There are several notches located in various places on a hunting knife. Depending on the location of the notch and the design of the notch, it will have a different intended purpose. Not all notches will be present in hunting knives, and some of these bushcraft knives will have no notches at all. So, why do some hunting knives have notches?

Some hunting knives have notches for sharpening, notches to cut cordage and notches for extra grip, while others are simply decorative. These notches are not essential on a hunting knife but do offer additional convenience for regular tasks such as sharpening fishing or skinning animals.

Hunting knives can have notches of various designs and in different locations of the knife. For some of these notches, the purpose is clear, but on other notches, the intended purpose is sometimes not immediately obvious. We will discuss the different notches on a hunting knife and give their intended purpose, some of which are useful when you are out on a fishing trip.

Why do hunting Knives have notches

What Are The Functions Of Notches On A Hunting Knife?

Hunting knives come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs, and many knife makers will include some notches on the blade or leave them out completely.

As we have already intimated, there are different notches in different locations on a blade, and each of them is for a particular purpose.

We will discuss each notch, its location, and intended function so that you can figure out which notches are appropriate for your needs in a knife and which ones you can happily do without on your knife.

Sharpening Choil On A Hunting Knife

On some hunting knives, there is a notch on the sharp edge of the knife where the sharp edge meets the plunge line or the Ricasso of the blade. The Ricasso of the blade is the flat part of the blade between the handle and the sharp edge.

The purpose of the sharpening choil is to provide an endpoint at which the sharpened edge of the knife stops. It is often difficult to sharpen a blade all the way up to the plunge line since it is not always possible to get the sharpening tools all the way up to this point on the blade.

The sharpening choil is, therefore, a notch that is cut into the edge to give the sharpening tools a definite stopping place before the plunge line is reached.

Not all knives have this notch, but if it does have a choil, it makes the knife easier to sharpen, especially on a whetstone.

Sometimes the notch is large and is termed a finger choil and provides a dual purpose of a place to rest the forefinger and to provide a designated stopping point for the sharp edge.

Thumb Jimping On A Hunting Knife

Thumb jimping is usually a series of grooves or notched on the spine of the blade of the hunting knife. These notches can be further down the blade if they are intended to be purely decorative, but when they are closer to the handle, they have a function.

The thumb jimping close to the handle is intended for giving your thumb or forefinger extra grip on the spine of the blade when you are using the knife gripped in this fashion.

These notches are not essential on a knife, but they make sense when the use of the knife requires this grip stance. An example of this is when you choke up on the blade and place your forefinger on the top of the spine of the knife when you are skinning an animal.

Gut Hook On A Hunting Knife

Some hunting knives or bushcraft knives come with a gut hook notched into the spine of the knife blade. This notch is usually cut into the blade at an angle towards the tip of the knife. The curved edge at the bottom of the notch is sharpened.

This notch is called a gut hook and is intended for the purpose of easily cutting fishing lines and other forms of light cordage.

The fishing line, or gut, is simply hooked into the notch. Then, with a pulling action on the knife towards yourself, the sharp curved edge inside the notch will slice through the line or cordage.

To get extra leverage, once you have hooked the line in the notch, you can fold each end on either side of the blade, hold the two strands of line together in one hand beyond the knife and pull the knife towards you with the other hand. This will slice easily through the line.

If the line is under tension, you can simply hook the notch over the line and pull, and it will cut the line. This makes it easy to cut the line with one hand if it is under tension

Although this notch its uses, not all hunting knives have this gut hook. If you do a lit of fishing or camping where you cut cordage, then you may find it useful, and you can choose a hunting knife with this feature.

Spine Notches On A Hunting Knife

Sometimes there are vertical notches cut into the hunting knife that seem to have no apparent function since the edges are not sharp and they are not gut into a saw-type edge for rough-cutting wood.

These notches are not typical on a hunting knife and are more for combat-style knives. The grooves are intended to break strands of fencing wire. The strand of wire is slipped into the groove, and the knife is given a sharp twist.

This effectively puts a huge amount of strain on a small section of the wire, and it breaks at the point where it passes through the notch.

Unless you are a Marine, you will probably not have much frequent need for this type of notch on your knife unless, of course, you simply think it looks cool!

Are Notches Necessary On A Hunting Knife?

None of the notches that we have mentioned on hunting knives are absolutely necessary. Depending on your sharpening method and the functions you use the knife for the most, some or all the notches can be done away with.

The notches provide certain features on the knife or added methods of convenience, but knives without these notches can perform just as well without any of these additional features, and you won’t particularly miss them.

Rather than looking at these additional features on the knife, you should rather be looking at other features that will make it a good hunting knife or not.

Some of the characteristics to look out for for a good hunting knife would include the following features.

  • Type of steel in the blade. This is probably the most crucial feature to look out for since the blade is the working part of the knife. A good high-carbon steel blade is preferable, or you can opt for stainless steel. Stainless steel is often more difficult to sharpen and does not hold an edge as well as other high carbon steels, but it will be more resistant to rust.
  • Handle material of the knife. You need to be able to maintain a good solid grip on the handle while you use the knife. Remember that sometimes the handle will be wet with water or blood, which could make it difficult to hold on to. Handle materials that do not become slippery when wet would be a good characteristic to look out for.
  • Durability of construction. A well-made knife has the potential to last you a lifetime, whereas a poorly constructed knife could let you down when you need it most.

Some Recommended Hunting Knives And Sharpeners

We have selected a couple of good hunting knives and field sharpening solutions that may help you in your quest to find the right hunting knife for your needs.

TOPS Knives B.O.B. The Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldcraft B.O.B. Hunter

This is a well-made hunting knife made from stainless steel and with a robust full-tang construction. It features the sharpening choil as well as thumb jimping on the spine.

Sale 5%
TOPS Knives B.O.B. THE RAFT B.O.B. Hunter Brothers of Bushcraft Fieldc – 154 CM Steel, red
  • Distinctive Hunter Fixed Knife Also Includes a Sheath!
  • 871373252200

It is shipped with a Firestarter and emergency whistle, all fitted to the Kydex sheath. You can check the knife out here.

Gerber Myth Fixed Blade Pro Knife

This Gerber hunting knife is an example of a hunting knife with a gut hook notch.

The blade is made from high-carbon stainless steel, and the sheath comes with a built-in sharpener.

You can take a look at the knife here.

Gerber Myth Fixed Blade Pro Knife, Gut Hook [31-001095]
  • Full tang high-carbon stainless steel blade is anchored by a soft rubberized handle
  • Dual-lock sheath includes a built-in carbide sharpener
  • Overall Length: 8.5"
  • Blade Length: 3.75"

Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic

The Lansky BladeMedic is a great field sharpener to keep your edge crisp and sharp when out in the field. It can never replace a good whetstone to create a perfect edge on a very dull knife, but it works great for touch-ups to the edge out in the field. It features a tungsten-carbide sharpener as well as a ceramic sharpener to polish the edge and a diamond sharpener for serrated edges.

Sale 17%
Lanksy Blademedic 4-in-1 Knife Sharpener - PS-MED01
  • 4-in-1: Knife sharpeners have one goal - to sharpen knives - and the Blademedic gives you four ways to do it! It...
  • Simplicity: With the Blademedic, you can put a sharp edge back on any knife in moments without a hassle. There's no...
  • Portable: You can take this Lansky sharpening system anywhere. At home and need a kitchen knife sharpener? Check...
  • Sturdy: The Blademedic has a robust metal body with well-anchored sharpening components. The diamond sharpening rod...

You can check out the Lansky BladeMedic here.


While notches on hunting knives are not a necessity, they do offer some points of convenience for the knife. However, when looking for a good hunting knife, the number of notches and their function should be low down on the priority list of what makes a good hunting knife for your purposes.

Select the hunting knife that best suits your needs in other areas, and if it comes with the extra bonus of having a few extra notches for different functions, then consider those a bonus rather than a feature that tempts you to buy the knife.


Knife 1:

Knife 2:

Lansky sharpener:

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