The Norway Style of Hunting

For me hunting and knives have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a small rural community in the southern part of Norway which consists of lakes and forests.  My Father was very passionate about hunting and fishing.

Here in Norway, October 5this the start of moose season and every year he would join the hunting team on the farm where his father – my grandfather – grew up.  I was probably around five years old the first time he took me with him.  I will never forget my first real hunting experience as I watched him shoot a moose that a neighboring hunter had wounded with a poorly placed shot.  I was a bit scared but at the same time excited as large animal fell to the ground as my dad ethically put the round where it was supposed go.  I was hooked on hunting!

Of course being a budding young outdoorsman, I had my own knife!  Actually, I think I had several even back then.  All the kids participating in the hunt would get in line to get the lower dismembered part of the leg to skin for practice.  We kids would compete about who had the nicest patch of moose skin and of course who had the best and sharpest knife.  I know many of the other kids were envious of me as I had a very nice handcrafted knife that was really sharp.  Most of the others had cheaper, utilitarian Moras which were rather dull and could barely break the skin.

The little handcrafted puukko with a Bark River Featherweight Fox River above

The story of my knife all started when my mother had ordered a new knife for my Father’s 45th birthday.   I remember going with her when she picked out the blade and wooden handle blank. The local knifemaker had a ton of stuff on his workbench, but in between were three small blades – perfect for a knife for a little boy’s hand.  I remember that I couldn’t take my eyes of them the whole time we were there.  My mom knew how much I wanted such a knife, but she didn’t have the money.  As such, she said no when I asked if I could have my own knife as well.  I’m not sure, but I think I cried on the way home.

When the day came to deliver my Father’s birthday knife the old knifemaker had noticed the small boy with the long face leaving his shop so he had also made an identical knife for me from one of the smaller blades.  Being the nice man he was – he gifted it to me!  I got that knife on my Father’s birthday in 1985 and it played a huge part in my future interest as a hunter and outdoorsman.

Erling aged 4 with a young hare. His first real hunt

Today I am 39 years old, an avid hunter that spends most of my spare time outside. I am also father to three lovely kids aged 7, 10 and 14. The youngest is a boy not very unlike myself at that age and he loves to come along when I go out hunting.  Most of my hunting is local so bringing kids who are able to be quiet and walk a few miles during the day is no problem at all.  My son was four years old when he saw me shoot a hare chased by my brother’s hunting dog and ever since that day he has loved hunting!  I believe in doing things at a slow pace so the kids will want to tag along and probably most importantly – to go home when the kids are tired and want to go home.  That makes it a lot easier to make them want to come along on future trips.  Nowadays, they come with me whenever they can.  Even the oldest girl who is 15 asked to join me on the first day of this year’s moose hunt.   I must have done something right when I can compete with her iPhone!

Knives have always been an area of interest as a hunter, and the interest in good quality knives suddenly jump-started again a couple of years ago when I discovered Bark River Knives while watching videos on YouTube.  Most of my knives until then were from Buck, Helle and Brusletto and of course locally made handcrafted knives with forged blades of different sorts.   I ran across a well-known Japanese doctor and a couple of crazy kids from the Netherlands on YouTube and after a little research on steel I had a Bark River Gunny Hunter in Cru-wear on the way over the Atlantic!

Bark River Gunny Hunter in CPM Cru-wear. My first Bark River, recently traded for a Wolf River Skinner in CPM S35VN

My first impression was that this was a very well built knife.  Being razor sharp out of the box I was very impressed!  Having read about the different steel types I was also curious as to how well the edge would actually hold up to the use and abuse I planned to put it through – I was not disappointed!  I used it extensively throughout the first hunting season and participated in skinning several moose and also skinning and quartering quite a few of the smaller European roe deer which are numerous in my part of Norway.

Along with my new premium knife I decided to upgrade my sharpening skills and equipment.  My first thought was that I might as well learn how to sharpen properly on Japanese waterstones so I found a cheap set of four King stones ranging from #220 to #6000 grit. I also ordered the DLT Trading XL strop with black and white Bark River compounds. After a little practice I was getting somewhere, but Cru-wear really was the wrong end of the steel chart to start learning how to sharpen so I put it away for a while and started to practice on my wife’s kitchen knives and old dull hunting knives that I had put away in a drawer.  After doing a few I could make them shave the hair on my arms and things really started to become good fun. The DLT strop with black compound was what changed the knife from just being sharp to hair popping sharp!

Current sharpening equipment consists of leather strops and compounds in the back. DMT diamond whetstones and Japanese waterstones in the front. The small ones are King and the larger are from Shapton.

About the same time I bought the Gunny, I also found the Bark River Knives group on Facebook. I have found that being on that group while trying to NOT buy any more knives is like trying to quit smoking in a tobacco store – it just can’t be done!  From getting that first Gunny Hunter I was really getting to know the huge selection of models from Bark River and the endless possibilities with handle materials reading on the Facebook group.  Less than a month after getting the first Bark River I had several more heading to Norway and ever since then I have bought at least one knife every month.   I have purchased mostly Bark River knives, but also put knives from Fallkniven, Dan Tope, Lon Humphrey, Hess Knifeworks and Vehement Knives into my growing collection.

Knives bought in the first quarter of 2019

My main motivation for buying expensive knives in super steelsis to have hunting knives that I can rely on in any situation and that will stay sharp and take a beating no matter how I use or abuse them.  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t go about bashing cinderblocks or try to baton steel wires as many of the YouTube “heroes”.  I just want high quality steel that can take regular hunting use.  As most of my hunting is done locally we can debate whether I really need a knife in Cru-wear to gut, skin and quarter a small roe deer weighing 30lbs.  Of course I don’t need it, but having one or more knives that can be used on multiple animals without the need of re-sharpening is something that I really value.  It also means that they can be trusted to go on longer hunting trips where you are limited to the amount of gear you can bring along.

Annually from August 20th to 27th, a couple of friends and I go on a caribou hunt (reindeer as we call them in Norway).  It takes place in one of the most desolate areas in southern Norway – the Hardangervidda Plateau.  We have an area which is about 100 square kilometers to hunt and we usually shoot several caribou every year.  We fly stuff in by helicopter but are limited to weight as everything has to be carried out from the mountain on our backs.  As such, light, high quality equipment is a must in everything from weapon and optics to clothes and not least good quality knives.  These are all mandatory things if you want to enjoy the trip in any condition the mountain might throw at you.

Two of the reindeer bulls I shot on the 2018 hunt. In the background are two more shot my one of the other team members from the same herd of animals. Modified Elmax Bravo 1 LT ready for duty

Good tools take you half way, and when it comes to knives I use on this caribou hunt I cannot express how much it means to have a knife that will stay sharp throughout several animals, or at least stay shaving sharp even after you have finished just one! This really makes the job effortless compared to battling things apart with a dull knife, which I tried the first year.

In the worst case you have poor weather conditions while darkness is coming fast and you’re anything between 2 to 5 miles from the cabin.In rugged terrainand with 80-100lbs that needs to be carried home after pacing 10-12 miles already that day. Battling with that knife that won’t hold an edge is the last thing you need in such a situation!

A good reindeer hunter has a selective memory when it comes to pain

I bought one knife solely with caribou in mind and it was a modified Bravo 1 LT in Elmax with a handle in natural canvas micarta for the sake of being almost care-free.  I had it shipped back from DLT to Bark River for ramp removal, full-height grind and also turn the profile into a drop point (for a very similar knife see the  Bravo Hunter in various steels).  While you might think these modifications are a bit unnecessary to an already light version of the knife, I wanted them done to get it as light as possible and because I like the drop point better on a hunting knife for general use

This knife does perform extremely well and is one of my absolute favorites to this day for its lightness, edge retention and the fact that it is perhaps the best stainless steel for a hunting knife you can find!  However, this year I didn’t even bring it along as there were other knives to be tested, namely the Bark River Manitou in Cru-wear and a Fallkniven F3 skinner in VG10.  They performed very well too and the despite not having the best edge retention the lightness, handling and feel of the Fallkniven really impressed me.  The Manitou with Cru-wear steel in in a league of its own, but next year the Elmax Bravo 1LT will probably be back in the mountains, maybe accompanied by a newly acquired Wolf River.

The only reindeer shot on the 2019 hunt. From left is the Bark River Manitou, Fallkniven F3 and Eka G3 Swingblade

Last weekend, while skinning a moose, I overheard one of the older team members telling a youth how it was mandatory to sharpen the knife while skinning in order to always have a sharp knife.  I turned to him and said that if he would buy a proper knife he could skin an entire adult moose  on his own without needing to sharpen at all.  He just laughed and clearly didn’t believe me so after the moose was finished I cleaned my knife and showed him that it would still shave the hair off my arm even though I had probably done half that moose alone.  Needless to say, he was quite impressed and I think he realized that he had never really owned a proper knife nor a very sharp knife.

For me, all knives are more or less users no matter how expensive they are.  I say the more expensive the more I want to use them.  Why pay top dollar for a knife in a powder metallurgical super steel with a nice handle if you aren’t going to use them for what they were intended to do?  That said, collecting useable hunting knives have become a hobby within the hobby for me.  I hope to pass this love of knives on to my kids even as they grow up.  

Bark River Wilderness Explorer with a modified 4,8″ clip point hunter blade profile after skinning a young moose
Quality time in the woods for father and son making a fire from an old dry log of spruce. Bravo 1 LT in Cru-wear and a Fiskars X17 axe does the job properly.