How to properly store your hunting knives for the winter

This is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” articles. I don’t want to make my ignorance publicly known but until the last few years I’ve never given it a thought as to prepping my hunting knives for storage. Three things have woken me up to the need to do so.

The first one was about 15 years ago when I pulled my skinning knife out of the sheath to skin a deer, elk, bear or something and noticed that some idiot (that would be me) had left gobs of fat caked up on the blade from the previous year’s hunt. It hit me then that maybe I ought to wipe the blood and fat off of the blade before storing away my knives.

Then a couple of years ago my brother said that he always sharpened his knives before he put them away for the year. That way the next year when he pulled them out on opening day to skin his deer they were sharp and good to go.

And the final straw that tilted me over to this new line of thought: I’d recently done a few TV shows with “The High Roads With Keith Warren” and while watching the show there was an advertisement in the middle in which he said something to the effect that you ought to clean your knife before putting it away and wipe it down with a good quality oil but to be sure to wash the oil off with dish soap the next year before using it.

So, with all of the above said, I finally jumped on board and am recommending that you properly winterize your knife before storing it. I’m going to describe what steps that I’m going to be taking from now on.

First off, blood is corrosive so you’ll want to wash any blood/fat off of your knife with warm soapy water and then dry it off well before putting it back in the sheath. I have some Kydex sheaths but I still think there is something attractive or maybe nostalgic about a leather sheath and favor them. But, on many of our hunts we encounter snow, rain or both. So, after you get home from your hunt you don’t want to throw your knife on the shelf in a wet sheath. Granted, many of the new knives are made out of stainless steel so they resist rusting. But some of the old school knives like Old Timer, etc. are made of some kind of regular iron and will rust and pit. It’s a shame for a knife to rust up and not be able to pass it on to your kids or grandkids. So not only do you need to properly care for the knife but also dry out the sheath when you get home before storing the knife in it.

Next, after washing and drying my knife I’m going to wipe the blade with a rag that I put a few drops of high-quality gun oil on. We do this with our guns don’t we? Some of my Diamond Blade knives cost $400 to $500 so it’d be a shame not to be able to pass them on down to my grandkids. So, I think Keith is right in advising to do this.

And don’t forget to care for your sheath. If you take care of it the sheath should last for two to three generations; if not, it can mold up or dry out and crack in a short amount of time. So, here’s my advice: After you get home let it dry out. Then using a rag rub it generously with either Neatsfoot oil or Lexol. This will help it last for years to come.

Or I guess there is one other option. Don’t ever kill anything and then your knife can sit in the knife display case at home for eternity!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Post Author: By Tom Claycomb

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