May 11, 2011
The cost, and hassle, of flying goes up as hunters are singled out by some airlines.
While admittedly expensive, the service on backcountry charter flights is luxurious in comparison to how hunters are treated by some mainline air carriers.
There was a time when flying to a bowhunt was a simple, easy way to travel. Not anymore. Security, cancelled flights, no amenities, and delays have made air travel a challenge.
One of the biggest problems bowhunters deal with is getting their luggage on board. Because I can no longer fly, due to health reasons, I haven't kept up on luggage regulations, but outdoor writer Bob Humphrey posted the following information on the Professional Outdoor Media Association's website and gave us permission to use it. It seems that luggage rules change daily, depending on what airline you choose.
The U.S. Airways slogan is "Fly With Us," but you may want to reconsider. As with many airlines, your first checked bag costs you $25. The second costs you $35. A third is another $100. Most bowhunters understand these baggage rules and only take two bags, packing some clothes and other items in their bow case. But, you have to be careful because you also pay $50 if your bag weighs more than 50 pounds. It's $100 extra if the bag is more than 71 pounds. These limits make flying to a cold-weather destination even more challenging because you'll need more and heavier clothes for those hunts.
Luggage weight is a problem, but Bob found one more U.S. Airways hurdle, and it's a big one. Recently he had a U.S. Airways flight through Portland International Jetport in Oregon. Bob had the normal duffel bag and bow case, and those cost him $60. Then the ticket agent told him that the bow case was considered a "sporting item," and that was an additional $100. When he asked the agent if golf bags or skis were "sporting items," he was informed that this only applied to guns and bows. Bob notes that Delta, United, American, and Continental have no such fee. It makes one wonder how U.S. Airways came up with a regulation specifically aimed at hunters.
International flights can be even trickier. The December issue of The Hunting Report discusses other problems brought to their attention by Neil Summers of Bowhunting Safari Consultants. If you are doing any international bowhunting, do not go via the Netherlands. Broadheads there are classified as contraband. Folding knives are as well, even when stored in your luggage. Interestingly, even if you're not clearing customs in the Netherlands and are just flying through their airport to another country, these regulations apply and make you subject to arrest. Apparently gun hunters can obtain transit permits to go through the Netherlands, but there are no such permits for bowhunters.
Try Amtrak? This past fall I started using Amtrak to get to western bowhunting destinations. Here is what I've learned. I board the train from a small town in Pennsylvania, and I use a Roomette, which is a sleeper room. When the train pulls into the station, an employee steps off the train, you give him your name, and he grabs your luggage (which is stored on your car where you have continual access to it). He then directs you to your room, and that's it. No security checks. No waiting.
However, there is one catch. As of this writing you cannot take a bow on a train. This rule may have changed by the time you read this, but to solve this problem I've used UPS to ship my bow to my destination.
From most eastern departures you will go through Chicago, with a layover there. When headed west, I board the train at 9:40 p.m. and sleep all the way to Chicago. I then shower early (each car with sleeper rooms has one shower), eat breakfast (when using a sleeper you get three meals per day), and layover in Chicago. From there you can go the northerly route via St. Paul, through Montana to Seattle and Portland; west through Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake to San Francisco; southwest through Kansas City, Trinidad, CO, Phoenix to Los Angeles; south to Texas.
The train stops at many smaller towns, and my trip from PA to Trinidad took one day and two nights. Sleeper car costs are about double airfare, so that is a negative. One plus is that you arrive refreshed, but may have to rent a car to reach your final destination. I have no choice, and have found Amtrak to be a good option. For more information, go to Amtrak.com or Google "Amtrak routes."