By Bill Miller
Does the year ahead hold an out-of-the-country or out of state hunt for you? Here are five quick tips to help you take the headaches out of hunting travel:
- Put Your Paperwork in Order. Much as we don’t like it, there is always paperwork involved, even if you are staying in the United States. Do you have your hunting license and do you know where it is? There are some hunts that require purchasing the license “on-line” with enough time for them to mail you the paper licenses and tags. Are you taking a dog with you? Make sure Rover’s vaccination records and health certificate are up to date and in the glove box of your vehicle — you can be asked to produce proof of vaccinations in the field, and fined if you cannot. Are you traveling out of the country with guns or a bow? The best source of information to ensure you have the correct documentation or, at least, information to complete paperwork in route, is your experienced outfitter.
- Leave Plenty of Time. Whether traveling by vehicle or airlines, it’s a stress saver to allow plenty of extra time to deal with the unexpected issues that nearly always crop up. If possible, add 50% to anticipated time schedules. So, if you normally get to the airport two hours ahead of your flight, make it three hours for your hunting travel. If it looks like the drive to camp will take 10 hours on the road, plan 15. It sounds difficult, but if you do this, you’ll arrive in camp much more rested, relaxed, and ready to enjoy a great hunt. Few things are as detrimental to enjoyment of a long anticipated hunt than arriving late and starting it tired and haggard. Another time tip is to insist yourtravel agent plan a flight itinerary that allows a minimum of two hours on any layover. Relying on short layovers greatly ups the odds of missing flights and of being separated from your checked bags (including your gun or bow!)
- Make Your Gear Recognizable to You. When I used to travel a great deal on airlines with my hunting dogs, I always insisted they wear some uniquely colored collar — hot pink for example. That way I figured if the dog was some how let loose on the tarmac, I would know instantly if it was my dog. Same goes for all checked bags, especially gun and bow cases. Mark yours so you can identify it at a distance. While it’s a good idea if your hunting gear can travel incognito, looking like golf clubs or a trade show booth or something else non-attention-getting, you definitely want to be able to instantly distinguish it as your gear.
- Go Prepared. When you’re headed on a distant hunting trip, it’s nearly always with the hope of bringing home something from the hunt; could be trophies, could be meat, etc. So plan ahead and take along what you’ll need to bring home your harvest efficiently and with the least hassle. Because it’s so expensive to travel with large and heavy checked baggage on the airlines, I often pack my gear in a couple of coolers on the outbound trip, then box and ship that gear home and fill the coolers with meat to bring home on the plane. My outbound bags also contain plastic bags and duct tape that help prep and package the meat or trophies coming home with me. Then I leave any leftovers in camp for the next guy and to reduce the weight of my take home bags.
- Consider Shipping or Renting Guns. It is perfectly legal to ship a firearm to yourself. The need to involve a Federal Firearms License holder only comes into play if there will be a transfer in ownership of the gun. For trips inside the U.S., it’s often possible to ship your unloaded, cased, locked firearm ahead of time to be held by yourtrusted outfitter or friends with whom you’ll be hunting. Then after the hunt, stop by UPS and ship it directly to your front door or office. One note, carriers have their own regulations about requirements for packaging and methods of shipping for various types of firearms (for example, UPS will only ship handguns via overnight service while the USPS will ship handguns via inexpensive priority mail.) For international trips, check with the outfitter if it’s possible to rent or use his firearms. Ultimately not travelling with guns can save headaches and, in some cases, money, too.