By Jim Richman
I'll never forget the anticipation I felt while packing to fly on my first out-of-state Bowhunting trip. I thought I was going to wear out You Tube looking for videos on the best way to safely fly Bowhunting equipment without setting off any alarms or being added to a watch list. I was thankful when I found out the truth of how these items are handled and that as long as I remembered some basic principles, I had very little to worry about.
Give yourself plenty of time
Flying with hunting equipment requires thoughtful planning and good time management. A good friend of mine, who flies all over the world with thousands of dollars of hunting and camera equipment, made very clear to me that I should give myself no less than two hours of cushion prior to my boarding time, and for good reason. Bowhunters are flying with potentially dangerous items and we should be understanding when we are asked to answer questions concerning what it is. This can require some extra time before you can board. I was fortunate to not be called aside for my recent non-stops from St. Louis to Dallas and back, however that does not mean it is a general rule for agents at other locations to not check luggage. Because I wasn't checked, and because it wasn't a busy time of year, I had plenty of time to find my gate and sketch out this article! That, of course, was much better than rushing to the gate just in the nick of time. It's also important though, to take note of what time of year it is. Waits will be much longer around the holidays or vacationing season. Giving yourself plenty of time to go through the process of flying with Bowhunting gear will make your trip much more painless.
What to Pack
I like to minimize the amount of luggage I carry by putting everything equipment related like optics, calls, knives, separately cased broadheads (I like to use a drill bit box) in my bow case. This centralizes any potentially dangerous items and items that need to be protected by a hard case. I also like to place my hunting clothing throughout the case to provide some extra cushion and keep items from bouncing around inside. Basically, I want anything that might be questionable to be in one location, not scattered throughout my luggage.
My second checked bag will contain my boots, clothes, and other non-gear items, and my carry on will typically be my small backpack with the flying essentials.
No need to freak out
After you land, you'll then report to the baggage claim area to retrieve your luggage. Some aiports will consider your bow case over-sized, others will not. If you have retreived your luggage bag but don't see your bow, check the over-size luggage area before you run to the closest worker.
One last thing to remember
People in the airport aren't used to seeing other people lugging bow cases around. My bow case...looks like a bow case. It's not a high quality, generic looking black box. I have actually received several strange glances, and even one lady who looked at me like I just crawled out of a cave somewhere. I just smile back and go along my way. The cool thing is, I've also had some welcome conversations with other hunters. Plan ahead, do your homework, have fun, and happy hunting.