Last weekend I had the opportunity to test out some of latest Gerber Hunting Knives. After 30+ mph winds and snowing sideways all day Saturday, Sunday seemed like a better day to see some elk migrating with sunny skies and mild wind.
We set out before dawn and after hiking for a half hour we began to hear elk. There was a symphony of bugles, chuckles and cow talk from a group of several hundred elk. We closed in as much distant towards them as we could before daylight and ended up in the last patch of timber on the edge of a sea of sagebrush. From there we waiting and watched, finally deciding to steal our way across the sagebrush a minute of hunched over sprinting at a time. Eventually we found a sagebrush tall enough to keep us from getting skylit.
For about two freezing cold hours we waited and watched elk moving in all directions, keeping our eyes to the south with the wind in our faces. With a tag only good for a cow/calf, we noticed a group of several cows and two small bulls approaching. Fully rested on my pack and laying down in the sagebrush, as soon as the group stopped inside of 200 yards- I squeezed my shot at the lone cow on the outside of the group. Hearing the shot hit and knowing it felt good, but racked another and began watching her through the scope. She stood very still for about 15 seconds and then I watched her gently tip over and expire.
Now my grandfathers words of wisdom come flooding back to me:
The real work starts once you pull the trigger!
We walked up and there she was, a nice young cow elk.
Since I had two different knives from Gerber to test, I decided to field dress, skin and quarter half the elk with one and half with the other to compare.
The first knife was the Gerber Downwind Caper. This knife is shaped like a skinner, with a slightly smaller blade and finger grooves to get a choked up grip near the blade. First thing- it was razor sharp out of the box. The small blade has a nice curve to it which made it easy to get started, easy to cut the entrails out, and also small enough to get in and cut the windpipe and diaphragm.
Once I had it dressed- my buddy headed back to the truck to retrieve a sled and lighten his pack. I began to skin and quarter half of the elk with the Downwind Caper. The knife felt great in my hand, and was easily enough blade to break down the elk even if it was the only knife I had. With two quarters lying on the snow, I decided to switch blades and try out the other larger blade from Gerber.
Downwind Drop Point
The Downwind Drop Point is a slightly larger fixed blade knife, hefty enough to chop ribs, break down the ankle joints, or even through the spine. I rolled the elk over onto the skinned hide, and began the other half. This blade was also razor sharp straight out of the box and had no problem working as a skinner as well as a boning knife to remove the quarters. It was stout enough to break the pelvis with some chopping motions, and it also zipped through the ribs to open up the chest cavity. The thing that I really liked about the Downwind Drop Point was its overall length and heft, which made quick work of removing the back straps and inner loins with long blade. It cut smoothly and tracked well though the soft meat, making it possible to get every little bit. It also worked well to remove the meat in between the ribs!
My buddy returned with the sled and his meat pack, we began to load the quarters into bags and load out packs and sled. I usually have the 4 quarters in bags, and then a separate bag known as the “goody bag”- this contains the straps, loins, heart, tongue, neck meat and rib meat. We also were required to submit the head and 6” of the neck for testing of the lymph nodes for CWD. This is where I used the Downwind Drop Point Gerber Hunting Knife to chop through the spine. Only a half dozen chops and the neck was broken through.
We packed up a hind quarter in each backpack and loaded the rest into the sled, with one pulling and one pushing with their trekking poles. The pack out was about as flat and easy as it gets for elk hunting, and with fresh snow it went quickly.
I believe that it’s possible to break down an entire animal with just one blade. The Downwind Caper ($39.99) was still plenty of blade, and if you carried the Gerber Vital Packsaw ($24.99) in combination that would be enough to get through any bones that stood in your way. If I had to choose one knife from the Downwind Series to bring with me into the field that could do all the knife work, as well as break through ribs, spine and ankles as needed- I would choose the Gerber Downwind Drop Point ($44.99), one of the top all around Geber Hunting Knives.