The author calls it a hunting knife, but the South Fork proved too versatile to be limited to this one label.
The only time the author had to adjust to the knife was during the initial skinning process. However, after a few minutes, the knife seemed to be an extension of his hand.
The fillet-like pattern of the blade excelled when riding down the ribcage to free the backstraps. Butchering may not be the author’s favorite activity, but steaks of venison make it worthwhile.
The materials used on both the sheath and knife are weather resistant. The high ride of the sheath keeps the knife in place and out of the way until needed.
Phil Wilson knew what he was doing when he designed the handle. The lower guard protects your hand during hard use.
If you want more control, choke up on the blade. There is enough room to use this grip without getting cut.
After the hunting is done for the day, the South Fork is still useful around camp. It made the sparks fly when used as a striker for a ferrocerium rod.
The South Fork is way too short to be considered a “chopper” but held its own when it came to slicing.
My youth had already passed by the time Spyderco introduced its first knife, and that humpbacked folder just didn’t look right to me. I mean, who thought up that concept of putting a hole in the blade? It was a few years later when a friend gave me a Spyderco and I got my first chance to put one to use. Needless to say, I learned a lesson, realizing that you can always start a new tradition.
Since that time, Spyderco has been included among the possibilities any time I’ve shopped for a new knife, with one exception: when I was looking for a fixed-blade hunting knife. Then the company’s 2012 catalog showed up in the mail. Spyderco surprised me by bringing out a knife that just had my name all over it. Right on page 53 was a brand-new hunt’n knife!
Spyderco’s South Fork
The South Fork was designed in collaboration with Phil Wilson, and at all angles it has the traditional look you expect from a hunting knife. Phil, an avid hunter and fisherman, imbues his designs with his outdoors experience. The South Fork’s 4.8-inch, flat-ground blade has a slightly upswept profile and is fashioned from CPM S90V tool steel. The knife has a full tang with green G10 scales. Lately I’ve noticed that shorter handles seem to be a trend in knife designs. Fortunately the South Fork has a handle long enough for all four fingers. The handle is 4.75 inches long, and the overall length of the knife is 9.56 inches.
An integral lower guard ensures that your hand stays away from the edge during use. According to Spyderco, Phil learned the benefit of this feature the hard way. (Apparently I am not the only one to have a mishap while skinning out game.) I strongly favor such a guard but have found many to be overdone. The guard on this knife works when needed, but does not interfere with your grip when you choke up on the handle for better control. There is also a finger choil just forward of the guard to increase control.
The choice of materials speaks volumes on the South Fork’s usability. The CPM S90V steel is noted for its ability to hold an edge and is highly resistant to corrosion, and the G10 handle scales will withstand abuse that would shatter other handle materials. The G10 is polished smooth and rounded along its edges to ensure that it does not abrade your hand during prolonged use. However, you will notice that once G10 becomes wet (from water, blood or the like), it takes on a tacky feel and is not prone to slippage. A lanyard hole is found at the rear of the handle, and of course, the trademark Spyderco hole can be found just forward of the handle. The 1/8-inch-thick blade keeps the knife’s weight down to 5.3 ounces. And in keeping with its weather-resistant attributes, the South Fork is supplied with a Boltaron thermoplastic sheath.
Most would think that the best way to test a hunting knife would be to go hunting. However, as odd as it may seem, I prefer to purchase a new hunting knife right after the season ends. That gives me a year to get used to the feel and balance of it before I really need it. However, the South Fork came in just at the beginning of the North Carolina deer season, and it was put to use immediately.
The first job was to review the placement of my hunting stands and to clear brush from the firing lanes. The thin blade of the South Fork was ideal for slicing through small saplings, and the full-size handle proved to be very comfortable. To my disappointment, a 10-point buck didn’t come my way during opening day, but a rather large coyote did make the mistake of getting too close. Normally I don’t bother with skinning coyotes, but my hunting partner wanted the hide, so I gave him the honor of being the first to try out the South Fork on game. The best way to report his reaction is to say I had a hard time getting the knife back from him.
My own chance to test out the knife came a few days later, when a seven-point buck came by my stand. The light weight of the knife and the design of the handle proved to be beneficial during the skinning and butchering process. It did take a few minutes to get used to the upswept blade pattern, since most of my knives have a drop-point design, but this old dog is able to adapt. In a matter of three weeks, the knife was used by four different hunters to skin and process four deer. All four hunters were pleased with the South Fork’s performance, and we have yet to re-sharpen the blade.
We saw the usefulness of the thin blade again while slicing hams and backstraps prior to putting the meat in the freezer. When I wasn’t hunting, the knife was my constant companion and excelled at normal utility chores around the house and in camp. After a couple of months of my using the knife, a few features you normally don’t think about became apparent. The sheath was rather comfortable and rides high on the belt, keeping the knife secure and out of the way. Also, the material used on both the sheath and knife makes cleaning rather simple. Since Phil Wilson is known for his excellent fillet knives, and this influence can be seen in the South Fork, it gave me an excuse to try the knife out while fishing. As I expected, the knife performed as well as, if not better than my normal fishing blades. In fact, this knife has performed too well to be considered just a hunting knife. I cannot picture an outdoor situation the South Fork would not be useful in.
Continued use has proven to me that the knife is strong enough for even the hardest of survival tasks. Toward the end of my review, I made one major mistake by asking my wife to try the knife around the kitchen. She has used it on everything from meat to vegetables and now refuses to give it back. My only hope is that it will eventually dull, and she will set it aside and not notice when I liberate it from her kitchen.
Suggested retail for the South Fork is $429.95, but I have seen it available on several websites at a sizable discount. This review may sound as if I am getting carried away with my praise. I think otherwise. It is a plain, simple design that works — an outstanding cutting tool.
My youth had already passed by the time Spyderco introduced its first knife, and…
by Phil Elmore / Jul 23, 2013