by Cole Daniels
For most of us, the opportunity to fly to a hunting destination is a dream scenario. It's a once or twice in a lifetime chance. There is a lot of planning, time, and money invested in making a hunt like this a reality. Arriving at a faraway lodge and finding your gun or scope damaged is a sinking feeling. There is no 100% effective way to avoid airline damage. However, taking a few easy steps can certainly increase the odds of your gun surviving it’s experience with baggage handlers.
- Call your airline or check their website before flying. Some have specific limitations on how much ammunition you can check and how it is stored. It’s also a good idea to check on knife policies. A good friend of mine had his field knife confiscated because the airline would not allow knives of any kind, even in checked baggage.
- This should go without saying, but be sure the gun is unloaded before packing it. You will be required to sign a declaration upon entering the airport. No gun should ever be stored loaded but an extra check will prevent an embarrassing and costly mistake from occurring.
- Invest in a quality, airline approved gun case. Storing your gun in a soft case inside the hard case will provide an extra level of protection. The soft case also gives you a smaller storage solution during the hunt. You can leave the large, bulky hard case at the cabin and keep your gun in the soft case when traveling into the field by truck.
- Photograph and record the serial number of your gun before the trip. If a gun is lost or damaged by the airline, this information can help find it or provide documentation of the value of your weapon. Know what the airline’s limit of liability is and if the value of your gun exceeds it, consider taking out an insurance policy on the gun.
- Pack your gun with the trigger toward the hinges of the hard case and the scope toward the handle. If your case is dropped, the bottom of the gun will take the brunt of the impact and not the scope. I recommend the same advice for wingshooters. The beads and sights of a shotgun are the most fragile part of the gun.
- Contact information is required on all checked baggage. Instead of using the cheap paper cards from the airline, use a laminated card. You can make these yourself or have them made at an office products/printing store. Have two of them made and place one with your gun in the soft case so your covered in the event the hard case fails or the tags are ripped off of it.
- Plan to arrive at your lodge during the day and arrange for a shooting opportunity when you book your hunt. Some outfitters require you to shoot your weapon before hunting. Others don’t have the space. Plan ahead so there are no surprises for you or your guide.
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