Bourjaily: My History With Buck Knives

The Buck family -- the name is a lucky coincidence -- has been making knives since 1902. I am a Buck fan because my first hunting knife was a Buck Folding Hunter, the elegant brass-accented 110 model that celebrates its 50th birthday in 2014. I've dressed many deer with it, but the deer it makes me remember is one I didn't kill.

The year I took up bowhunting, 1982, I outfitted myself on a budget with Browning's bottom-of-the-line Cobra XL compound. The idea that a whitetail might come close enough that I would actually kill it with my bow seemed so far-fetched it never occurred to me to buy a knife.

Then I walked to my stand one November afternoon, hosing down the woods with doe urine on the theory that if some scent was good, lots more must be better. I had been in the stand less than a minute - I had just pulled my bow up after me - when I heard snuffling. The buck was 20 yards away and coming to me when I first saw him, his nose stuck to the scent trail. (Lots more scent might be a good idea after all). It was the first deer I had ever seen while bowhunting. To make matters more stressful, he had big antlers. I fumbled with an arrow. The buck heard it clatter against the riser, ran 15 yards and stopped. He looked back at me still trying to draw, and bolted. When I stopped shaking I climbed out of the tree and went home.

To console myself, and because now, having seen a deer, I believed I would someday kill one and would have to cut it open, I splurged on the best knife I could find. Out of the box, the 110 was sharp enough for surgery, solidly made and great-looking. That's my knife in the picture, with my old bow. Buck still sells a ton of 110s at $76 apiece.

At SHOT the new folding Buck ErgoHunters pictured below my knife caught my eye because I am a shotgun guy and they have grips like little gunstocks: checkered, with a palm-swell . They come in "Select," ($73) "Avid" ($86) and "Pro" ($170) grades all with 3-inch skinning blades. The blade steel, holster and decoration for each grade gets better as you go up in price. Much as I like them , I am guessing my old Buck has more than a few field dressing jobs left in it.