to 30 degrees.

With the knife in the right position, proceed to move the knife across the surface of the whetstone away from you. You should also move the entirety of the knife over the whetstone, going from the base to the tip of the edge.

Keep the strokes going. You’ll want to continually sharpen your knife up until the point where you can start to feel a small bump forming on the edge of the knife. That bump is known as the burr and it is the indicator that you can now start working on the other side.

Flip the knife over and make sure that you run that other side of the knife over the whetstone the same amount of times.

If your knife has a gut hook, remember to sharpen that portion as well. The serrations present on some knives also need to be worked on, although you will need a honing rod instead of a whetstone for them.

Remember to test your knives before putting away your sharpening tools. Test them on some pieces of paper or even some meat trimmings you are planning to discard to get a sense of how sharp they are.

Hunting involves more than just killing your target. You must also be able to process the carcass well to ensure that it maintains its quality. A sharp knife will help you with that.

Follow the tips included in this article if you want to be certain that you always have a sharp knife ready to go during your hunting trips.