One of the worst things that can happen to a deer hunter is to shoot a big buck or fat doe and then, when it’s time to get down to business, find that your knife blade is dull. Or, in the process of field dressing, skinning, butchering and caping it out, the blade gets dull enough to make the job much more difficult than it should be.

This is where knives with blades that can be quickly and easily changed out for a fresh one really shine. And their popularity has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. There are two basic types. The first encompasses blades that can be quickly changed but later resharpened. Several companies make good ones, including Outdoor Edge, Camillus, SOG, Case and Kershaw, among others.

It is the second type, featuring scalpel-type blades designed to be discarded once they become dull, that have become very popular with mainstream hunters in recent years. Havalon Knives set the standard for this type of knife. Originally launched in 2005, Havalon is owned by parent company Havels Inc., which has been selling surgical blades to taxidermists since the 1980s and offered its first folding-blade hunting knife featuring replaceable surgical-sharp blades in the early 2000s. The big draw to backcountry and other DIY hunters was the fact that one Havalon knife and 12 replaceable blades weigh just 3 ounces.

Two other companies — Outdoor Edge and Gerber — offer quality knives of this type today as well. All three of the knives listed below have a MSRP of under $50. Here’s a look at the Big Three of disposable-blade hunting knives.

Havalon Piranta (left): A lightweight, simple, rugged knife that lets you use virtually the entire length of the blade. It comes with a pocket clip and nylon sheath that holds up to a dozen spare blades. One thing many users find is that it is easier — and safer — to replace the blades using the pliers in a multi-tool than with your fingers, as it can be a little tough to change blades out and this increases the safety factor. The blades are truly scalpel-sharp, and replacement blades cost less than 50 cents apiece. The knife weighs about 1.5 ounces and measures 7 3/8 inches long open and 4 ½ inches long when closed.

Gerber Vital (center): This knife does not come with a sheath but has a sturdy pocket clip. It also can use the more inexpensive Havalon Piranta replacement blades (Gerber replacement blades run about $1.25 each.) It has a convenient and safe push-button blade release that makes blade change-out quick and very safe. It measures 7 inches long when open and 4 ¼ inches long when closed, and weighs in at about 1.8 ounces.

Outdoor Edge Razor Blaze (right): This knife feels more like a traditional folding-blade knife, weighing in at 3.6 ounces and measuring 8 inches long open and 4 ½ inches long when closed. It also features a blade that is heavier and thicker than those used in the other two knives in this group. The replacement blades are more expensive as well, costing about $2.50 apiece. Blades are swapped out using a safe and simple push-button release. No pocket clip, but it does come with a nylon sheath with belt loop. It’s a sturdier choice for heavier tasks than the Havalon and Gerber knives, but not quite as good when it comes to the finer tasks of caping a deer’s face. It is an excellent choice, however.