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JOE MARTINO: Woods and waters with Joe Martino

Replace your blades instead of sharpening them this fall

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On one of my elk hunting trips out west a few years ago, I had the chance to use a knife that utilized replaceable blades, rather than the typical style of hunting knife I have been accustomed to. Stowed in my pack was the Vital Big Game Folder by Gerber Knives.

I have found my new go-to knife. Since the blades are replaceable, you never have to worry about the blade going dull before you finish dressing or skinning your animal. This was a huge deal in Colorado working with an animal the likes of an elk. The animal and the terrain mean a lot more work for your blade. In most instances, once you down an elk, the real work begins. Besides simply dressing out your animal, you will need to skin and quarter it to be able to pack it out. Those are big jobs, and used to mean the need for more than one knife. Thankfully, not so anymore.

The knife proved its worth to me out west. I was able to take my elk down to skinned quarters with just one knife. Once a blade gets dull, it is a snap to replace in just a few seconds. No more struggling to skin an elk with a dull knife. And trust me, even if you start out with a sharp knife, before you are done with an elk, the blade will be dull. So, rather than pack multiple knives or try to “make do” when one went dull, I simply swapped blades and was able to maintain a surgically sharp edge.

What I like most about the Vital Big Game Folder is that Gerber has since made the blade bigger, making it perfect for both dressing and skinning. And don’t think that bigger means bulky. With the blades being thinner than on traditional knives, it handles like a dream. Heck, I can even see this knife being pretty solid for filleting fish.

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Replaceable blades are thinner than those on traditional knives, but the compactness and utility are nice. And sharp! I found each blade to be surgically sharp. Quite helpful in making quicker work of a big game animal. But be careful; the blades were so sharp, that one of my buddies was scared to use it!

Just as the knife proved its worth to me in Colorado, it did so here in the Midwest on whitetails as well. You don’t have to be hunting big critters like elk to see the benefit of such a knife either. I don’t know about you, but throughout the course of a typical deer season here in the Midwest, my knives see a lot of use. Besides the couple of deer I try to get, it is not uncommon for me to be on the scene when others do too, so my knives may be used in dressing my sons deer, as well as those taken by friends, family, etc. I do have several knives, and I make sure they are each sharp at the start of each season, and maintain those edges during season as needed, but it can be a real pain to sharpen knives during the hectic rat-race of deer season. I have found that the best way to a sharp knife is by using a sharpener like the ones made by Lansky. They ensure the exact same angle every time you sharpen a blade, meaning sharper knives by not accidentally changing the angle of the blade. But, these types of sharpeners take time. You can’t simply run a few swipes of the blade through them and get a good edge. And the types of sharpeners that are quick, aren’t usually very good.

With My Vital Big Game knife this year, I won’t ever have to worry about taking the time to sharpen my knives when I’m dog-tired.

The Gerber Vital Big Game Exchange-a-Blade knife retails for around $68 and replacement blades are $23 for a 5-pack, which should get you through a deer season around here.

For more information on Gerber’s full line of knives and gear, including the Vital Big Game like I used, check out their website at