Clip point, drop point, trailing point — which is best for deer hunting? It all begins with the basic blade shape, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some knife blade shapes are designed for a specific purpose, such as skinning an animal, while others aim to be more utilitarian and useful for many purposes.

A clip point blade (pictured, top) is one of the most popular blade shapes in use today. The back (unsharpened) edge of the knife runs straight from the handle and stops about halfway up the knife. Then, it turns and continues to the point of the knife. This “cutout” area can be straight or curved, and is referred to as the “clip.” The clip point is used on many pocket and fixed-blade knives. These knives feature a very sharp and controllable point that’s good for piercing, and they have lots of cutting edge for slicing. However, the point is narrow and relatively weak.

The drop-point blade (pictured, center) is also popular. The back (unsharpened) edge of the knife runs straight from the handle to the tip of the knife in a slow curved manner. The drop point is very popular on hunting knives because of the controllable point (it’s much easier to accidentally puncture internal organs when field dressing a deer with a clip-point blade than it is a drop-point blade), and the blade features a large slicing area. However, the point itself is not as sharp as that of a clip-point knife, making it less suitable for piercing tasks.

A trailing-point knife (pictured, bottom) has a back edge that curves upward. Trailing-point blades provide a large curved cutting area and are optimized for slicing or skinning. They are most common on skinning and filet knives, making them an excellent choice for boning meat.

What about gut hooks? These blades are great for unzipping a deer’s belly, but I find that after that this feature simply gets in my way. Also, the actual gut hook is virtually impossible to sharpen.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of knife shapes, sizes and blade designs. Now I carry a couple of knives depending on the task at hand. Clip points are my favorites for general all-around field-dressing chores, but once I get ready to process the meat, I have a couple of trailing-edge filet knives that are the cat’s meow. For skinning, clip-point blades work nicely.