August 18, 2022
By Curt Wells
Question: I’m starting to travel for my bowhunting adventures. What tips do you have for me? Walker Innerst, via e-mail
Answer: My first advice — if you can drive to your bowhunting destination, do it. You’ll save money, you can bring everything you might need, and there’s no need to worry about missed/delayed flights, lost baggage, or getting your animal home. Your schedule is yours.
Obviously, we’re forced to fly to some adventures, so here are some more tips. First, I recommend adding a day on both ends of your trip, especially the front end. If your bags don’t show, you have a day to get that resolved. This could be critical if you have a bush flight waiting for you.
When flying into Canada, book flights with at least a 90-minute layover at the airport where you’ll go through customs, so you have plenty of time to catch your next flight. Make sure you have a passport that isn’t close to expiring. Also, download Canada’s ArriveCan app to your phone and fill in the information until you have a receipt to show the customs officer. It’s a good idea to use your phone to take photos of your passport, driver’s license, Hunter Education card, vaccination record, insurance cards, and any other important documentation, just in case you lose something.
My advice is to avoid Vancouver and Toronto if possible. These two busy locations are notorious for losing/delaying baggage, especially if it appears to be hunting gear. To that end, avoid camouflage bags or any luggage that might tip someone off that you’re a hunter. It’s not right; but it’s reality.
If an outfitter gives you a weight limit, 75 pounds for example, stick to it. Pack lightweight duffels (preferably dry bags) in your hard luggage/cases and when you get to the location of your final flight you can repack gear into the duffels, put your bow in a soft case, and leave the hard cases behind.
I have quit using a hard bow case because it was prone to getting lost. I now pack my bow in a soft case inside a large rolling duffle (Sitka Nomad) with lots of clothing around it. If I need a backup bow, I put it in a second duffle, along with half my arrows, broadheads, a release, boots, and camo clothing. If one bag doesn’t show, I can hunt until it does.
I always remove my sight when packing because it’s the most vulnerable accessory. A dovetail mount makes it easier, but it works with any mount. Just be sure to reattach it exactly as it was. I have a habit of attaching my release to my bow, whether in hunting camp or traveling, so I always know where it is. Don’t put your spare release in your carry-on bag as the stem can look like a barrel. Do not travel with broadheads attached to your arrows. I don’t use an arrow tube anymore because carbon arrows with today’s stiff plastic vanes are virtually indestructible when stashed in a duffel bag.
My carry-on bag is my daypack, which isn’t camouflaged, and that is where I keep my valuables like binoculars, rangefinder, and camera, along with passport, licenses, tags, and medication.
Most of us tend to bring too many clothes. Save weight by packing enough layers to handle the weather but avoid duplication. One pair of hunting pants is usually sufficient as long as you have baselayers to layer-up if necessary. A puffy jacket is almost weightless but extremely valuable, especially if you’re on water, or in the high country. Save weight before your final flight by stashing your “civilian” clothes in your hard cases and simply wear your camouflage and hunting boots on that last leg. Be sure to pack some camp shoes, such as Crocs, which are virtually weightless.
Traveling, especially since the pandemic, has become more and more stressful, but if you’re prepared, the trip to your destination can be an enjoyable part of the adventure.