Penn. Poacher Loses Hunting License for 50 Years

spotlightingCharles Harr, Jr., 19, had his day in court earlier this week. Harr was charged with allegedly spotlighting deer, killing some 11 animals.

Two accomplices were apprehended and later cited on the crime spree last year. An 18-year-old friend and, get this, Harr’s father, Charles Harr, Sr. who officers believe was in the process of helping his son butcher and dispose of the illegal deer.

That is one of the saddest examples of fathering that I have ever heard of in the outdoor world. But unfortunately it is not uncommon. I have reported on many poaching incidents in my outdoor journalism career, and many if not most of them involve family.

The judge handed down the same old weak fines–$16,400 combined among the three men–that we have become accustomed to in deer-poaching cases. There was probation and officers took the rifle used to illegally kill the deer. Big deal.

But here’s what is a big deal: It’s going to be a very long time before Harr, Jr. will go hunting again. The court suspended his hunting license for 50 years.

This young man has a long time to think about what he did. If he decides to go hunting one day when he turns 70, maybe he’ll do it the right way.

Finally a judge got it kind of right in a poaching case, agree?


Ultimate Air-Travel Guide: How to Fly With Guns

planeI have flown hundreds of thousands miles with hunting guns in the last 30 years, on all the major carriers and in tiny bush planes, to cities and small towns across the U.S and Canada. While I have had minor hassles (you can’t fly anywhere with or without guns without some grief) I have not, knock on a walnut stock, had a major incident with any airline or Transportation Security Authority (TSA) employee or officer.

I have had 3 gun cases not make it to my final destination (knock wood harder) and those were only delayed a day. Three incidents in some 600 trips spread over 3 decades isn’t bad.

The reason I’ve had good fortune: I know the rules of packing and traveling with guns and ammo, and I follow those rules.

The goal here is to lay out a plan that will help you check your guns safely and legally at the airport so that they arrive at your hunting destination secure and on time. DISCLAIMER: It is up to you to read and know the rules and follow them to the letter of the law.

To do that, I’ve posted the official TSA guidelines for transporting firearms and ammunition. In the HANBACK NOTES that follow read my personal observations and tips that will make your travels easier, and keep you from messing up.

And you can’t mess up. Break a rule and at the least you’ll get hassled and miss your flight. Worst case, you risk a $10,000 fine and jail time.

Print a copy of this blog guide and carry it with you when you fly with guns.  

TSA: Transporting Firearms and Ammunition

You may transport unloaded firearms in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.


–When traveling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.

–Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.

–Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock.

–Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

–Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.


–Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

–Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)(8).

–Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm.


–First, about hard-sided gun cases. Buy a good metal or hard-plastic one ($200 or more) with quality locks and ample foam padding on the inside. A cheap, flimsy plastic Wal-Mart special won’t cut it.

–You can buy and use a case with TSA-approved locks, which means the TSA master key at any airport will open the case. It expedites the process, but if you’re paranoid somebody will open your case without your approval use your own locks.

–I used to use a case with TSA locks until a TSA officer at a Texas airport recognized me as he checked my rifle and said, “Surprised you use TSA locks, I sure wouldn’t if you now what I mean…” I bought a new case and now use my own heavy locks.

–If one of the locks or lock hinges on your gun case is loose or gets broken in transit, you must replace it or the case immediately. Do not show up at the airport with a damaged case or faulty locks, TSA will not allow you to travel.

–You can never check a gun case curbside; you must go inside to an airline counter. Somebody there will probably tell you, “Use the kiosk.” You tell him or her right off, “I’m checking an unloaded firearm and need assistance.” A ticket agent must help you. You’ll fill out an orange tag declaring the firearm unloaded; open your case and put the tag inside, and lock it back up. All the while be polite and follow the agent’s instructions to the letter.

–The firearm must be unloaded. Sounds like a no-brainer, but there are horror stories of experienced hunters and travelers trying to check loaded rifles they knew were empty.  Triple and quadruple check that your rifle is unloaded before you case it. I travel with bolt-actions, and so I remove the bolt, visually look and see that the chamber is empty and then often pack the bolt separately in the case.

–TSA inspects all gun cases somewhere near the ticket counters. You and an agent will roll your case down to a baggage security area. Stay with your case until it is screened and accepted by TSA. Do not wander off. Have your keys handy, most of the time an officer will open up the case, check inside and re-lock it. Be there to get your keys back.

–As for ammo, carry 2 boxes securely packed in their original cardboard boxes. In the U.S. these boxes may be carried in your locked gun case, and that is how I like to do it, but I have encountered a gray area here from airline to airline. Once in a while an agent who does not know the rules asks me to transfer the ammo to the separate duffel bag I’m checking. If asked, do it to avoid any confrontation, just be sure not to put any ammo boxes in your carry-on by mistake!

–Traveling anywhere in Canada, make sure to pack your ammo in your  checked duffel, they don’t let you pack it in your gun case up there.

–I reiterate two things: Pack all cartridges securely in their boxes; you cannot have any loose rounds rolling around in your duffel or in a pants pocket you packed. You’ll get busted and hassled for that. And triple check your carry-on (maybe a camo backpack you used while hunting) and make sure there are no loose rounds of ammo or even empty casings in there–failure to do so can land you in big trouble at the security line.

–TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps to be transported on airplanes, not even in checked bags. On a muzzleloader hunt, you’ll carry your .50-caliber rifle and bullets in a locked case, and you’ll have to buy percussion caps and powder pellets at your final destination. Arrange that before your trip. Make sure to locate a big-box store or gun shop where you can stop and purchase caps and pellets before you head to camp.

–The TSA notes that individual airlines may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition, and advises you to contact your airline regarding their carriage policies. Sounds like a good idea, but I can tell you from experience that you probably won’t get a straight answer from anybody on the phone. Just follow all the rules/notes above to the letter and you’ll be fine.

–This information is for the U.S. and Canada only. You must study up and follow a more complicated set of rules if flying with firearms to Mexico, Africa, etc.


June 20, 2016: Strawberry Moon & Summer Solstice

strawberry-moon-squareWe talk a lot about moon phases on BIG DEER Blog because I believe the moons in the fall especially the full one in November sparks big bucks to move and hence is a great week to hunt.

My ongoing interest in the moon turned up this: Today’s full moon, which coincides with the summer solstice, is a rare and once-in-a-lifetime event. The last time the full moon lined up with the longest day of the year was back in June 1967. Today there will be approximately 17 hours of light.

This Full Strawberry Moon gets its name from the Algonquin tribes, who took it as a signal to gather strawberries and ripening fruit.

As far as fish and game go, some lunar predictions report that fishing would be best today, June 20, so you might want to slip out of work early and wet a line.

In the northern hemisphere, starting tomorrow, the days begin to get shorter and the official countdown to deer season 2016 begins. While whitetail antlers are growing rapidly now, the deceasing daylight over the next 6 weeks will cause them to start to harden in early August. After that, once bucks shed velvet in September, it’s game on. Soon in our annual BIG DEER moon and rut-hunting guide, we’ll analyze the moon phases that really matter for your hunting in late October and November 2016.

BTW get out there tonight and look for the Strawberry Moon. If you miss it, you’ll have to wait another 46 years before you can see the full moon on the summer solstice because it will not happen again until June 21, 2062.





Father’s Day Bucks

pa garrison first buck

Shout out to Rick and Garrison from Pennsylvania for Garrison’s first archery buck.

fl bucks

Another shout out to Richard and sons from Florida for a great day of deer hunting.

Shout out to you Dads and Granddads for the showing your kids to love and respect the outdoors and our hunting lifestyle. Keep it up!


BIG DEER Father’s Day Tribute

Mt-50-camp[1]In honor of all the fathers who teach our kids to love and respect the great outdoors and the wonderful deer and other game we hunt, I’m re-posting some of the family photos we’ve shared in the past. If you’ve got a photo of you and your son or daughter that you’d like to share please email it to me and I’ll post it this weekend (


mt milk luke and eliot 2009

IN youth day 2010 twin girls





KS jay graber daughters 2010 buck

OHIO kids 173 2007 buck

NE girl 1


clay and me bucks

Last one my oldest son Clay and me, love you man.