I don’t mind driving to a hunting destination. In fact, I’ve driven all over North America, and I enjoy seeing new country. In January of this year, I drove from Minnesota to Louisville, Kentucky, for the Archery Trade Association show, then went south through Alabama, Louisiana and to South Texas for a deer hunt, then drove back home in 2 days. I have no idea how many miles I covered, but I enjoyed the 2-week trip.
Most of my hunts are DIY hunts, so I need a lot of my own equipment. Driving is the norm for me, plus I live in the upper Midwest so most places I hunt are within a day’s drive. However, I’ve hunted from British Columbia to Maine, so flying with a bow and hunting equipment is sometimes necessary. Getting your game animal home is another issue that can be dealt with in another article, but let’s talk primarily about getting your bow and gear to your hunting destination safe and sound.
It doesn’t cost that much to ship a treestand to a hunting spot, as long as you have an address that will accept shipment for you and hold it until you get there. If you were to order a couple stands and climbing sticks, you would have to ship them to your house anyway, so the cost for one way is a wash. However, once you are done with the hunt, then you have to decide whether to ship them home or figure out another option. Is there someone there that would buy them from you? Can you trade them for a service such as butchering or mounting your deer? Can you give them to someone as payment for a place to stay? There are a lot of options to explore.
If you have a group of guys and a lot of equipment, you could actually rent a storage facility, split the cost, and when you go back to the same place the following year your gear would be waiting there for you.
For example, my friend Ben Bruno is from Maine. He hunts the Midwest with a few friends each year and offers this advice: “Most freight companies will bring a truck right to your house and load the shrink-wrapped pallet right on the truck. It’s not cheap, but divide it up among two or three guys and it’s not too bad. I think in 2011 we paid just shy of $400 dollars to ship a pallet with bows, five treestands, climbing sticks, clothes, boots – you name it, we shipped it on that pallet. It was around 300-400 pounds. We found we get about 2 days of extra hunting by flying as opposed to driving.” They rent a storage facility near their lease in Kansas to keep all this gear.
Another issue with flying is transportation after you arrive. On an outfitted hunt, that’s not an issue, but you’ll need wheels on a DIY hunt. My truck is a mess by the time I am done with a hunt, and I’d hate to do that to a rental car. Hunting in all kinds of weather can be dirty and sometimes bloody business, and it can be an issue to get a rental vehicle cleaned up before turning it in.
The cost of flying to a location can be quite a bit higher than driving, but the positive aspect is the time saved. If flying gives you 2 more days of hunting when you have a very tight schedule, then it might be the best option for you.
Much has been written about flying with a gun, and the hassles that can be associated with it. But flying with a bow is actually quite different. You don’t have to fill out a bunch of paperwork and declarations. Just check it with your luggage. I like a bow case that allows me to pack a lot of other stuff in with the bow. The Plano Field Locker and SKB iSeries are hard-sided bow cases with handles and wheels that are perfect for moving through airports while keeping your bow secure from the rough handling that is sure to take place by the baggage handlers.
I roll up camouflage clothing and hats and pack them around the bow inside the case. This creates more padding, and it allows me to take more stuff. Small things like a knife, flashlight, extra broadheads and GPS are perfect for tucking into tight spaces. You can’t bring a knife and broadheads on the plane with you in a carry-on bag, so you might as well put them in your checked luggage. Because the bow case has lots of space taken up with foam, I have never had trouble staying below the standard 50-pound checked baggage limit. By all means, take a few practice shots with your bow to make sure everything is in order after you arrive at your final destination.
You are normally allowed to take a carry-on and a personal item onto the plane with you. I use a small suitcase as the carry-on and my hunting backpack is typically my personal item. The backpack fits under the seat in front of me, and I sometimes put a laptop in it. Warning: Make sure you go through the backpack and take out anything that contains liquid or any hunting knives or saws. I thought I had my pack cleared one time but an airport X-ray turned up a knife stored in one out-of-the-way pouch. I had some explaining to do, and I’ll never see that $80 knife again.
Many factors come into play when deciding whether to fly or drive to a bowhunting destination. Every hunt seems to be a little different with regards to equipment needs and timing. Analyze the options in each situation and choose what fits your needs and desires.