November 14, 2009
MISSOULA, Mont. - More than 400,000 Americans this year will travel out of state to hunt the West, many in pursuit of elk. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation offers the following tips for a smooth trip both in the air and on the highway.
- Make two lists. One for items to pick up at your destination, one for items to bring from home. Commonly forgotten: hunter and bowhunter education certification cards, birth certificate or other ID for young hunters, tags, personal medicines and toiletries.
- Know before you go. Visit the websites of the Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov) and your airline for restrictions and allowances affecting hunters.
- Preempt confused airline employees. Check your carrier's website for its policy on transporting firearms and ammunition. Take a printout with you to the airport.
- Think about shipping instead. It may be easier to ship guns and gear to your destination but some common carriers will not handle firearms. Policies differ. Online research will help you decide which company to use.
- Check your gear upon arrival. No matter how well you pack, transportation causes equipment to shift, GPS units to switch on and drain batteries, crosshairs to move, broadhead blades to loosen, etc.
- Prepare for antlers and meat. Airline policies vary so do your homework. Some carriers will not handle antlers without substantial fees. Others will not transport perishables packed on ice. Still others limit the amount of dry ice that may be used.
- Study rules of the road. If you're driving to your hunt, be aware of restrictions that could affect your trip home. In an effort to control chronic wasting disease, a number of states now regulate transportation of deer and elk carcasses. Plan for your entire route at the website of the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance, www.cwd-info.org. The Elk Foundation helped start this alliance and site in 2002.
- Talk taxidermy. Before you leave, select a taxidermist and visit with him or her about how to skin, care for and deliver that once-in-a-lifetime trophy. A thousand-mile open-air ride in the back of a pickup may not be preferred.
- Avoid fines. Items prohibited in carry-on or checked baggage include blackpowder, percussion caps, pressurized containers including bear spray and fuel bottles.
- Use the wait. Layovers are a good time to catch up on reading. The Elk Foundation's member magazine, "Bugle," covers conservation issues and successes, plus hunting stories and tips. And your membership helps the organization ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. Join at www.rmef.org.