Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Preparation is key to airline travel with firearms, bow

Wisconsin combat veteran Ryan Baudhuin with a black wildebeest he shot in South Africa. (Contributed photo)

A dream hunting trip can quickly turn into a nightmare if hunters don’t properly protect their favorite bow or firearm – or fail to plan ahead before traveling.

Whether flying across the country or across the ocean, the last thing you want is to find something broken when arriving at the much anticipated destination and opening a bow or gun case, only to find busted or missing gear.

Archery and firearm equipment must travel as checked baggage. Well ahead of your trip, check the dimensions and weight of any case against the maximum allowed by the selected airline, then double-check a week or at least days before you go in case there were any changes made.

A high-quality, rock-solid hard case with plush padding to cushion a bow or firearm will serve the best. Many hunters add clothing and other items to the case to better protect their equipment, and pack carefully so any inspections go off without a hitch. Be sure to have your name and contact information on your case, either directly or on an attached tag.

Wisconsin videographer Ryan Baudhuin, of “Ryan Off The Grid” on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, is a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who organizes hunts for fellow veterans, kids, and sick and disabled hunters. When he’s not helping others, Baudhuin loves to travel to pursue his passions.

“Add at least 30 minutes to your check-in time (when traveling with firearms or archery equipment),” Baudhuin said. “Most often, though, it’s a smooth process.”

Baudhuin said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires two locks for cases, so it’s easiest to buy a pair with the same key at any local hardware store.

“I usually pack hunting gear and clothes around my gun as padding to free up space in other checked bags,” Baudhuin said. “Ammo must be in original packaging and separate from the gun or TSA will confiscate it.”

For archers, the use of an arrow tube is preferred to protect carbon, aluminum or wood shafts, and broadheads should be put inside a separate container within the case.

Baudhuin says he often packs other hunting gear or clothing inside his gun case before locking it up and heading out on a trip. (Contributed photo)

Aaron Hebeisen, a Midwest states’ chapter coordinator for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, reminds hunters and target shooters to make sure to sight in once they arrive at their destination.

“It’s a virtual guarantee that scopes and sights would get jostled in transport, plus any elevation change between home and hunt location may need to be adjusted for,” Hebeisen said.

Retired Waukesha County Sheriff Dan Trawicki, a lobbyist for Safari Club International-Wisconsin, said hunters need Federal Form 4457 to get their firearms back into the country.

“You’ll have to take your firearms down to the customs office to have them inspected and documented,” Trawicki said. “Some countries, like South Africa, have services that will clear your guns for you at a reasonable price. Also, check individual airline policies.”

Page one of Federal Form No. 4457, a certificate of registration for personal effects taken abroad. (Contributed photo)

Flying with a firearm lawfully necessitates traveling hunters to follow airline and TSA regulations. Rules may vary on declaring and claiming firearms at baggage check and pickup locations, so check with the airline prior to the flight.

Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage. You can have a rifle scope in carry-on baggage, but most hunters keep it in the case with checked baggage.

Magazines and ammo clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.

Bringing an unloaded firearm with accessible ammunition to the security checkpoint carries the same civil penalty/fine as bringing a loaded firearm to the checkpoint.

TSA’s website has additional traveler information specifically related to the commercial air transport firearms and ammunition at

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