DOMINATE THE HUNT
THE FIDDLEBACK BUSH HERMIT PROVES ITS VERSATILITY
The Fiddleback Forge Bush Hermit proves it is more than just a bush knife, it's also a dynamic hunter. BY KEVIN ESTELA
Add hunting to its already impressive list of field uses. Recently, Fiddleback Forge released a new model, the Bush Hermit, to their popular custom and mid-tech knife lineup. Already popular with outdoorsmen with interests in camping and bushcraft, the Bush Hermit is designed to be an all-purpose field knife with a belly designed for slicing. Its overall configuration makes it well-suited for use as a hunting knife, as well as an heirloom-quality blade, worthy to be passed down for generations to come.
I recently had an opportunity to test one of these blades and was not going to miss out on the chance to put it through the ringer, to evaluate how it would or wouldn’t work as a hunting knife.
Comfort in Hand
Fiddleback Forge has earned a reputation in the knife community as producing some of the most aesthetically pleasing blades, with trademark “bullseye” lanyard tubes and “as-forged” blade finishes. You might think Fiddleback Forge blades were designed to be visually appealing before they were designed to be hard working, but that assumption couldn’t be more inaccurate. Fiddleback Forge owner, Andy Roy, doesn’t favor form over function and his priority is comfort in the hand. The comfort is achieved through a combination of tapering of the tang, rounding the squared edges and finishing the handle with progressively finer abrasive and polishing belts. I used the Bush Hermit in a variety of tasks found in and around the hunting camp. Regardless of what grip I used, the Bush Hermit was comfortable and produced no hot spots.
What is necessary to mention is the absence of a ferro-rod sharp spine found on many survival knives. Long before the recent “survival craze,” knives with spines like this were considered unfinished. Andy Roy purposely rounds his spines to eliminate any stress points, as well as making the knife more comfortable when pinched by the blade near the tip. If the outdoorsman can carry a ferro rod, he can carry a scraper. In a real bind—even though it will dull the edge slightly and isn’t advised as the primary method— the outdoorsman could use the edge of the blade as a ferro rod scraper.
A hunting knife should be carried in a manner that protects the user from the edge and the knife from the elements. Just as easily as the blade can process animal flesh, it can serve up a nasty cut to the user if he isn’t careful. Considering hunting is an activity usually done in the early hours of the day and in less-than-favorable conditions, a secure sheath should not be an afterthought, but a priority. My Bush Hermit was provided with a deep pouch sheath from Diomedes Industries. The sheath could be worn on the belt as is, or with the drop-leg attachment that has an integral firest-
“IT IS JUST THE RIGHT SIZE TO SERVE IN MULTIPLE ROLES, ALLOWING YOU TO FOCUS MORE ON THE HUNT...”
eel loop. This is my preferred method of carrying a blade deep into the bush. I suggest adding some Loc-tite to the drop-leg attachment screw as it would be a shame, possibly a life-threatening error, to lose your blade because the screw walked out.
With only a small segment of the handle exposed, I opted to attach a small length of blaze-orange paracord to help with drawing it from the sheath. The extra length of cord not only helps with retrieving the blade but also can be tucked behind my belt to provide a secondary form of retention.
I received my sample Bush Hermit during the peak of fishing season when no game could be legally hunted. While this stopped me from poaching, it didn’t stop me from testing it in a manner similar to game processing. I proceeded to my local meat market and purchased some bone-in meats. I proceeded to de-bone them and trim away the excess fat, without removing too much, since we all know if you kill the fat, you kill the flavor.
At 1.25-inches at the widest part of the blade, the Bush Hermit was not unwieldy working around bones and joints. Even with greasy hands, I had no trouble achieving a good purchase on the Bush Hermit. Without any gaps in the handle material, liners, and steel, I didn’t have to worry about leaving any bacteria behind that couldn’t be wiped and washed away.
I used my Bush Hermit to process a London Broil steak into strips of jerky. By putting the steak in a cold refrigerator for a while, I not only made it firmer for slicing, I was able to see how using the Bush Hermit would feel with cold hands from handling the meat I sliced up. Thanks to the generous size and wooden handle material, I experienced no dexterity issues while working the blade.
Cutting hide and hair can quickly destroy an edge, especially when that hide and hair is covered in caked-on mud, as is usually the case with wild hogs. Since I didn’t have access to any freshly-killed game, I resorted to cutting through various thicknesses of leather while doing some leatherwork. The belly of the Bush Hermit allows the user plenty of finger clearance when slicing with the blade, and the depth of the cut is very controllable. I worked the blade
“… THE BUSH HERMIT IS DESIGNED TO BE AN ALL-PURPOSE FIELD KNIFE WITH A BELLY DESIGNED FOR SLICING.”
of the Bush Hermit against the leather to thin it out, a process called skiving and usually left for dedicated leatherworking knives.
The Bush Hermit had no trouble making clean cuts in the leather in a similar way to skinning, where controlling the blade is essential to preserving the integrity of the hide. Without having an actual carcass to work with, the leather shop provided me what I needed to evaluate how it would work on various game.
I also used my Bush Hermit in a variety of tasks I normally encounter in a hunting camp and in the field. Starting with early morning activities, I prepared my breakfast with it, slicing onions and pressing garlic to go with my steak and eggs. As with other carbon steels, repeated use in the kitchen lets a nice patina develop on the exposed steel.
Over the course of the field test, I used my Bush Hermit to trim branches out of the way while plinking, cut cordage of various materials and thicknesses and for fire prep to make lunch out in the field. When the blade became noticeably dull, sharpening it was expedited by using a combination of diamond stones and ceramic rods. Since the knife would continue to be used on possible edibles, like food items and in the kitchen, I took the step of coating it with a thin layer of olive oil each time. This preventative maintenance was all that was necessary to ward off any surface rust. In fact, the only place rust that was slightly visible was the 1-inch of tang exposed when the knife was inserted into the sheath.
Plan for Success
A smart hunter plans from success backwards, and if you anticipate needing a knife for game processing, camp chores and general fieldcraft, the Bush Hermit is a great selection. It is just the right size to serve in multiple roles, allowing you to focus more on the hunt and less on the cutting tools you wish you had. Strap one onto your belt the next time you go into the woods and perhaps you’ll be fortunate to have a good harvest and get to test it out for yourself. KI
“AT 1.25-INCHES AT THE WIDEST PART OF THE BLADE, THE BUSH HERMIT WAS NOT UNWIELDY WORKING AROUND BONES AND JOINTS.”
Bottom Right: The Bush Hermit provided for this review came with a beautiful handmade sheath from Diomedes Industries. This sheath features a drop carry adapter with firesteel loop. Bottom Left: Andy Roy is able to achieve a lightweight feel in the Bush Hermit, due in large part to the tapered tang.
Above: The wide handle of the Bush Hermit makes it an excellent choice for those with size large and extra-large hands. 1:1 ACTUAL SIZE
Top: The Fiddleback Forge Bush Hermit features signature “as finished” markings on the blade.
Right: The Fiddleback Forge Bush Hermit was perfect in camp for food prep.
Left: The Bush Hermit worked great for slicing up London Broil for the food dehydrator.
Top: The Bush Hermit works just as well for wood carving tasks as it does as a meat cutter.
Bottom: Regardless of the grip used, the Bush Hermit was comfortable in hand.
Middle: The self-guard of the Bush Hermit protects the user from riding up on the blade when hands are slick. 1:1 ACTUAL SIZE
Top Left: The black and orange liners really highlight the beauty of the ironwood handle.