By: Tom Claycomb
We could go off on a hundred different angles on this article. To begin, let’s cover the part about getting your gun from point A to point B on a plane.
Due to rough luggage handlers, you’ll want a sturdy gun case. I’ve tested many cases and settled on using Explorer brand cases. Some TSA agents are more aggressive than others and will try to pry open the side to ensure that a hand is not able to reach into the case. The Explorer rifle cases have four latches that prevent this from happening.
If the neck is too long on your lock, use washers to prevent the case from being slightly opened. Put them on the backside before you apply the lock. Try it, and you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s the main reason I like Explorer cases: most cases utilize thick foam in some manner to protect your gun. I also have a case that has some preformed hard foam. But they’re all the same in that all they can carry is two guns and maybe your hunting knives.
Here’s what is unique to the Explorer cases: they have a super nice canvas case that you put your gun into. It has Velcro straps to secure your guns down tight. Then on the outside are zip-up pouches. I’ll put my binoculars in one pouch, knives etc.
Now here is what I really like about the Explorer. On all the other gun cases you pay a $30 luggage fee and only have your guns in the case. In the Explorer, I pack clothes on the bottom and then lay the gun in the case. Then inside the gun bag, I’ll place socks and shirts to protect my scope. Then on top of the gun bag, I’ll lay more clothes. So with this case, not only can I pack my guns, binocs, and knives, but I also pack a lot of clothes. That saves on luggage fees.
It’s smart to print a set of regs so if an airline or TSA agent is anti-gun, you can politely tell them they’re entitled to their opinion, but here are the laws and airline regs concerning flying.
I’m not going to cover all the rules of flying with guns, but the basics are: you have to declare that you have a firearm. It has to be unloaded, and the ammo has to be in the original container in separate luggage. The ticket agent will have you sign an orange declaration slip, which will go in the case. She’ll then send you down to the TSA booth, and they’ll swab the case for bombs, have you lock the case, and you’re off running.
If you’re traveling in your truck, then plan accordingly on how to protect your gun. I don’t throw mine in back of the truck. I keep it up front, so I don’t bounce the scope out of sight. According to what state you’re traveling in, check the laws.
In Idaho, traveling with a firearm riding shotgun – ha! is the norm. You can open carry and do pretty much whatever you want, but not all states are as great as Idaho.
Before you leave home, make sure your gun is sighted-in and that you take plenty of the exact ammo you’ll be needing with you. You don’t want to get to your hunting spot and run out of ammo and have to buy brand X that you’re not sighted in with.
Other Gear You’ll Need
Let’s wrap up on other gear that you’ll need. Just because you arrive with your gun – it’s not going to cut it. You don’t want to be out hunting in only your cowboy boots and underwear. So if you don’t pack your other gear, it might be a dysfunctional hunt.
My old buddy Jack Sweet used to have a pre-written list of gear for all of his various trips. I start writing a list two weeks before I leave. If you wait to pack until the night before, you’re going to forget items. Plus, you’ll be running to the grocery store four times for things you forgot.
The night before a big trip, I want to be relaxed and just have a few final details to take care of. That way I’m not running around the house yelling and screaming until midnight and alienated from the wife and kids. I want a quiet and peaceful evening.
As I type, my daughter and I are preparing for a fishing trip to the historic Plummer’s Lodge up in the Northwest Territories. So I’ll use it for an example of how I pack, even though I’m not taking a gun:
Ask the guide what the weather will be like and pack accordingly. We’re taking Frogg Toggs gear, which is not only good for wet weather, but also for blocking the wind. We’ll take Browning socks to keep us warm and wick away moisture. And then of course XGO base layers, because I’ve had good luck with them.
Knives are obviously a big part of any outdoor trip. Smith’s Consumer Products just came out with a knife line. If you’re going hunting, they have a great boning knife called the Edgesport, but since we’ll be fishing, I’m taking their Lawaia and Regal River fish fillet knives and their Trail Breaker folders for our EDC. I’m also taking some Smith’s diamond stones and Arkansas stones to sharpen our knives.
It’s always good to take some extra gear to leave with your guide. They’ll appreciate it. And if you have access to something unique, the guide/lodge may appreciate that, too. I’m in the beef business, so whenever I can, I take a ribeye. On this trip, I can’t due to the weight and travel time, but you get my drift. I’ll also take a good pair of Irish Setter hiking boots and a pair of river sandals so my feet can have a break.
As I said, I write my list two weeks early and start packing then. I’ll carry my list with me at work, and if, in the middle of the day, I think of an item, I’ll write it down. Then the last step is to set down and visualize the trip.
Here’s how that plays out: OK, we’re out fishing. It starts raining. Yep, I’ve got my Frogg Toggs. We’re at camp, and we go for a walk, oh yea, I’d better take my pair of Riton binoculars. Or the motor quits. Oops, I’d better take some Firestarter gear, Adventure Medical Kit gear, and some Aquimira water filters.
What if the fishing gets slow? I knew my plastics would work here. Yep, I’m going to take some of my Lake Fork Trophy Lures plastics and jigs. You see where I’m going with this.
Think through every scenario that may play out and pack accordingly. And take two cameras and plenty of SD cards.
And have fun!
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.