The other day a guy came into the archery department and showed me a very disturbing photograph. He had been on a 10 day hunting trip to North Dakota and on his return flight the airline ran over his bow case with the bow in it. The bow case was destroyed and his bow took a little damage. Imagine if this would have been on the arriving flight and not the returning home flight?
We hear time and time again about misfortunes that hunter’s experience when traveling to hunt a new area or state. These hunters sometimes have put in for tags for several years to get the chance for a “Once in a lifetime” hunt. On their way to the hunting adventure, the airline looses their baggage or bow. Sometimes the gear shows up destroyed and unusable. What do you do now?
Plan ahead! Plan for the worst.
Many of us have driven to hunting locations and load our pickup to the gills with everything we “Might” need. This unfortunately doesn’t work well when dealing with the airlines or even more so, a fly in trip to Alaska or Canada where you are limited to maybe 50 or so pounds of gear plus yourself and what you are wearing.
Pack Smart! Determine what you “Need” not what you “Want” on the trip.
Use a scale to weigh what you think you need. Find out from the airline and the bush pilot what your max weights can be and how many bags you are allowed. Pack and weigh.
Layering is by far the best way to achieve all of your goals here. Comfort, and weight reducing. Today there are many choices of high performance gear. Start with moisture wicking under clothes. The are very light, compact and effective in keeping you dry.
Next layer should be a Cold Gear type of clothing. Clothing that allows moisture to pass from you out away from your body and yet retains heat during those chilly sits.
A wind proof jacket with plenty of pockets.
Full set of high performance pants and jacket, rain gear. Many of these will fold and stow within their own pockets. These pieces of gear are light, compact and very effective in keeping out the rain. Tip… Cut a ¼ sheet of chamois and place in your rain jacket pocket. This can be used to wipe off your lenses on your binoculars and rangefinders.
Socks are often a shortcut that many hunters take or don’t think much about. Even if the rest of your body is dry and comfortable, if your feet are damp, you will be miserable. Purchase yourself moisture wicking liners and wool socks. Just like you layer your body to stay comfortable, layer your feet too. They need to breathe and release moisture to be comfortable. In the event your feet do get wet the wool will keep your feet warm so the rest of you warm too. Wool also dries very quickly so will be ready the following day or twos days at the most.
Boots should be very comfortable and broke in before the trip. If you hiking many miles a day, consider a lower gram weight of insulation like Thinsulate. This will keep your feet from overheating. I prefer a nice arch support or cork bed to keep my feet comfortable. Boots with replaceable liners are a good choice as you can dry out one set one day and wear the other the same day.
Gloves and hats now come lightweight and with very effective wicking and warm materials. Your head is the primary heat loss part of your body. Keep it warm and dry and most likely the rest of your will be warm too.
Purchase a SKB bow case. They are extremely tough and take much abuse. These cases may cost a little more but they also come with a $1500 gear insurance policy, and worth the few extra dollars in the long run.
Pack a dozen arrows with broadheads removed and store in an arrow tube. Broadheads will pack easier removed from arrows and are less susceptible of damaging your bowstrings or gear in transport. An extra bowstring and cables are very light and might come in handy if you or your buddy dry fires your bow or you accidentally damage the strings. With so many different bows on the market now and each having different sizes of strings and cables, you most likely won’t find the proper set at a bow shop in any part of the country. Carry an extra set of “shot in” strings and you will be good.
With my bow I will mark my cams with a permanent marker so that I can make sure my cams are in time at all times and if I have to change strings and or cables I can get it back in time quickly not wasting valuable hunting time. I also measure key parts of my bow such as Nock Height, Peep Height, Brace Height, Tiller, Draw Weight and Rest locations. I write them on a tape on my limbs so not to loose or forget them.
Binoculars, rangefinders, GPS units, SPOT units and cameras should be packed in your carry on. You will ensure they will make it there and safely. GPS units are a place you can save a little weight. Garmin produces units that have GPS and cameras built in one unit. The Rhino unit even has radio capabilities, check local laws though to see if a radio is allowed when hunting.
Now to pack it all up:
Your carry-on you should use your backpack. Place all of your heavy items like cameras, binoculars, GPS units and rangefinders. Pack your rain gear, gloves and caps in the pack as well.
In your bow case pack your bow, arrows and extra set of strings and cables, broadheads, a change of clothes including some socks and a change of camo. If your other luggage becomes lost at least you still have some clothes to wear for the first few days of the hunt until your bags arrive and it helps protect your gear in the bow case. Print on- a piece of paper, your name, destination, flight number and your contact number, as well as the hunting location’s address. Print one of these for both the outbound and return flight and lay it on top of everything before you close your bag. This makes it really easy for airlines to know where the bag needs to go should they get misplaced.
Once you have everything packed up label your bags. Put hard labels on the outside of your bags identifying who you are and where you live. Before you leave on your trip print out on full sheets of paper your name, flight numbers, contact numbers and final destination. This is true for your trip home too. Just before you leave place the sheets that have your destination info in the bag so that if it gets lost the airline can open it and see where it needs to go. Then do the same thing on your flight home.
The best practice is to plan for the worse. Once you find a system that works for you record it down so that the next trip will be easier to pack.
Good luck and Shoot Straight.