Flying to a hunting destination can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. But it can be a hassle-free experience if you know the ins and outs of air travel, and with a little prep.
According to TSA regulations, firearms must be unloaded; packed in a locked, hard-sided container; and declared to the airline at check-in. Make sure you receive a red or orange firearms declaration tag from the ticket agent and sign and date it before placing it in the case. Ammunition need not be in its original packaging, but it must be securely packed in fiber, wood, or metal ammo boxes. It can go right in your gun case. Airlines may have additional requirements, and they vary, so be sure to check well ahead of time. The TSA does not require that bows and arrows be in a locked case, but your airline might, and it’s a good idea anyway.
The TSA has keys that fit most lockable cases. They might ask you to remain in the area should they need to inspect the locked case. If you use padlocks, make sure they are TSA-approved or they might get cut off.
The number, weight, and size of checked bags can lead to additional cost. Pack as many miscellaneous items as you can–like knives, which must go in checked bags anyway–in your gun case to reduce weight.
The TSA prohibits the transport of black powder (and its substitutes), percussion caps, and any flammable liquid fuel such as cooking-stove gas. Ship them ahead, purchase them upon arrival, or ask your outfitter to have them on hand.
Most airlines allow one carry-on bag (that fits in the overhead compartment) and one personal item (like a backpack that slides under the seat in front of yours) at no charge. Use these bags for delicate items like cameras and optics; medication; any licenses, permits, or tags you’ll need; and a change of clothes. You can always borrow camo and a gun if your luggage gets lost.
You can pack frozen meat, capes, and antlers or horns in checked baggage. Meat and hides should be wrapped in plastic to prevent leakage. You may opt to wrap racks in clothing and check them in a plastic tote.