russel canadian belt knife
The original Russell Canadian Belt Knife, with leather sheath.. Grohmann Cutlery

I have been asked what’s the best hunting knife for under $200. My answer is that I can’t pick out a single one, but I can give you some top contenders.

The Russell Canadian Belt Knife, original design by Grohmann Cutlery

The original Russell Canadian Belt Knife, with leather sheath. Grohmann Cutlery

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This knife‘s elliptical blade and offset, slim handle make it usable for just about any job, held in any manner. Warren Page, who gutted more animals than I have seen, loved it. The Canadian Belt Knife is one of the most copied knives ever; everyone and his brother Clarence does their own version, with varying degrees of success. Grohmann makes it in stainless and tool steel. I’ve never been able to get the stainless version sharp. The tool steel knife is just fine. Around $100; Grohmann Knives

Cold Steel Master Hunter in San Mai

Cold Steel Master Hunter in San Mai, with sheath. Cold Steel

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Cold Steel makes the most diverse line of cutlery I know of. If there’s something in the history of man on earth that’s been used to slash and bash, they reproduce it. On the mundane side, Cold Steel also makes one of the best hunting knives you can lay a paw on, the Master Hunter in San Mai. “San mai” means “three layer,” or in this case a layer of very hard steel sandwiched between two softer layers. This produces a blade that is both very strong and takes a truly villainous edge. The handle is slip-proof and fine to use in cold weather. Quite literally, a perfect hunting knife, right down to the loss-proof sheath. Around $160; Coldsteel

Ontario Knife Hunt Plus Drop Point

Ontario Knives’ Hunt Plus Drop Point. Ontario Knives

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There are two versions of this: a drop-point and a skinner. Ontario may have removed the drop point from the line, as I cannot find it on the website. If so, whoever did it should be flogged around the fleet. But it’s still available. It’s a 4-inch blade made of hollow-ground, high-carbon stainless, with a rubber handle that is an ergonomic marvel. The sheath is nylon, and while inelegant is adequate. I had a leather sheath made and like it a lot better. The real-world price is only about $40, which makes it an incredible bargain; Ontario Knife Co.

Knives of Alaska Alpha Wolf

The Alpha Wolf in S30V and stag handle, with sheath. Knives of Alaska

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This is a minimalist masterpiece, designed by Charles Allan, who is a game biologist, a licensed Alaska guide, and has looked into more gut piles than you have glasses of beer. The Alpha Wolf is available in D2 or S30V steel, and a choice of handle materials. The blade is just under 4 inches long, which makes it small, but see what you can do with it. The Alpha Wolf also makes a first-rate kitchen knife. Prices range from under $100 to around $160; Knives of Alaska