If you’re planning a hunting trip that will take you out of the country next year, or even out of state, then one of the details you need to decide on is whether you will be flying. If you decide to fly, be sure to check the fine print before you buy your plane ticket. Failure to do so could make your return trip somewhat less than pleasant, especially if you plan on checking a set of antlers or horns on the way home.
While most major airlines have no problem treating a set of horns or antlers from a harvested game animal as checked baggage, the skies over United Airlines aren’t quite so friendly. According to reports floating around the outdoor industry, the company recently announced it will not allow hunters to travel with antlers as part of their checked baggage.
So I decided to peruse United’s Web site to see what I could find. There was the typical list of things you can’t carry onto an airplane such as knives in all their varieties, pointed scissors, lighters, baseball bats and hockey sticks. There was the list of hazardous materials that included explosives, flammable solids or liquids, radioactive materials, poison and compressed gasses, to name a few. And right below that list was this statement by the airline: "United Airlines does not accept antlers or animal horns as checked or carry-on baggage on any flights."
Jet Blue, on the other hand, will accept antlers and horns "if packaged in a sealed, leak-proof shipping container which encases the entire item(s). Items wrapped in bubble wrap, then sealed in a plastic bag may also be accepted."
The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t address antlers, but the agency’s Web site does say, "Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors."
That seems reasonable enough, and I suppose that anyone transporting antlers on an airline flight could take the time to wrap and pad the points on a set of antlers to make them safer for those who have to work around them. However, I can’t understand why a major airline, that no doubt has transported antlers or horns from places such as Alaska and Canada back to the lower 48 states, would prohibit passengers from checking them.
In a letter to Glenn Tilton, president and chief executive officer of United Airlines, Christopher Dolnack, a senior vice president for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, wrote: "I am greatly concerned about United’s policy prohibiting passengers from carrying on or checking antlers or animal horns. This is an ill-informed policy … that stands to alienate the country’s 20 million sportsmen and women."
Given today’s economic climate, I would think it unwise to undertake business practices that might reduce customer numbers rather than increase them. In his letter, Dolnack warned Tilton that "if United still fails to address the very reasonable needs of hunters to check or bring aboard antlers or animal horns, sportsmen will be forced to utilize other airlines."
Dolnack also noted the NSSF would have no problem advocating that reality.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His "In the Outdoors" column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at email@example.com.