Ducks Unlimited Podcast

Host Chris Jennings is joined by Phil Bourjaily, Ducks Unlimited magazine shotgunning columnist, to discuss traveling with a firearm. Bourjaily, no stranger to traveling around the world with a shotgun, offers some helpful tips to keep you on schedule for your next adventure. The pair talk about cases, extra guns, and several experiences they’ve had when traveling for a shoot or a waterfowl hunt.

Creators & Guests

Chris Jennings
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Outdoor Host

What is Ducks Unlimited Podcast?

Ducks Unlimited Podcast is a constant discussion of all things waterfowl; from in-depth hunting tips and tactics, to waterfowl biology, research, science, and habitat updates. The DU Podcast is the go-to resource for waterfowl hunters and conservationists. Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands conservation.

00:00 Chris Jennings Hey, everybody, welcome back to the Ducks Unlimited podcast. I'm your host, Chris Jennings. Joining me on the show once again today is Phil Bourjaily, the Ducks Unlimited Magazine Shotgunning Columnist. Phil, welcome back to the podcast.

00:10 Phil Bourjaily Hey, thank you very much for having me.

00:11 Chris Jennings You know, we kind of came up with this idea based on a column that you had done not too long ago, and I think it's very fitting, and usually we do this early in the season, but really this This topic is always a very good subject to touch on, and it's traveling with a gun. You know, Phil, you travel with a gun a lot. I travel with a gun a lot. And you kind of base this column as kind of a, you know, these are some pro tips to take away if you're planning on traveling with a gun. From your perspective, you know, what is the most difficult thing traveling with a gun for you? Honestly, for me, it's the anxiety.

00:51 Phil Bourjaily But I've never had any trouble traveling with a gun. The only mistake I have made that I took one gun the first time I went to Uruguay, and it broke the first day. And fortunately, everybody else had brought extras. And so the biggest piece of advice I have is don't be afraid to travel with a gun, and don't be afraid to travel with two guns. Because, you know, you make a trip like that where there maybe aren't, you know, when I say we were lucky that other people in my group had guns, but if you go somewhere where there's not a gun store or a gunsmith or even, you know, the best repair kit is always another gun. So that's what I'd say is make sure that you've got an extra because you don't want to be On that trip, you've saved up and been thinking about all year and then get there and find that your gun doesn't work. And I can tell you, it's horrible.

01:46 Chris Jennings It happens. I'd imagine. Now, not to get too far down this road, but when you mentioned traveling with two guns, I've done that several times, even flown into Canada with two guns. It's, you know, one thing that makes it easier is some of the newer shotgun cases out there. Hard side, they've got wheels, they lock, they've got, they're already pre-set up for like the TSA locks and anything you wanted to put on them. You know, do you have, do you personally have a big case like that, that you use?

02:13 Phil Bourjaily I do. It's not a new one, but it does have all the features you're talking about. And of those features, wheels are like the key thing, you know, because it's a two gun case is pretty heavy. Um, I've had one, I've had it for 20 some years. I don't, uh, I'm not even sure who made it. But it's a big big solid case. It does have it doesn't have place for TSA locks Uh, which are new, you know, I didn't I hadn't had not been this is the first time actually I was traveling last week and this is the first time I went on a trip where every They kept asking me if my case had TSA locks on it And for those of you who, like me, didn't know what those are, they're those little cable locks where you set the combination and then their TSA can override the key if they have to with a master key. The other thing I learned is that at some airports, if you don't have every hole for a lock in your gun case, if every one of them doesn't have a lock in it, that makes them unhappy and they will want you to go You know to the to the convenience store there at the airport and buy some tsa locks and put them in the holes Really? Did they just do that thing recently? They did and this was in san antonio where you know, a lot of people take guns to hunt a lot of people take guns To the national gun club. So it's it's a gun friendly airport but uh Yeah, they were they were made a couple people in my group go get more locks for their gun cases. And so Pat just, and again, traveling with guns, I always worry about it. I've never had a problem. And you just have to do your homework, whether it's domestic or international flight. Just always have to know, get updated, talk to people who've done it. And it's really not a problem.

03:59 Chris Jennings Yeah, no. And, and now that you say that with the holes missing on the case, I think the last time, if it would have been last year, um, what they did with mine is they just put those big zip ties. Cause I had a, uh, basically like a master lock on each end. I wasn't using TSA locks either. And then they put the zip ties through the additional holes in the case. Right.

04:21 Phil Bourjaily So I guess they also, they zip tied my, put a big zip tie all the way around my case this time too, which is, I think the first time I can remember that happening. just to be extra secure. So they don't want anything to happen to your gun when you travel there. The story always, and again, it depends on the airport, but I flew back into Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I fly into two years ago. And it was the last flight in late at night, and then it was pouring down rain. And everybody's bags came off the carousel and was everything but my gun. And I was the last person left in the airport practically and I was thinking Jesus, this will be a long process. And then this kid came walking in and he was soaking wet and he had my gun case wrapped in plastic. And he said, I saw you had a gun and I wanted to make sure nothing happened to it. So I wrapped it up for you and brought it in. And yeah, I know and that's, I have no horror stories about traveling with guns at all. So I can't uh, you know, I I've never had to make a claim for any i've had guns delayed You know by by a flight and they come in the next on the next flight I have not found that it's really a problem at all.

05:36 Chris Jennings Yeah, no, I mean, and I think you hit the nail on the head there talking about, you know, traveling with your firearm. It's really more like the anxiety of walking into the airport, you know, oh, you got to open it up, you know, that process that I'm sure you've gone through a million times as well. They kind of, they don't really check it because most of these people at the airport counters, they're maybe not even gun people, so they don't even know what they're looking at. So then you just kind of open it up and they glance at it and they're like, is it loaded? And I'm like, no, it's not loaded. Do you have any ammunition? No, you know, nothing in this bag, you know, there's nothing in there in this case. Um, and then they're like, all right, you got the locks, lock it up. We'll take it from here. And then you just, it's just like checking another bag. It's pretty easy.

06:24 Phil Bourjaily Sometimes you have to wait for the TSA. agent will they'll take it back into whatever backroom they inspect guns and and then come back and give you a high sign that you can go on and sometimes they don't. It all sort of varies from airport to airport seems like.

06:39 Chris Jennings Yeah and that's in your column you kind of mentioned get there maybe a little bit earlier than you'd expect because that's kind of what you were alluding to there. Sometimes it just takes a little longer.

06:48 Phil Bourjaily Yeah then the one thing I would say you know while I've never seen Myself or anyone in in any group i've been with have trouble having you know with the gun getting damaged I have seen gun cases that didn't survive the trip And that's almost as bad because you know The other function of your gun case besides to protect your gun is to protect itself so you can take your gun back When you go home You know, I remember we arrived in Buenos Aires or someplace and someone's gun cases, like the whole corner was gone and guns were fine, but we had to find a way to get those guns back. So so the money you spend on a gun case is as much so that you have a gun case that you can keep on using and then it will survive the trip and whatever. might happen to it between the time you check and the time it gets on the airplane, as it is to protect your gun.

07:40 Chris Jennings Yeah. You know, you, you bring up a good point in the column too, where when you're talking about the gun case here, you also mentioned, you know, don't forget a soft side gun case. Cause what we're talking about are these big, bulky, sometimes, you know, I think I have a Browning one and a Plano one, and then I have a metal one that was an old Cabela's that you'd have to take the gun apart. And those are durable. I mean, you can, I mean, they're, they're super strong, waterproof, everything. But then when you get to where you're going, you don't want to have to drag that big case around. Cause a lot of States demand that you keep a gun in, in a case when traveling. So you couldn't even drive to where you're going to hunt, you know, without technically breaking the law.

08:17 Phil Bourjaily And it's a good idea just to keep your gun in that case anyway for, I always do. Cause I know a lot of times I hunt with, with woodstock guns, regardless of what kind of hunting I'm doing. And I want my gun protected. So to have a case that you can take to the blind. or whatever. Yeah, you don't want to bring your hard case out there. So bringing a soft case is a good idea. I think I also mentioned in that column, and this is a tip I just picked up last year, a friend of mine showed up in camp and his soft case and almost all of his other gear was in his gun case. He'd taken all the foam out and he just packs his gun in his hunting stuff. And that way he can travel a lot lighter.

08:57 Chris Jennings Well, that makes sense. If you're going with two guns, you're probably by the time you pack hunting gear and extra gun cases and all that, you're probably going to get close to that 50 pound limit. I would imagine.

09:07 Phil Bourjaily Yes, you are. Yeah. Cause the case itself will weigh a lot. Oh yeah. He just, he just, he just brought one gun and he just had a place he could put his, you know, his hunting coat and some other things in there. And, uh, then the gun was just as padded as it would be in foam, you know, his clothes. So. Yeah, you know, I thought… Oh, go ahead. No, I thought that was pretty smart. I had not seen that before.

09:29 Chris Jennings That is, that's pretty smart. Now, I have had a couple different instances with issues at airports. I once flew into Detroit. I was going up to hunt Harsin's Island. And I flew into Detroit and got there and my gun never showed up. And so I go over to the claims office and, you know, they're busy, they're doing their thing. And I'm like, yeah, my, my bag didn't show up. And they're like, what's it look like? And I'm like, it's a big black, you know, it's a gun case. And the lady was like, what's in it? And I was like, two 12 gauge shotguns. And, uh, she immediately got on the walkie talkie and like, there were, you know, officers there and, you know, they came out. Yeah. Like five minutes later, this guy comes out carrying it. What they did was it was so big that they set it off to the side and then forgot to put it back on when all the other So it's basically just sitting in the back right there. But they do take notice when you tell them that you've got multiple firearms that are missing in the baggage claim.

10:32 Phil Bourjaily Yeah. No, they don't, they don't want any lost guns anymore than we want our guns lost.

10:36 Chris Jennings Yeah. Now, ammunition wise and any other like shotgun accessories, have you ever, I had an issue in Canada one time coming back, they took my, my choke tubes, which I thought was super weird, but I had them in a carry on. Yeah.

10:49 Phil Bourjaily They don't, yeah. If it's a gun part, they don't want it. they don't want it in your carry-on. Because who knows, you and like 30 other people on board the plane could have each brought in a different gun part and put a gun together. It's possible. Probably not. Probably not. But no, those things have to… You can't bring those in. Actually, I just… It was a question where I came back from one hunting trip and went on another and forgot that I had put a knife in my backpack that I carry on board the plane. Fortunately, that was at home, so the TSA guy said, you can take that back out to your car or leave it here, and it was a new knife. I had time, I took it back out to my car. But a really good idea to check all your pockets and all your bags, especially if you're going to wear your hunting coat on the plane to save space the way a lot of people do. Make sure there's no ammunition left in there when you come back.

12:03 Chris Jennings Do you find it easier to fly with double guns over semi-autos or is there any preference there? Are you just going with what you got?

12:10 Phil Bourjaily I just go with, with what I, I want a gun that works, but, um, the cases I have are all takedown cases, so I can take whatever I want in them. Uh, I like a more compact gun case is nice. And I'd say wheels are the key thing. But now we're talking about, I flew into Mexico a few years ago, and it was to a shooting event, not a hunt. But this just speaks to knowing the regulations when you go to a foreign country. It was also, there was a three gun shoot held concurrent at the same event. And we had to register our guns and the serial numbers and everything with the Mexican military on the way down there, which we did. Except for one of the three gun competitors did not write down the serial number of his rifle scope, or maybe it might have been a red dot. I didn't even know they had serial numbers, but yeah, they do. And he was there for a long time. We were all back at the hotel and he came in several hours later after trying to straighten that out with the Mexican army. So, flying into other countries is harder, not Canada, but you just have to learn the rules ahead of time. And it's not a problem. And that just doubles the anxiety, especially when, in this case, we were being checked by the military, which was maybe even a little edgier, but it was all fine. They knew we were coming, except for this poor guy. Who had not copied the serial number of his red dot.

13:47 Chris Jennings Yeah, I would not think of that I've probably that they I mean, I wouldn't even understand why you would need to do that But I guess that's that's really why you should research the the country and most of these Have pretty good websites where you can get detailed information.

14:01 Phil Bourjaily I know Canada's really good about it The other thing you need to do if you take a gun out of the country is there's a customs form And I forget the number of it that you need to fill out. Because when you come back, and it's not just guns, it's anything of value. You need to be able to prove that everything you're bringing back is took out of the country, or you'll need to pay duty on it. So that's a form that not everybody knows about. But it's

14:28 Chris Jennings It's one you really need to have. Yeah, for people out there taking notes, it is CBP form 4457. You would think that I knew that right off the top of my head, but I actually just looked at your column and read it out. So yeah, it's something that you just have to, you know, you just have to be able to stay. You leave with it, you come back with it. I've filled out that form before many times and you just leave it in the case itself and they'll see it. And then in that way, you know, you don't have to pay duty on that or, you know, and it makes your process getting back into the U.S. a lot easier. So we, you know, we've covered, you know, the planning, you know, doing some research, we've covered, you know, packing, um, we've covered the cases. Now, one question I had for you, cause I did not do it. I never traveled, I never flew with a gun prior to 9-11. Now, did that, did you do that? And then how much has that process changed that you can remember?

15:28 Phil Bourjaily I can remember shooting ducks in North Dakota. and then driving really fast to the airport and just like running in and throwing my gun on the carousel and running onto the airplane. So yeah, it's different now. My plane, I remember that because we thought we were in time and the flight had been, they'd moved the flight time up. So I got to the airport and I was running. And I used to be able to run through airports too. And I was running and just, yeah, just pass it on. And then that was it. So it was quite a bit different. And you know, I remember my dad, Telling me that, you know, taking their gun on board an airplane and having the flight attendant asking Well, you know what's in the in the case and he said a shotgun and her saying is it loaded and him saying no It's not even put together and you know that she brought it on as a carry-on in the 60s. You could yeah But that was a long time ago. Yeah And uh, not the way we do things now. So yeah So I do remember that um and it's uh But, you know, air travel in general was, was a lot easier then.

16:37 Chris Jennings Now you, now you did mention that you traveled last week. What exactly were you going to do? And I just, I'm just curious as to what you were going to shoot at down in Texas.

16:45 Phil Bourjaily Uh, we went to San Antonio and then went about an hour Southwest and hunted white-winged doves.

16:52 Chris Jennings Nice. I've never done that.

16:54 Phil Bourjaily I hadn't either. And I want to do it again. Uh, they are, they are, you know, they fly higher and in flocks than and more often than morning doves do. And on a windy day, which we had the second day, they will hurt your feelings pretty badly. But it's a lot of fun and it's a big thing down there. A lot of people go down there to shoot whitewings. I'd never done it before. Really enjoy it. I really like dove hunting in general, but here at home we hunt morning doves over spinners, which is a totally different type of shooting and so this was this was fun to get a different a lot of high shots um Got me ready for duck season. So if it ever, if it ever rains here, I'll be able to shoot ducks when they skip up over top of the blind.

17:44 Chris Jennings Yeah. Before we get you out of here, I wanted to kind of run through that with you. Um, you are in Iowa, you know, we have gone around like a lot of the great lake states. We've done some of the central flyway updates here with John Pullman or Jay Anglin, uh, some of our contributors. Uh, but what is Iowa looking like right now? And I think I know the answer, but I, I, you know, I want to hear it from a local.

18:07 Phil Bourjaily Yeah, very dry. We have not, we're I think in our fourth year of a drought, and this is either the worst one or it's just been a cumulative effect. The ponds I hunt usually are completely dry. And unless we get a lot of rain this next month, they will be. And I'll be hunting on the river. Our reservoir, where a lot of people hunt nearby, is very low. It might be coming up. I think it's coming up a little bit, because there was finally some rain on upriver. But about 3 quarters of the state is in severe drought right now. It does not make it easy. The Mississippi, there will be ducks there. And there always are. But yeah, it's not looking too good for a lot of us. And I think some other parts of the state, some of the smaller wetlands up in northwest, north central Iowa, do have water. I know I talked to a friend of mine who had a great teal hunt up there early on. It doesn't take very much water to float a teal, though. So it doesn't look good for us, though, unless in these rains that, you know, keep hitting Minnesota and Wisconsin, they kind of miss us. So we're in a bad way right now.

19:21 Chris Jennings It sounds like you might have to just pack up your gun and travel, right?

19:25 Phil Bourjaily I think so. That is the plan is to hit the road and find some water and a dock somewhere this fall.

19:34 Chris Jennings Awesome. I was going to say, how does that impact your pheasant hunting? Because I know you really get into the pheasant hunting up there too. I do.

19:41 Phil Bourjaily Typically drought is not as bad for our birds as it is farther west. What was really hard on our pheasants is rain during the nesting and season when the chicks can get wet and die of exposure. We have a dry year, we usually do okay. And our numbers, not as much in my part of the state, but up along the Minnesota border are supposed to be really, really good this year by 21st century standards, which is not what it used to be, but still pretty good. So I may have to hit the road and find some pheasants too.

20:14 Chris Jennings Awesome. That sounds like that'll keep you busy for a little while while you're waiting on that rain for sure.

20:21 Phil Bourjaily I hope so. I don't have to wait. I hope I don't have to wait until next fall for that rain, but it's been a long time coming. We need it.

20:29 Chris Jennings Yes, you do. Like I said, I knew the answer to that, but I just wanted to get it verified by you. And I think John Pullman touched on it a little bit last week, but he's over in South Dakota. I think they've even had a little bit more rain over there than you guys have. Like you said, it's kind of skipping all around you. Yeah, it is. Well, cool, Phil, this has been great. You know, this is a good conversation to have any time of year, like I said, you know, traveling with a gun. We really kind of talked more on air travel, which is, you know, a lot of people are doing that now. It's a big business for waterfowlers to travel around the country and try different areas, try new experiences, and be sure to research. You know, domestically, you want to, you know, check out the specific airlines. Internationally, you definitely want to go. Every country has a website where you can get that information, but is there anything else that you can think of that, you know, waterfowl hunters this season need to keep in mind before they pack a bag and fly off with their gun?

21:26 Phil Bourjaily Specifically, no, but I'm going to say that if I'm going on a trip, I'm taking a 12 gauge just because there, I know a lot of people like to shoot the small gauge guns now, but It's universal. Uh, there'll be ammunition for it. If I don't, if I don't bring my own or I run out or whatever, somebody else will have it. Uh, so I'm gonna take a gun that works and a gun that shoots 12 gauge shells.

21:48 Chris Jennings Nice. That's a good point. 12 gauge, you know, much easier to get ammo. And typically you can borrow it from someone if you need it. If you don't, your ammo doesn't arrive or something like that, you know. If you're digging around trying to find somebody with 28 gauge, it may not be there. Exactly.

22:04 Phil Bourjaily And if I'm going with a group of people, we might not all take an extra gun, but one or two of us will. So we've got one in case somebody in the group has trouble, because it's not likely that they'll all break at once. So just, just one or two extras for the group. Now you'd hope so.

22:18 Chris Jennings Yeah, you would think. Well, Phil, this has been great. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about this and we'll probably have to get you back on here real quick as before you get out there pheasant hunting and hopefully you'll get some water so you can get some ducks. I hope so, too. Thank you very much. All right. Thanks, Phil. Take care. I'd like to thank my guest, Phil Bourjaily, Ducks Unlimited Magazine shotgunning columnist for coming on the show and talking about air travel with a firearm. Very important topic. I'd like to thank our producer, Chris Isaac, for putting the show together and getting it out to you. And I'd like to thank you, the listener, for joining us on DU Podcast and supporting wetlands conservation.