Bowhunting close to home is fun. You might have watched a particular buck grow from a basket rack to a real bruiser, obtaining numerous scouting-cam photos over the years. And because you know the terrain, you’ll have an edge when it’s time to hunt him. Although hunting on familiar turf is rewarding and productive, you might feel the pull to hunt in distant lands for species you can’t pursue around home. If you’re feeling a little wanderlust, follow these tips to make sure your next out-of-state bowhunt is memorable in a good way.
Driving to an out-of-state destination has a lot of advantages. If you’re going with friends, you can split the gas. If you fly, you’ll each need a separate ticket. Plus, a cross-country road trip where you stop at small-town cafes, drive through the night and sleep at cheap hotels creates a lot of fun memories. You’ll have more space for gear than on an airplane, you won’t have to worry about lost luggage, and you’ll be able to easily transport your game animals home in coolers or even in a freezer run via a power inverter. A plane ride is faster, especially if you’re going all the way across the country, but driving your own vehicle has a lot of advantages.
If you fly to your destination, pack your bow case well. A hard case isn’t required on commercial airlines, but it’s strongly recommended. Luggage is often handled roughly, and delicate sights can easily be bumped out of tune or broken. Sandwich your bow with your hunting clothes to protect it from damage. Doing so also ensures you have clothes to hunt in when you arrive if your luggage gets lost. Store your release in the case as well so it doesn’t get lost. Consider removing broadheads from shafts and storing them in a small, hard case within the bow case to prevent injuries and to keep them from cutting your bowstring. You’ll need to lock your case, so remember the key. A TSA-approved lock allows TSA agents to open and inspect your bow, but it’s not required. If your lock isn’t TSA-approved you might have to open the case for inspection, which can be a hassle, but it keeps people from snooping in your case or haphazardly repacking the case that you’ve so meticulously organized. Consider placing an asset tracker (like a Tile or Apple AirTag) in your case. That way if your bow gets lost, you’ll be able to track it down quickly.
If the airline loses your bow case, you might miss days or even your entire hunt. One way around this dilemma is to ship your bow directly to an outfitter ahead of time. Allow plenty of time for your bow to arrive before your hunt and make sure you get a tracking number. Ideally, your bow should arrive at the outfitter before you do.
When you reach your destination, shoot your bow prior to hunting. Going a day or two without shooting could make you a little rusty, and it never hurts to practice. More importantly, you want to ensure that nothing has come loose (inspect the bow prior to shooting) or damaged during transit.
Airlines restrict you to carrying on liquid in 3-ounce bottles. If you’ll be hunting with scents or using sprays to kill your human odor, this could present a problem, even if you’re driving. You have a few options. You could ship the scents prior to your hunt, purchase them when you get there or use tiny bottles. If you’re checking luggage, you certainly don’t want doe-in-heat scent leaking in your duffel bag! Sealing scents in a zip-top bag or even vacuum sealing them can ensure they don’t leak on your gear.
Traveling across the country only to realize you forgot something is extremely frustrating! If you’re hunting with an outfitter, ask what is provided for you and see if the outfitter has a checklist of things to bring. Compare gear lists with your hunting partners. You may be able to share items, reducing the volume of gear you bring. Plus, learning what everyone else is packing may help you remember items or even inspire you to bring gear you hadn’t previously considered. Worst-case scenario, learn the location of sporting goods stores near the airport or outfitter so you can purchase any last-minute essentials.