Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See Here for more details.
Best Deals of the week on Axes and Hatchets: Current Deals Axes and Hatchets.
Best Deals of the week on Power Tools: Current Deals Power Tools.
Let’s begin by discussing the ways in which you would use an axe in and around a big game hunting trip of several days.
Many people in my state either drive to spots for the day, or they have a camp in which they stay. These days those camps could be considered homes for the most part.
Long gone are the days of raggedy old shacks in the middle of the woods. However, when you go on a hunting trip to some of the country’s less populated wilderness areas – it generally requires hiking in with gear and setting up a camp.
Often times these days all-terrain vehicles are more the norm for getting out into the wilderness. So we will assume we are going on a week long hunting trip in the wilds of Alaska on a caribou hunt.
You have selected a location and have chosen to use an all-terrain vehicle to get there. It’s also safe to assume we would have one or more others joining us on this trip, we’ll say three total for the purposes of this article.
Since there are going to be three people and three all-terrain vehicles, space and weight is not to much of a concern. That being said, I would most likely bring along multiple axes for the trip and it’s various required tasks. My definition of “The Best Axe” is the one that most closely meets the requirements of the task or set of tasks it will be used for most.
Most axes can do the same thing, but many are tailored to a specific task, hindering their performance in other tasks. In our situation here, weight and space are not a problem so we have more options for the best axe to bring.
Lets Talk Camp Axe
A Camp Axe is basically an axe used specifically for the heavier jobs around the camp site, for example:
-Hammering stakes or posts
-Many other assorted tasks
The most common task is likely going to be chopping fire wood. A maul is generally better for this, but even without weight constraints it would still be a pain in the butt to deal with a maul, and the same goes for heavy felling axes.
You won’t be cutting the forest down or chopping mountains of firewood – so it’s not necessary to bring such cumbersome tools. For the main jobs around the camp site, you are going to want a more general use axe. Something in the 2.5 to 3.5 pound range.
I’d also try to stay with a handle length of 20 to 28 inches simply for ease of quick use. Nothing is more annoying than trying to work and having extra handle length bumping into and catching on everything in the bush.
I’d also recommend a contoured handle which allows for a better grip on various areas of the handle, depending on the task. If I had to recommend an axe that fit this profile, the first one that comes to mind is the Hults Bruk Akka Foresters Premium Outdoor Axe which I discussed in my Bushcraft Axes article. It’s very versatile and a great axe for travel through the wilderness.
It’s Made in Sweden with good steel, and is affordable enough that if something happens to it or you lose it, it’s not the end of the world. Of course there are a lot of axes that fit the profile I gave, this is just the axe that comes to mind first. I do recommend you check out my bushcraft axes article, there are several axes discussed there that fit the bill for this situation.
Alright, so we’ve got our camp axe for the heavy work, that guy stays back and holds the fort. But what about some of the smaller jobs? Kindling, debranching, and for traditional trappers; making traps.
I know of many trappers who bring and axe with them, it is a quick dispatch I’m told. A small animal doesn’t need much more than a chunk of steel upside the head.
Larger animals of course require a firearm. I don’t think you’ll be using an axe to dispatch any big game…unless maybe you hit a deer on the ride in. You could certainly use your camp axe for these purposes, but it might be a little better if you have something lighter to carry with you and to handle for small tasks.
A Hatchet or even a Tomahawk are great options for this role. One axe that comes to mind and has been a long time favorite of mine is the Gransfors Bruks Outdoor Axe.
It’s small and light weighing only 1.5 pounds, and a length of only 15 inches. Not to mention the Swedish quality. I honestly can’t think of a better axe for this position. It’s certainly a quality, useful and handsome tool.
Gransfors Bruks Hunters Axe
So now you have an axe for your small jobs as well as your bigger jobs. Now lets get down to the nitty gritty; the actual hunting part. Now here is where there is a little division of power.
I say this because I mentioned the Gransfors Outdoor Axe, but they have another axe that is more aimed at animal processing, and can also do the small tasks required during your wilderness stay.
That axe is the surprise..surprise.. the Hunter’s Axe. Very similar to the Outdoor axe but with some changes. The most noticeable is it’s missing the sexy stainless collar which is implemented to protect the handle on some axes. It also has a slightly more contoured handle.
The pole (the back) of the axe head is rounded and softened. This is to aid in the skinning of big game.
It becomes useful when working to remove the hide from the animal. The rounded pole allows the axe to slide between the hide and the muscle with minimal damage to both.
Using your hands can be exhausting and sometimes painful after a while. Using the axe gives you different angles and forces, and the axe takes more of the strain rather than your fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders.
Of course the cutting edge is great for cutting and chopping. So along with your firearm, your hunter’s axe, and your trusty knife….you have a knife right?…always have a knife with you in the woods. This credit card knife is pretty handy.
I almost always have a knife on me….always. Anyway, so with your tools you have taken down the beast and prepared it for transport back to camp. After hanging and curing your beast it’s time to complete the processing.
Most people do this using various knives, but some people do use axes during the process. Axes are very handy for quickly getting through tough areas of the animal such as large joints, or neck bones.
Some axes are designed to do more and even help with the meat cutting process such as this one which I found during my research of butchering axes. The long curved cutting edge and short handle make for a very useful tool, like a carving axe.
It has the burl to help break through tough parts, and the size and shape which offers many cutting angles and control. I have also seen small hand axes that are used with cutting boards.
It seems these cutting axes have left mainstream culture and are more of a novelty tool now, most options can only be found in different places the internet.
Here’s Something to Think About
The first axes used by humans were sharpened rocks which we now call hand axes. Back then especially during the Viking ages hand axes were used for everything.
I’m sure they were not as efficient as anything we have today, but they worked and thanks to those axes, we are still here today. Our selection of Viking axes illustrate how the bearded design was used throughout that time.
We do have some kitchen tools fairly commonly used today which are oddly similar to old stone hand axes. We call them Ulu knives. An Ulu knife is an all purpose knife used for all manner of cutting tasks by the Inuit, Yupik and Aleut peoples. Uses ranging from skinning animals and giving haircuts up to using them for cutting and shaping blocks of snow for igloos. You can see in the images below the similarities of the ancient and still used.
When it comes to butchering game, professional butchers have all sorts of tools, many that resemble or function like axes. Most of us don’t have a butcher to bring on hunting trips though, as nice as that might be.
As I’ve said before, axes have been and can be used in many tasks of our daily lives from building, to processing food, to keeping warm.
Today although their building usage has lost popularity, it has been quickly rising again in a different way, a way that bring many old things back to life.
That way is Collectors. That’s right, axe collectors. These folks range from history buffs, tool aficionados, and woodsman, all the way to the people that just collect something because of how it looks. But it’s these folks that help keep axes alive.