Update: United Airlines Rescinds Antler Policy - Bowsite.com Played a Major Role
Read the following Press Release by the US. Sportsmen's Alliance:
United Hears Sportsmen, Antlers to be Allowed on Flights
The voices of sportsmen were heard loud and clear by United Airlines as the company made the decision to change a new policy that would have banned antlers from being allowed onto any flight.
As previously reported, sportsmen from coast to coast were enraged as it became known United Airlines had quietly initiated a policy preventing passengers from carrying on or checking antlers or animal horns of any kind.
After receiving thousands of complaints from sportsmen, who were informed by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), through Bowsite.com, and from many other concerned organizations, United Airlines has reconsidered this policy. In a message sent to the USSA and other organizations, United stated:
“As you have recently contacted us, I wanted you to be the first to know that we have heard our customers’ feedback about our Antler and Animal Horn policy, and are responding. Soon we will begin accepting Antlers and Animal Horns as checked baggage again.
As many of you may recall or have seen on our web site, in October 2008 we stopped accepting Antlers and Animal Horns because of the damage the tips caused to the cargo section of the aircraft and to the luggage belonging to our other guests.
We will soon publish new requirements – and ones we previously did not have – about packaging and cleaning Antlers and Animal Horns to ensure their safe, clean transport. These travel requirements will also provide information on the size of Antlers and Animal Horns we can accept based on the type of aircraft being flown (i.e., traditional jet vs. a regional jet) and the special handling fee, which we previously had in place and is similar to other items that require special care.
Stay tuned for further updates on the baggage section of united.com
“United proved that just because you make a mess doesn’t mean you have to stay in it,” said Pat Lefemine, the developer of the nation’s leading bow hunting website, www.bowsite.com and one of the first to sound the alarm over the anti-hunting policy. “It also proved again that when sportsmen unite behind an issue, their voices will be heard.”
The USSA echoed Lefemine’s sentiments.
“We’re glad that United has considered the views of sportsmen and hope the new rules will reflect our concerns,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSA president and CEO. “Regardless, the USSA plans to examine these new policies to be sure that they are fair to sportsmen.”
Our Thanks to our visitors who contacted United Airlines
Original Article Below:
In November I traveled to Saskatchewan to hunt trophy
whitetails with Rob Nye of Canadian Trophy Quest. A group of Christian rifle hunters
overlapped me by one day. They had all tagged out with deer racks and headed
down to Saskatoon to board a United Airlines flight back to the US. When they
checked in the ticket agent informed them that United had changed their policy
a few days earlier and their antlers were no longer allowed as either checked,
or carry-on luggage. The surprised group of hunters scurried around to find a
hotel to take their capes and horns then they boarded the United flight; minus
their trophies. To say they were upset would be quite an understatement.
While this particular situation did not affect me this time,
like many of you I have my share of airline horror stories. Remember my elk
hunt from 2006? Northwest Airlines lost my luggage for the first 5 of my 7 day elk
hunt at Rhynard Ranch. To add insult to injury, I was treated like crap
despite the fact that I was broadcasting the debacle to 20k people every day!
But that was nothing compared to the Bowsite visitor who checked his hunting
gear to Johannesburg and it showed up a week later – after he returned home!
Bowsite is frequented by most of the top traveling
Bowhunters in North America. Like so many of you, I spend a considerable
amount of time and money bowhunting destinations that require commercial
flights. I doubt there is a single person that would argue that commercial
airline travel is anything less than a nightmare now and much of that has
nothing to do with Post 911 policies. I am almost to the point of advocating
disobedience with some of these ridiculous policies, or better yet – just
convincing all of you to simply drive to your hunting destination. In no other
industry on earth are the customers treated so poorly and still allowed to stay
So now that I’m done with my rant, here are some traveling tips
to help keep you sane since the airlines have become so unfriendly to their
15 Tips for Traveling Bowhunters
to your Destination – I am of the opinion that unless it is impossible (logistically
due to time constraints or distance) hunters should avoid airlines altogether
and drive to their hunts. Despite a busy schedule, I will be driving from
Connecticut to my next hunt (Hogs in Tennessee) simply because I want to bring
back all of my meat and the (overweight and additional bag) fees have made it
cost ineffective for me to fly. Since I am bringing my son on this hunt we
estimate the cost differential to be a $900 savings between driving and flying.
– Their most recent policy
they have disdain for traveling hunters. Without any warning they simply began
rejecting all antlers/horns from traveling hunters despite their condition and
packaging. Until that restriction is lifted I will filter them out of every
Expedia search I perform regardless of price. Delta and Northwest are, so far,
relatively friendly to hunters. If United changes their policy due to negative
hunter feedback I will change this recommendation. Until then they should be
scratched off our list as a carrier. I would add that this also applies to my ‘non-hunting’
personal and business travel as well since companies that don’t support hunters
don’t get my hard earned money.
|Note: Since United has rescinded their policy we are withdrawing tip #2
Bows in Golf Cases – generally speaking, and for whatever reason – some airline
personnel treat golfers with respect while they treat hunters with contempt. A
friend of mine has been posing as a golfer for years with great success. He
takes a golf bag hard case (including a sticker from Pebble Beach) and ships
two bows in it along with his arrow tube (smaller bows fit better) and then
stuffs his clothing around it to cushion the contents. Since he has been doing
that he has never asked to have his bags inspected and they have never been mistaken
for a firearm case. On some airlines, golfers are given a waiver for
oversized baggage as well but check first since every airline has different fees
and policies. The bow doesn’t have to be in a golf bag, another friend and
well-known international bowhunter packs his bows in a two-compartment rolling
duffle and that has worked quite well for him.
looking like a hunter – nothing spells “hunter” to a ticket counter
attendant than duffel s in Realtree AP. While we’re at it, lose the Camo
Bowsite.com cap and the Mossy Oak jacket that you like to wear on the plane.
Instead, look like a yuppie traveling with Nike luggage and you won’t be
interrogated by a judgmental ticket counter agent who just renewed her Humane
Society Membership. This is especially helpful if you are inclined to disobey
airline policies and pack your 125” deer rack into your suitcase – not that
I am advocating this of course.
as light as possible
– Remember when you could check 3 bags and you had a
tough time getting any of them under the weight restriction of 7o lbs? Well
those days are long gone. Originally, luggage fees and charging for peanuts
were the result of astronomical fuel prices. But when fuel prices plummeted,
the airlines found that if they kept those fees they could earn close to a billion
dollars (US Air) . And that 70lb weight limit is now 50lbs before they nail
you with fees – and with an ultimate max weight of 100lbs - so keep that in
mind if you think you’re going to fly home all that moose meat. Find ways to
pare down your gear list by sharing items with your buddy, shipping stuff ahead
of time or borrowing or renting gear from the outfitter. An interesting service
has just popped up in the west where you can rent some essential gear – it’s called hunthardcore.com
and this may be a good
option as well.
Direct or 1-stop maximum – An airline misplacing your bow case when you
have to catch a charter flight with 10 other hunters will ruin your week –
fast. I always avoid having to change to 3 or more planes. Think of each stop
as adding 15% more risk for a lost bag. So if I change planes once, I have a 15%
chance of it not showing up. Three changes and it’s 45% - and so on.
stay on one airline – Internet airline shopping is terrific for finding
bargains but watch carefully to make sure they don’t book a flight where Delta
is handing your bags over to USAir because the cheapest option was a
multi-carrier one. That handoff is fraught with issues. In fact, and this is a
true statement: In the three cases where I booked multiple carriers, my
baggage has never arrived with me. That means 100% of my experiences with
multi-carrier flights have resulted in lost luggage. I will never book another
multi-carrier flight where I check bags ever again.
your gear ahead of time – If your outfitter is OK with this, ship your gear
to him one month before your hunt and confirm he received it before stepping
foot on the plane. If you are going to Africa or some other international
destination and you are concerned about ruining your trip if SAA loses your bow
case, ship a backup bow ( or any inexpensive gear you can afford to be without)
3 months prior to your trip. Shipping things to Africa are probably as risky as
checking your luggage on your flight, but if it gives you peace of mind to have
essential gear waiting there for you go right ahead.
about flying meat – I know I’m going to catch hell from the “hunter should eat
everything he kills crowd” but I won’t ship meat on airlines any longer. This
has become a nightmare for hunters and fisherman. In fact, the last time I
went hog hunting my coolers went over the 100lb limit and Delta would not check
them. I was forced to chuck hog quarters into the Nashville airport trash bins
in order to reduce the weight and meet their limits. Unless I can ship them
some other way, I donate all my meat now to locals or those lucky hunters who
Freeze Capes and
ship with Clothing – OK. Now this is where we’re getting sneaky. I cape my
heads out completely, roll them as tight as possible, double wrap them in
plastic bags, tape them up to keep them condensed and freeze them solid. On
the morning I fly, I take the entire frozen package and wrap it up in several
layers of insulated clothing before sticking them in my duffel bag. This has
worked well for years including my last trips to Saskatchewan and Kansas. Just
pray they don’t lose your luggage since it’s not marked perishable (like that
matters anyway to baggage handlers).
your antlers and horns – Antlers that either doesn’t qualify for record
books (or you don’t care about submitting them) are easy. Split your racks down
the skull plate and they will fit easily in most luggage. This includes
smaller elk, mule deer, whitetail, and even smaller caribou. But only split
them if they won’t fit, or are at risk for getting broken in transit. During
my last Kansas hunt I was able to ship both sets of un-split whitetail racks in
the same duffel bag lined with clothing. One of those racks scored 150 gross so
even trophy racks will fit. Most horns are no problem (without splitting)
including sheep, goats, pronghorn, musk ox and bison.
Plan how to ship
your trophy Racks prior to the hunt – Assuming you just shot a 350” elk or
70” moose – or maybe a 30” mulie that scores 190, you should have a plan for
getting these back home long before you ever left your home state. I’ve broken
these down in priority from my favorite method to my least favorite method. You
can see which works best for you.
Home by a fellow Hunter – This is by far my favorite option when hunting
with a group of guys and one of them has driven. Assuming the guy lives within
a 5 hour drive of my home, I will ask him to drive my antlers back to his house
and then I drive and get them from him at some point. I’ve done this in the
past and it’s the cheapest and easiest option.
then Shipped by Outfitter – If you are hunting with a reputable outfitter
and option 1 (above) is not available, ask the outfitter to arrange to have
your antlers scored (>60 days) then split the rack and ship it back to you
via FedEx, UPS, etc. This is my 2nd favorite option and probably
cheaper than the one above.
antlers back yourself – if you have time, you can crate up your antlers and
bring them to a freight company at the airport, UPS, or FedEx facility. This is
not always cheap depending on the volume and weight of the container as well as
the shipping options available to you. But it is an option and I have done it
once without a hassle.
a local taxidermist - The easiest thing to do is to leave your rack and
cape with the outfitter who will bring it to a local taxidermist. The
taxidermist will ship your trophy back to you - either mounted or unmounted. Typically
this is far more expensive than shipping it back yourself. And you are relying
solely on faith that your guide has picked out a quality taxidermist and not
just one that’s giving him the highest cut. This is my least favored option
and one that I only use if there are no other alternatives. For International
hunts outside of North America this is likely the only option available to you.
Ask your safari provider who he uses and the dip/pack costs per animal before
you book a safari with him. It’s also a great question to ask his references.
My personal recommendation is to never use an African Taxidermist for finished
mounts. The quality I’ve seen was horrendous and the crating costs are
typically more than you’d pay your local guy including both his fees and the
dip/pack/shipping fees from Africa.
Don’t ask – Don’t
tell – no, we’re not talking about Clinton’s advice for gay sailors. We’re
talking about what you should do if your airline has a policy prohibiting capes
and horns in luggage and you have no alternative than to fly them home. While
my parents’ teachings about honor and honesty had a great affect on how I conduct
my life. I must confess that when an airline like United tells me my 120” deer
rack (that is clean and dried) cannot be placed into my checked luggage, I am
tempted to be forgetful and pack it anyway. This is where it helps to look
like a yuppie with a Nike bag rather than the Duck Commander with a camo bow
you, I’m not advocating for you to violate their policies and lying if they
should ask, it's far easier just to avoid airlines unfriendly to hunters so you don't have to.
Jam as much as
possible into Carry-On – The law of unintended consequence was in full
effect when the airlines enacted expensive and restrictive policies regarding
checked bags. Now my heart goes out to the flight attendants who should be
wearing back braces as they hoist 50lb rolling suitcases into stuffed overhead bins. I
am no exception. Since lowering weight restrictions and charging for extra
bags, I cram every small, dense and heavy object into my carry on. I also carry
all of my most expensive and critical gear that I can legally get through
security including my HD video cameras, all batteries, binoculars, and my
heavier boots. I carry both my backpack and my rolling suitcase on board and
if gate agents make a stink that my backpack is not technically a “small personal item
such as a briefcase, handbag or laptop case” they will check it at the gate and
I am not charged for that 3rd item.
Consider a Hybrid
approach to getting to and from your destination – While I have not done
this personally I know guys that have and it has worked out well for them. They
check the price of a round trip ticket and compare that against a one-way fare.
They will fly with their gear to the hunt but then rent an SUV for the ride home,
bringing all the meat and horns back with them. Depending on the ticket price
and certainly for bowhunters if there is a small difference between a one-way
fare and the round trip – book the RT and drive back only if you nailed that
big 300” elk you were dreaming of. That way if you are like me and can never
seem to kill an elk, you simply fly back with your gear on your original Round
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing
ways to make things easier for you. But we have responsibilities too which can
help prevent the airlines from enacting radical punitive policies and which
represent hunters in a good public light:
Courteous, and Respectful – This applies to everything in life and it’s how
I conduct myself right up until the point when the Friday night ticket agent
tells me my luggage is lost and hands me the toll free number that only works
Tue-Thurs. Attitude is everything and being an absolute jerk will get you
nowhere fast. I have seen some wildly impolite behaviors including an actual fight between a ticket agent and seriously frustrated
passenger in the Philly airport. This tip is especially true if you don’t
follow Tip #4 above and are wearing a camo jacket that says Bowsite.com
embroidered across the back. In everything you do, you represent hunters.
Represent us well, even when you are justifiably frustrated.
anything that smells or bleeds – Remember the saying “one bad apple” well
my guess is there was an incident that got to United’s Sr. Mgt that made it
easy for them to craft this ridiculous knee-jerk policy of banning antlers.
Some miscreant probably checked caribou antlers in stripped velvet and the
antlers went rancid and stunk up the entire baggage compartment while dripping
blood all over the place. Of course, they stick dogs in those compartments too
as well as carry-on luggage and nobody ever seems to ban them even though they
bark, pee and crap. My last flight had a carry-on dog that barked for two
hours and that tripped off a toddler who screamed the entire flight.
If they are going to ban things based on “one-off” – “ what if” situations then
I’d vote that both dogs, and kids under 3 are shipped separately via UPS. But I
digress. Be respectful to the people who don’t wish to see a blood trail
leading from the baggage belt to the shuttle van. Make sure those horns are
clean and dry before you ever bring them to the airport.