- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

It wasn’t that long ago when, during a flight to Anchorage for the hunting/fishing trip of a lifetime, I simply checked in my guns and no one raised an eyebrow. Not only that — wonder of wonders — I was allowed to carry fragile fishing rods on the airplane without checking them as baggage. The friendly crew of the airliner agreed they would find room in the on-board coat-bag compartment.

How times have changed. At least our government is dealing with questions of what to do with legitimate hunting firearms and outdoors gear on airplanes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s transportation arm, the Transportation Security Administration, tells us that traveling with outdoor gear, guns and most camping items is permitted, but outdoor enthusiasts should prepare in advance to avoid packing prohibited items in carry-on or checked baggage.

“It is particularly important that guns and other types of sporting equipment are packed correctly to avoid lengthy delays in the screening process,” said Kenneth Kasprisin, the North Central director for TSA. “We want to especially remind hunters that ammunition must be properly packaged and placed in checked baggage. Weapons and ammunition cannot be taken through the passenger checkpoints. We also advise everyone to carefully check all pockets and the bottoms of carry-on bags for loose ammunition.”

What he doesn’t say — but it should be clear — is you could be in trouble if such prohibited items are found.

Here then are the TSA’s special travel tips:

• Firearms, firearm parts, and ammunition may be transported only in checked baggage, not carry-on baggage. Visit www.tsa.gov for specific packing requirements.

Air carriers have their own additional requirements for transporting firearms and the amount of ammunition an individual may place in checked baggage. Travelers should contact the individual airline regarding its firearms and ammunition policy.

• Bows and arrows are prohibited in carry-on luggage but may be packed in checked luggage. Sharp objects packed in such checked luggage must be sheathed and securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers.

• Don’t try to carry on or check baggage containing animal repellents. That normally refers to bear repellents. The TSA suggests you buy such items at your destination, then leave it behind when you return.

• Hunting knives and certain hunting/fishing tools are prohibited in carry-on luggage. Pack those in your checked bags. Again, sharp objects that are exposed must be sheathed or wrapped securely.

• As far as TSA is concerned, fishing rods are permitted as carry-on or checked baggage, but I can tell you from personal experience that few airlines allow you to bring fishing rods into the passenger section. Be certain to ask your carrier about its regulations for the size of rod cases and its carry-on limitations.

I stow my one-piece, 5- and 6-foot-long fishing rods in a tough 4-inch PCV tube with screw-on caps. With a black waterproof marker I write my name, address, phone number and the letters U.S.A. on the tube in large enough letters that even Mr. Magoo could read. Then I check it but upon arrival often have to ask carousel employees to hand-carry the rod case from the storage area in the back because it won’t stay on the carousel. Sectional fly-fishing rods are carried in a smaller diameter PCV tube that is less than four feet long. It fits nicely in an on-board overhead compartment. It, too, contains my name, address, phone number, etc.

Air carriers lose luggage — lots of it — but to their credit often locate it. The address and phone number on the rod tube comes in handy when that happens.

• Fishing tackle should be part of your checked baggage. This includes lures, fillet knives and pliers that need to be ensconced safely in tackle boxes and trays, then stashed either into a suitcase or a strong, taped cardboard box. However, expensive reels are stashed in my carry-on bag, safely surrounded by spare socks and a couple of hand towels.

• I’m not a spear user, but the TSA says spear guns and fishing/hunting spears must be checked, never carried on. Those items also must be sheathed and wrapped to prevent injury to handlers.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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