By the time this goes to print, the rifle segment of our deer hunting season for 2008 will be long gone. But at the moment, I am packing my gear with visions of venison dancing in my head. Unfortunately, this time of year many hunters head to the woods only half prepared. These are the guys that end up making the local newspapers when their dreams of a giant buck are set aside by the elements of Mother Nature. All it takes is a change in weather, a fall out of a treestand or a trip over a stump and they find themselves in a fight for survival. It may be something as simple as getting lost.

We spend hours selecting the perfect rifle and scope combination and then even more time at the range or in the woods setting up deer stands. But how much time do we spend selecting the knife we will carry for our foray into the wilderness? Usually, we just grab the same hunting knife year after year and give little thought to the subject. It has proven itself over the years on its ability to dress your game, but is it really the knife you want in times of emergency? The problem is we have become too specialized with our selection of cutlery for different purposes. We have a hunting knife, a fishing knife and we may even have a defensive or combat blade, but we have lost the concept of a utility knife.

A good utility knife may not be ideal for any one use but can span across a myriad of chores. These are the thoughts I had while spending a few days hunting during our muzzleloader deer season. I had my favorite 3-inch drop-point hunter, but I had also taken along a few knives from the MIL-SPIE line that TOPS Knives plans to introduce at the 2009 SHOT Show. The plan was to hunt the mornings and evenings and then test the TOPS knives during the middle of the day. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I shouldn’t set aside my standard knife and work solely with the new models. 

Spying The SPIEs 
The knives are all of a spear-point pattern and come in two sizes. The larger has a 5-inch blade with a 3/4-inch section of serrations just in front of the handle, while the smaller knife has a 3-1/2-inch plain edge. Both sizes come with Micarta scales or without in a skeleton fashion. At first look you may classify them as military or combat blades, but they deserve better than to be placed into such a limited category. Let’s face it; the main difference between surviving the mountains of Afghanistan and those of North Carolina is that in Afghanistan, the game shoots back. Marketing people hate the term “utility knife” because it just sounds too plain. “Combat,” “hunter,” “fighter” are all terms that denote specific needs and draw more attention from the buying public, but I would classify these blades as the epitome of the utility knife.

Both sizes worked well in skinning out the deer taken during that hunt. My little drop-point may have worked better for the skinning but these knives actually outperformed the hunter when it came to separating the leg and hip joints. Collecting tinder from larger wood, carving out a walking stick and cutting brush for a hunting blind were all easier done with the TOPS knives than my traditional hunter. I really wasn’t in the mood that day to break a leg just to test a knife but it was obvious the utility knife would have proven easier to work with in fashioning splits. The black baked-on coating of the MIL-SPIE knives may look a bit tactical and surely doesn’t have the beauty of my polished stainless and wooden-handled hunter, but the finish does a great job protecting the blade in foul weather. If you want a little extra color, these knives are available with the tangs coated in a yellow finish. In the dim light of early morning or the darkness of night, the yellow knives do stand out a bit better. Knowing I was going to give my son directions to one of my deer stands for the next morning, I blazed a trial by marking the bark on several trees leading to the stand. Again, this was a chore better done with the TOPS knives instead of a dedicated hunting knife.

If you’re planning your next hunt or just plotting out the trail for a day hike in the woods, spend some time thinking about the knives you are going to carry. There is something to be said about the concept of the utility knife. It may not be the best for a certain project but it can handle about anything. One thing is for certain, no matter how well we plan, Mother Nature can change those plans in a heartbeat and if she does, you want to be prepared. For more information on TOPS Knives visit or call 208-542-0113.

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Tactical Knives

By the time this goes to print, the rifle segment of our deer hunting…