17 August 2014
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The Gransfors Bruks Hunters Ax is a tool designed specifically for hunters, and has won the Excellent Swedish Design Award. Although it is great for use with wood, it is not a general use axe. It is designed to field dress, dismember and flay large animals such as deer, elk and moose.
The distinguishing feature of the Hunters Axe is the “flay poll”. The poll (side of the head opposite the blade) of the axe is carefully rounded and burnished to assist in removing the hide from an animal such as a moose. If an animal has been aging with the hide on, or if the carcass has been frozen, the hide can be very difficult to remove. The flay poll can assist greatly in such a situation. The hunter will pull the hide with one hand and strike with the flay poll at the point where the hide is attached by membranes to the carcass. The flay poll is blunt, so it will not slice meat or hide, but will break the connective tissues between the hide and the carcass.
The handle and blade are designed for chopping thru light bones such as the bridge of the pelvis, and for separating ribs from sternum. It can also be used for chopping the ribs of exceptionally large animals such as bison, in order to open the chest cavity for field dressing. The head and handle are angled to enable strokes that parallel the belly of the carcass. The parallel strokes are better than downward strokes for any of these butchering steps. (Please keep in mind that bone becomes extremely sharp once it’s been chopped!)
The head is great for chopping small trees and branches in order to cover a carcass to hide it from scavenging birds while the hunter retrieves a horse or vehicle for carcass removal. In Newfoundland, Canada, this step is called “boughing in”, and is absolutely necessary because scavenging birds will quickly foul a carcass if it is visible.
The handle offers circular grooves which help to provide a positive grip even when the hands are wet and the handle would otherwise become slick.
The Hunters Axe has received an award from the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design.
Swedish forests have large numbers of moose (called “elk” in Scandinavia) and they are sometimes hunted semi-commercially, almost like wild cattle. I spoke with a guy from Sweden who told me his group hoped to take about 10 moose on their next hunt. The meat is prized by the hunters but also sold and exported. Those who use the Hunters Ax in this type of activity call it The Moose-a-Matic.
The Hunters Ax features a 19 inch (48 cm) hickory handle, a 3.25 inch (8 cm) cutting edge and the head weighs 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg). Overall weight is 2 pounds (0.9 kg). Sheath included.
All Gransfors Axes come with the AXE BOOK and a 20 year guarantee.
In the picture at bottom, you can see the polished, rounded poll and the initials LP, meaning this Axe was made by Lennart Petterson.
Using this axe to pound any sort of metal will nick the poll, which in turn will reduce its effectiveness as a flaying tool.
We gave one of these Axes to a hunting guide up in Canada in 2005 or so, and a sort of funny story followed as a result. This guide had taken me on a wild bison hunt, and bison make a fabulous rug, in addition to a huge amount of great meat. So skinning the bison is an important part of any bison hunting plan. And skinning these huge animals is no easy task, particularly if they freeze overnight, as mine did! Because of the huge effort expended in skinning my bison, i figured Eric Grinnell, the guide, would really appreciate the Hunters Axe. In 2006 or 2007 we got a phone call from another of Eric’s clients. The caller realized Eric and i were acquainted because Eric wore a hat with our business name on it. So when i spoke to the guy, we talked about his hunt and my hunt and how Eric really loves to jangle his clients’ wires. And if he feels comfortable with the client, it can get pretty intense. We were laughing about it, recalling Eric’s wicked lip. Then the caller hesitated a second, and told it had all been fun until Eric returned from a momentary absence and found his Hunter’s Axe had been misused, and nicked. I think the client had been warned not to do whatever it was he did. What i do remember clearly was the caller telling me Eric was really ticked off, no joking now, and said the Hunters Ax was The Best Ax he’d ever used. (Eric is a co-founder of the Alberta Professional Outfitters Society. He is super-experienced.) The caller had no idea he’d gotten the Ax from us. We were really glad to know Eric liked the Ax because i’d felt pretty sheepish giving Eric such a gift. It’s a very common theme for well-meaning clients to give guides gear that they don’t like or already have plenty of. The guide needs to be polite and pretend he is happy with the gift until the client is out of camp, then he disposes of it somehow. This scene is played out thousands of times each year in North America, and probably worldwide. Heck, i was happy to hear he’d been wearing the hat!