The Top 5 Best Caping Knives for Preparing Your Trophy and Mount

Have you ever been out in the field, and after tracking that prized buck all season, you get the shot and feel that rush of euphoria and adrenaline? If you’re like me, you may have had a desire to turn that buck into a mount to preserve that feeling. But, in order to turn that deer into a trophy on your wall, you’ll need a quality caping knife to handle the job. Read on to find out what we consider to be the best caping knife!

Rank on ListImageNamePriceCheck Price and Reviews
*Editor's Choice*
Buck Knives 0543RWS$$
#2Puma Trophy Care Bone Handle Knife Set$$
#3Knives of Alaska Alpha Wolf Suregrip Handle D2/Cub Knife Combo$$$
#4Columbia River Knife and Tool K700KXP Ken Onion Skinner$
#5Buck Knives 135 Paklite Caper Knife$



Buck Knives 0543RWS Open Season Caper Knife

Best Caping Knife
The Buck Knives 0543RWS Open Season Caper is another excellent caping knife by Buck Knives and is the step up from the 135 PakLite. The 0543RWS has a 3.5-Inch caping Blade and S30V Steel. The blade is slightly larger than what I normally look for in a skinning knife (3-inch blade), but it still offers tremendous control and precision, and is overall a very lightweight knife (2.2 oz).

Unlike the Buck Knife 135 which has their heat treated 420HC Steel, the Open Season caper knife has S30V Steel which is Buck’s premium steel. The S30V is a higher grade of steel because of its ability to endure more stress, offer better edge retention and its corrosion resistance.

As compared to the Buck Knife 135’s minimalistic design, this caper has a sharp design. It is constructed with full tang and a contoured rosewood dymalux handle which is a beauty. It truly looks as good as it performs in the field.

Buck has put tremendous value into this knife with its higher-end materials, and blade performance. It comes razor sharp out of the package and includes a genuine leather black sheath.

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Puma Trophy Care Bone Handle Knife Set

The Puma Trophy Care Bone Handle Knife Set includes a 7 inch gut hook, 2.5 inch caping knife and 2.5 inch fleshing knife and is a part of the Puma SGB line. Even though it is a knife set, this Puma set makes our list because of the quality of the caping knife that it includes. And for 2 reasons. 1) the quality and the craftsmanship 2) the efficiency of the caping knife. This set is geared for someone that will not only be skinning game, but desiring to bring their trophy home.

These Puma SGB knives come extremely sharp out of the box, shaving sharp, and with a beautiful finish. While they are smaller than you might expect, for caping, I find smaller blades to offer the most control for the required precise cuts. Additionally, Puma has used a premium grade blade steel for this series. While not American steel, Puma has used high quality 440A German stainless steel that have a 55-57 Rockwell Hardness.

From a cosmetic angle, this is a beautiful set, perhaps the nicest looking knives on this list.  The knives in this set were constructed with white bone scales and real bone handle which give them a beautiful aesthetic and classy feel. It’s evident that Puma put a concerted focus on to the design and look of this set, creating a very beautiful set.


The one complaint about these knives would be their size. While a small blade is ideal, the knives in general are very small. So, if you have larger hands, this might not be the ideal set for you.

Overall, at its current price, and for the quality of the knives in this set, it is tremendous value if you are looking for a caping knife. If you’re looking for a game processing set in general, then this set is a no-brainer!  An excellent option to consider by Puma!

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Knives of Alaska Alpha Wolf Suregrip Handle D2/Cub Knife Combo

While this is another knife set, Knives of Alaska has combined two of their top knives. This combo includes their premier Cub Bear Knife (their caping knife) and the Alpha Wolf D2 Knife (field dressing knife).  

The Alpha Wolf is their skinner and gutting knife. It’s worth it alone for its efficiency in skinning animals with thicker hide, and slicing through large muscle while deboning. It is full tang and has a drop point blade. The Alpha Wolf is has a 3.75 inch blade which is ideal for deer and most game.

The Cub Bear is the caping knife in the set, and it is strong performer. The Cub Bear has a 2.75 inch cutting edge, which is perfect for meticulous and detail oriented incisions.  It’s made with D2 Steel, which makes it a very strong, but still easily sharpenable blade. This may be Knives of Alaska’s premium caping knife. We like that it has a razor sharp blade, and scalpel-esque point.

The high-carbon D2 Steel is a higher-end steel and offers excellent edge retention. An ideal caping knife is going to resemble a scalpel (razor sharp, nimble), but unlike a scalpel, you want something with a strong grip. The Cub Bear is not only lightweight, but has ergonomic finger notches in front of the handle to help you maintain control while cutting, as well as a rubber handle to make it non-slip and grippy.

Ultimately, this an excellent value buy considering that it serves as a combo kit for full deer and game processing. Even if you just need a caping knife, the Cub Bear Knife is worth it alone, and obviously was constructed to handle rigorous field work.

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Columbia River Knife and Tool K700KXP Ken Onion Skinner

Columbia River Knife and Tool K700KXP Ken Onion Skinner
The Onion Skinner by Ken Onion and Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) is not a conventional caping knife, but is a strong option to consider. Unlike most of the other knives on the list, the Onion Skinner was designed for skinning, gutting, deboning, caping and camping tasks. With a sharp, thin tip, the Ken Onion Skinner can handle any field dressing task that requires precision and fine detail cuts.

It’s evident that Columbia River Knife and Tool put a lot of field testing and research in developing the knife, and that it was made in conjunction with feedback from Alaskan guides, professional hunters, and taxidermists (who require precise cuts).

The Onion Skinner is fastened with a high carbon stainless steel blade with a HRC 58-60, which means that it is a super hard steel. The knife has a short 3.75-inch high hollow-ground blade which is ideal for caping and detailed skinning. Since caping requires precision, you want a short blade that can offer those cuts, which is exactly why this knife ranks on our list.

Additionally, Columbia River Knife and Tool has constructed this knife with a very comfortable and “sticky” handle. It has Twin-Fused scales with a glass filled nylon core, which helps to maintain a strong hold in all weather and bloody conditions. We also like that it has deep finger choils, and when it comes to caping, grip is going to be one of the most important things to prevent slipping and ruining the head.

For the price, it also comes with a quality leather sheath (form-fitting as well) and is backed with a Lifetime Warranty. It certainly makes sense why this knife is preferred by top hunting guides and taxidermists.

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Buck Knives 135 Paklite Caper Knife

Buck Knives PakLite 135
The Buck Knives 135 Paklite is one of the best caper knives available on the market today, and is highly regarded and reviewed by many hunters. I typically look for caping knives that have about a 2 – 3 inch blade. The Buck Knife 135 has a 2.5-inch modified stainless steel blade which is exactly in that range, perfect for caping. Buck has built their brand on quality and dependability, and this caper is no different.

Buck has equipped this knife with their heat treated 420HC steel. While it’s not their premium steel, it is a decent steel. I like that it is easy to sharpen, has strong edge retention and offers corrosion resistance. Some knives come out of the box razor sharp, but unless you are experienced in sharpening, some tough steels require professional sharpening. The 420HC is ideal since it is easily sharpened for touch-ups (in the field or at home), and is generally a low maintenance stainless steel. It does not hold an edge like Buck’s premium steel, S30V, but this steel is also significantly more inexpensive.

Buck’s focus on this knife is with performance, and not how it looks. It has a very minimalistic design with a skeletal steel frame. The handle is coated to provide a smooth, grippy texture. It is a very thin and light knife, however the one complaint would be with the heavy-duty nylon sheath that it is bundled with. When in the sheath, it adds to its bulk, but with the sheath aside, it is an excellent caping knife, and an inexpensive option (also considering that it is “Made in the USA”).

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Caping Knife Buyer’s Guide – What To Look For

What is Caping?        

Caping is the process of skinning the head, and neck area of an animal to create a hunting trophy. When caping game, you are removing the head, face, and shoulder skin to preserve the neck in order to create a quality mount. By doing so carefully, a hunter or taxidermist can maintain the 3D shape of the animal (whether it is deer, turkey, bear, etc.), and typically the end result is well worth the effort.

What is a Caping Knife?

Caping is the latter part of skinning game, and performed after you have already gutted, dressed and skinned the animal. Knowing how to use a caping knife becomes one more tool on your tool belt.

What to Look For in a Caping Knife?

An ideal caping knife will have about a three inch blade with a fine point. An upturned point on a small blade will assist as you slice the animal, helping to prevent you from accidentally perforating the hide. When caping an animal, you will have to operate in small, dark, and fragile areas. As a result, you’ll want a small, narrow blade so that you can surgically operate around the animal’s eyes, ears, mouth and lips. With anything bigger than a three inch blade, you run the risk of puncturing too much, and losing control of the knife.

Caping is very delicate, and precise work, similar to that of a surgeon. Operating around the facial and shoulder area of a deer, you need to conduct careful motions and incisions to be pin-point accurate.  I liken the work similar to a surgeon because you need to be coordinated and dexterous with strong blade handling and confidence. A sliced up cape is rendered useless (very hard for a taxidermist to try and save a mutilated cape).

I generally look for a caping knife that is small, light, easy to carry, and most importantly, is not only extremely sharp, but can maintain that edge! I find a smaller knife provides more nimbleness, and the blade is more responsive as I’m operating within tight spaces.

While it is personal preference, you may also prefer choils and jimping on your caping knife as they allow for alternative hand placement on the knife. I like to use my forefinger to gain more control of the knife for precise cuts using the belly and the end of a fine blade. Another matter of preference, but a full tang design also has added conveniences, which is when the cutting blade edge and handle are all one synchronous piece.

What are The Most Important Things to Know?

Since it is such delicate work, non-slip scales and rubberized grips (anti-slip texturing) are imperative. You’ll want to consider the type of material on the handle of the knife. When you are working in these areas, it is extremely messy, causing slippery conditions.

To cut through these areas, the sharper the knife is, the better, as sharpness is key. Something like a scalpel that has a thin edge and fine tip, short blade is perfect. Surgeons use scalpels for their sharpness and precision, however their canvas is quite different – you will need a knife that can maintain its edge. The knife should be surgical like a scalpel, but an ideal caping knife will have anti-slip texturing, comfortable handle, and strong steel to maintain its edge for intensive work. Using a knife designed for caping is much safer, not only to protect the integrity of the mount, but for your own personal safety as well!


If You Liked This Guide – You Might Like These Too:

Our List of The Top Deer Skinning Knife Sets:

Buyer’s Guide and Review of the Best Skinning Knives Available:

Buyer’s Guide for The Best Gut Hook Knives:

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