2017-18 Update: Flying With Guns

pelican case

If you’ll be flying anywhere with hunting guns on a commercial airliner, follow the steps in my ultimate travel guide with guns and ammo. Then remember two additional things, based on my recent interactions with United and Delta ticket agents and the TSA.

Double down on your locks: In the old days if your hard case had 4 holes for locks, so long as you used 2 locks on the ends you were good. Not now. Every lock hole on your case must be fitted with a solid lock. I use 4 Master locks on my four-hole Pelican case. Don’t neglect this, it’s a big deal! I know a guy who didn’t have a lock for every hole on his case; TSA would not accept it and he missed his flight.

Give yourself more time: Plan to be at the airport and the ticket counter early, at least 2 hours before flight time. Flying with your gun is still pretty hassle-free, but there is more paperwork involved, and generally a ticket agent has to call a supervisor for approval. Then they call an escort, who will lead you and your gun case down to TSA where it will be inspected.

You are required to wait at TSA with your keys until the agent tells you good to go. Used to be a TSA agent swabbed my case and opened it maybe 30% of the time, but now he almost always takes the keys from me and opens it. No big deal, they are required to do it in plain sight. The process just takes more time than it used to before TSA will clear your gun and send you off to the security line.

Follow all the rules to a tee and then be nice and polite to the ticket agent and TSA people. Do what they say with a smile. I’ve heard hunters with guns question everything the airline and TSA people do, and even grumble and complain. Do that and you will be in for a major hassle. Play nice and you’ll sail through.

Are Women Better Hunters Than Men?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day I sat on a ridge in Wyoming with an old guy named Bill and watched through binoculars as a 30-year-old lady stalked a mule deer a mile away. She and her husband had booked a hunt in the same camp where I was staying.

She moved slowly, cautiously and I wondered if she’d ever get into rifle range. I snickered and thought, “Might have to go over there and show the girl how it’s done.”

“She’s doing perfect,” Bill said from behind his binoculars as she eased up her rifle. We heard the thump, saw the buck buckle and then heard the rifle crack.

“Mostly it just takes ‘em one shot,” said the wrinkled cowboy who had guided hundreds of men and maybe 20 women in his day. “A lot of ladies who are really into it are better hunters than men.”

I blew out my chest and said, “I don’t know about that now….”

“Just what I mean,” Bill cut me off. “You guys beat your chest, get all macho and think you know everything about deer, guns, ballistics, shooting… The more you talk about how much you think you know, the more likely you’ll screw up on a big buck.”

Bill went on to say that in his experience, 3 things make women better hunters: 1) they’re patient; 2) they’re good listeners; and 3) they do what they’re told.

“If I tell a guy to go sit by that tree for 3 hours he’ll sit maybe an hour before he gets up and starts walking around and messing up the spot,” Bill said.

“If I tell a lady to sit there for 3 hours she’ll sit there still and ready the whole time…and a lot of times she’ll kill a big animal.”

Bill also said that women tend to be calmer than men, many of whom get excited and come unglued and miss deer.

And women generally shoot smaller caliber rifles, like .243 or 7mm-08. They can shoot and hit better than some guy who goes out West with a cannon magnum that thumps his shoulder and makes him flinch.

While I have not hunted with a lot of women, I’ve guided a few young ladies over the years. Thinking back on those hunts, yes, they listen. Yes, they tend to stay amazingly calm when a buck shows up. They all shot a low-recoil rifle, and shot it well. Yes, I believe old Bill was right about this in a lot of ways.

I ask: If you hunt with your wife or girlfriend, is she better than you?

It’s Official: Bass Pro Shops Buys Cabela’s

cabelas store maine

Fox business reports that the merger of Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s (CAB) has received the go-ahead from antitrust regulators. In a filing with the SEC, Cabela’s said Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission informed the company earlier this week that it concluded its investigation of Bass Pro’s $4.2 billion buyout. Cabela’s shareholders will vote on the deal July 11. The transaction is expected to close later this summer.

We all knew this was coming… So now, what does it mean for your favorite outdoor company and store, which for readers of BIG DEER is definitely Cabela’s?

There will be changes, anytime a sale goes through that happens. But I believe Bass Pro’s Johnny Morris, who said last year, ““We look forward to continuing to celebrate and grow the Cabela’s brand alongside Bass Pro Shops…as one unified outdoor family.

“I have enormous admiration for Cabela’s and the remarkable brand and business they have built. Cabela’s is a great American success story.”

As of now, the plan is to keep the Cabela’s headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska, and it is business as usual for all Bass Pro and Cabela’s stores. Bass Pro Shops has some 99 stores and employs about 20,000 people. Cabela’s has 19,000 employees and 85 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

A little bird in the industry told me that the new strategic plan is to build upon the incredibly strong hunting brand and market that Cabela’s has built, while their fishing and boat presence will be contracted. Bass Pro Shops will still have a hunting presence, but will carry on and continue to grow with its massive fishing and boating business.

We will have to wait and see, but that makes perfect sense to me.

11-Year-Old Alaska Boy Shoots Charging Brown Bear, Saves Fishing Party

ak boy shoots bearOne day last month 11-year-old Elliot Clark was hiking into a fishing hole near Hoonah, Alaska, with his uncle, a cousin and three dogs. Young Elliot didn’t have a sling on his shotgun, so he carried it in his hands. That likely saved lives.

Lucas Clark, Elliot’s father and a bear hunting guide but who was out of town at the time of the encounter, shared the story with the Juneau Empire:

“…four of them in a line … my son was third. The bear came down the trail at them, fella in the front…the bear was on him so quickly that he didn’t have time to take his rifle off his shoulder.

The bear ran through the first two men, who were pushed to the side of the trail, leaving Elliot…in front of his unarmed cousin. The boy raised his pump action shotgun and shot the (bear), hitting it with birdshot, which is often used just to scare bears off, Lucas Clark said.

“…That first shot hit (it) in the shoulder and did absolutely nothing. The next shot hit (it) in the nose and traveled down through the neck,” Lucas Clark said.

The third shot went into the bear’s shoulder and his back, dropping it…. The bear was so close… there were powder burns on the bear’s mouth….

“As the bear slid past him and came to a stop, (Elliott) put a kill shot it him,” Lucas Clark said.

Lucas told the Empire that while his family practices shooting, caution and safety, when you live in bear country something like this “can happen to anybody. We pray for our kids every day.”

Alaska Wildlife Troopers say this was the first Defense of Life or Property killing in the Hoonah area this year.

Incredible presence of mind and shooting in the face of danger, way to go young man!

(Photo: Alaska Senator Shelley Hughes’ Facebook page.)

How to Shoot a Black Bear

judge bearBlack Bear Week on Big Deer continues…

If you’re sitting 40 to 60 yards away from a bait pile, range with a rifle is no issue. But if you’re spotting and stalking, play the wind and sneak within 200 yards of a bear feeding in a snow slide or burn…150 yards is better and 100 is best and generally achievable, since a myopic bear can’t see you. The closer the shot, the better your odds of placing that first bullet perfect.

Where to hit them: A bear feeding his face is not in a hurry to go somewhere. Chill, stay patient and he will turn broadside or quarter-slightly away.

Now one good option is to place your scope’s crosshair for a high shoulder shot. A bear so hit and shocked will drop like a rock. If your bullet breaks both shoulders, he is not going anywhere.

Western bear guide Scott Denny (tablemountainoutfitters.com) is okay with the shoulder shot, but for first-time bear hunters he recommends the good old lung shot, especially when a critter is quartering away.

“Most people are used to aiming behind a deer’s leg and at its lungs, so they’re comfortable aiming there on a bear, rather than trying to take out the shoulders,” he says. Tuck the crosshair behind the top of the shoulder and halfway up the animal’s side. Don’t aim low for a heart shot! A big bear has long hair that sweeps the ground, so it’s easy to shoot too low if you’re not careful,” notes Denny.

Follow-up: I read somewhere that American hunters love to kick back and admire their first shot. That is an excellent observation. We stalk pretty well, aim well, press the trigger, drop our eye out of the riflescope, watch the critter go down and start smiling ear to ear.

Generally that works out, but it is a bad habit you need to break, especially when shooting a bear. After you hit him hard, bolt another cartridge and lock your scope on him. If the critter tries to scramble away or so much as quivers, hit him again with another bullet…and again to stop him for good. Now you can relax and go check the hide, no tracking required.