With pheasant season fast approaching, hunters in South Dakota and across the United States have been expressing concern about carrying firearms on airlines in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks. Doug Hansen, Wildlife Division Director for the Department of Game, Fish and Parks, assures hunters that firearms are still allowed on airlines.
"While security has become understandably tight, hunters can still transport firearms to and from South Dakota via the airlines," Hansen said. He added that there are common sense rules for hunters to follow when transporting their firearms.
"The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires passengers carrying firearms in checked baggage to declare their firearms. When you arrive at the ticket counter you will be handed a small card to sign and date declaring the weapon is unloaded. Unless further inspection is requested, all you need to do is crack open the gun case and slip the card inside, then close and lock the case for air transportation as checked baggage," Hansen said. "It is always prudent to contact officials with your airline in advance to determine if there are any additional requirements specifically mandated by that airline."
Hansen added that it would be wise to also check in advance at airports where hunters may make an airline change along the way to be certain their firearm baggage is cleared.
Hansen said it probably would not be necessary to remove the gun to prove it is unloaded. "In fact, there will be security guards posted around and it would not be wise to uncase your firearm unless requested to do so. Follow the instructions of the airline officials carefully, and do not make any inappropriate comments about carrying weapons. Even if meant as humor, these will be taken very seriously."
Additional precautions hunters can take when preparing their firearm for air transportation include casing the gun with the action open, facing up; disassemble the gun if possible; keep the key to the gun case readily accessible; and make sure the gun case is securely fastened (tying a luggage belt around the case will help).
Ammunition is allowed as checked baggage. There are limits on how much ammunition an individual may pack, so check those regulations before traveling and do not plan to carry a lot. Ammunition is to be transported in its original box or container.
"Also, do not carry knives or any cutting devices on your person or as part of carry-on baggage," Hansen said. "Previously, knives with blades shorter than four inches were allowed. This will no longer be the case. Pack all cutting devices with your checked luggage."
Hansen said that, while additional regulations may come, it is still legal to transport firearms on the airlines. "I would once again encourage sportsmen to check with their local airline officials in advance of travel to make sure they have followed the intent of all regulations. I would also remind them to arrive at the airport well in advance of their departure time to allow for the extra security measures they will face there."