Decided to go on that out of state spring bear hunt this year? Maybe you finally saved up for that Alaska Sheep hunt this fall? Planning and traveling for an out of state hunt can be stressful and flying can add another layer of complexity to the rules and regulations you need to know. I’m going to cover some of the most commonly misunderstood topics and questions related to flying with firearms, camping gear, hunting gear, and animal parts.
Flying With Firearms
This is one of the most commonly misunderstood topics related to flying as a hunter. You can fly with firearms. However, very strict policies must be followed.
- For starters, the firearm must be legal to possess in your home state and in the destination state you are headed to. Check local laws if in doubt. DO NOT FLY THROUGH NY or NJ with a firearm if you can possibly avoid it. While technically legal if you are headed somewhere else, police in NY and NJ have been known to follow state rather than federal law in regards to firearms. You will likely be arrested first and have to assert a defense later.
- Firearms and ammunition can never go through TSA security screening. They must be checked in at the ticket counter before you go through security screening. They must be in a locked case and unloaded. The locked case can be placed inside another bag if feasible. Ammunition may be stored inside the locked case, but cannot be in a magazine or the firearm. If outside of the locked case (i.e. in other checked bags) ammunition must be in a cardboard, plastic, or wood case. The factory box the ammo came in is fine.
- You must tell the ticket agent that you are declaring and checking an unloaded firearm in accordance with TSA/Airline policies. You must also declare ammunition to the ticket agent. They may request the key or combination to the locked case to inspect it and ensure it is stored properly. It is a good idea to carry a copy of the TSA firearm guidelines and the airline’s firearm guidelines as the training of ticket agents on firearm policies varies. Use common sense here. Do not go up to the ticket agent and shout “I have a gun!”
- Firearm parts such as magazines, firing pins, bolts, are prohibited in carry-on bags, but maybe in checked bags. Magazines must be unloaded with the ammo properly stored (see number 2, above). Optics may be stored in carry-on bags.
- If traveling internationally, you will need to contact US customs and border patrol well beforehand to find out what procedures need to be followed.
- Some airlines may have additional rules pertaining to flying with firearms, so be sure and check the carrier’s website.
Archery equipment is not subject to the stringent regulations that firearms are, but must be carried as checked baggage. Broadheads must be sheathed or encased while inside checked bags. A hard bow case with room for arrows and loops for locks on the outside is the best option, generally. Individual airlines may have specific regulations for archery gear.
Flying With Other “Prohibited Items” Such As Knives, Bear Spray, Camp Stove Fuel
Knives, Hatchets, Game Shears, and other sharp objects can be carried in checked bags, but never in carry-on bags. They should be sheathed properly to avoid injury to airline/security personnel during bag inspections.
Bear spray cannot be flown with ever. You can ship it to your destination using USPS ground shipping. It is best to buy it when you get to your destination, though with many bear spray canisters costing upwards of $50, it may make sense to ship it home to yourself.
Camp Fuel can never be flown with under any circumstances.
Lithium and other batteries should be in carry on bags if possible. If not possible, the device can be checked but must be turned off and protected from damage during the flight.
Trekking poles, tent poles, and any other sporting goods equipment that can be used as a “bludgeon weapon” must be in checked bags. Tripods and monopods are permitted in carry-on bags as long as they fit within the dimensions of the carry-on limit.
Fishing rods are fine in either checked baggage or carry-ons, but sharp tackle and lures should be cased and inside checked bags to be safe.
Flying Home With Meat, Animal Parts, Antlers
The good news is that if you are successful on your hunt you can fly home with fresh or frozen meat and seafood in either checked bags or carry-on baggage. If you are carrying on frozen items, any ice packs in the container must be frozen solid when you go through security. If there is any liquid at the bottom of the ice pack then the packs will be subject to the TSA liquid requirements. You can pack your meat in up to 5 pounds of dry ice to avoid worrying about liquid limits.
Antlers, capes, hides, etc. may be flown in either checked bags or carry-ons. You will typically want to freeze the head and or wrap it in plastic to avoid smells and blood from leaking out. There are federal and state restrictions on some animal parts being transported. Bear gall bladders and animal brains are examples of items that may have interstate transport restrictions. Use common sense and read up on federal and state restrictions if it’s anything beyond meat, capes, skulls, bones, and antlers.
We just covered a lot of information and as you can see, flying to and from an out of state hunt brings a whole new set of rules and regulations into the picture. However, don’t let it discourage you from flying. Following some basic rules, using common sense, and erring on the side of caution will ensure that you are able to get through security with no problems and get to your hunt.