A good, sharp knife is perhaps the most basic item in any kit I carry to the field, regardless of whether I’m training or hunting. And since knives are one of those items that tend to last forever (if you take care of them) and someday get passed down to your children, I firmly believe it’s better to spend more money buying a single quality knife than to buy a bunch of the cheap crap. So, when it came time for me to invest in a new small game knife to carry while bird and duck hunting, I decided to go with a custom maker.

Charles May is a Mississippi-based custom knife maker who makes blades of superlative beauty, toughness and function. I first discovered Charles May several years ago while looking for a new big-game knife. I kept hearing praises about his knives from hunters across the country. When I got my first knife, I knew exactly why; they are masterpieces of elegant simplicity. I’ve been carrying one of Charles’ big-game knives for three years now, and decided to complement it with one of Charlie’s exquisitely made bird and trout knives. The new knife has been on my belt since early September and it is every bit as good as I thought it would be.

The Bird & Trout II is, as you would expect, a small, handy knife that excels at cleaning small game and fish. The handle ergonomics are spot-on – which is something many people, dazzled by blade steel and shape, pay far too little attention to… The blade, at just a hair over three inches, is wickedly sharp, not too deep, and what I consider the perfect size for birds, fish and general use. It rides so well on my belt that it’s turned into my preferred EDC (every day carry) knife.

Charles can supply pretty much any handle or pin material you want. The steel choices are D2, S30V and A2. Mine came with antique ivory scales, nickel pins, S30V steel and a perfect flat grind. A neat thing about Charles May is that you can order any of his knives with a scandi grind. I have one of his small, scandi-grind bushcrafters, and my next hunting knife from him will also sport a scandi.

These are not cheap knives. The Bird & Trout II starts at $225 for its base configuration: D2, micarta scales and stainless pins. But think of it this way: You will be buying a completely hand-made knife built to your exact wishes – Charles does everything from forming the blank to heat-treating. Will a production knife work? Surely? It just won’t hold an edge for nearly as long or look as good doing it. Expensive? Yes. But like a custom rifle or a high-end shotgun, price is not a factor, is it? So if you’re looking for a beautifully made, custom bird knife that is not only a helluva tool, but an heirloom your surviving descendants will surely fight over someday, I highly recommend the Charles May Bird & Trout II.