Apr 13, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
Got a bear hunt coming up in late May up in Quebec. It would be a blast to take a smokepole on this trip. Hunting black bear over bait, shots inside 100 yards, is a great set up for a .50 caliber muzzleloader. Big hole going in; big hole coming out; but I’m not taking the frontloader. I have to fly into Ottawa where the outfitter will pick us up for transport to camp.
The best advice about flying with black powder and the components necessary to make a muzzle loading firearm shoot is … just don’t! It’s just too much of a pain in the butt, and it can get you in serious, federal-prison-kind-of-trouble even if there’s simply a misinterpretation of the law.
It’s illegal to bring black powder or a black powder substitute aboard a commercial flight whether it’s in carry on or checked baggage. Same goes for components like primers or percussion caps. All of these are classified as explosives, and no one wants anyone bringing explosives on airlines these days.
Of course, any one with a lick of sense knows bullets are inert, but as soon as an airline agent or a run-of-the-mill TSA agent hears or sees the word “bullets” when you go to explaining what they are, you’re setting yourself up for a tough day of travel.
Yet you see the globe-trotting television hunters using muzzleloaders all the time in far off, remote hunting locations. I sometimes do it, too, but it requires careful planning of logistics well ahead – like months ahead – of a hunt. And sometimes, like the bear hunt coming up in Quebec, I just don’t want to have to worry that we’re going to be able to “make the hunt happen.” Acquiring or planning to acquire muzzleloader components in a remote location is just one more logistical moving piece you have to worry about.
One option is to make arrangements to purchase powder and components at the last possible outpost of civilization before heading into camp. For example, on Quebec’s caribou hunts in the Far North nearly all hunters go into Kujjuuaqq before heading off into the bush for outfitters’ individual camps. It is possible to have powder and components set aside for you at one of the general stores in town if you make arrangements to get them in the spring of the year of your fall hunt. All supplies are ferried into Kujjuaqq on barges during the brief summer months, so you must have your order placed before those barges are loaded just as all the outfitters do.
Another option is to have your outfitter or guide acquire the powder and components for you. If you go this route, quadruple check to make sure they get the right things. I had a bear hunt in New Foundland a few years back I wanted to do with a muzzleloader. The outfitter assured me they’d have 50-grain equivalent Pyrodex pellets waiting for me in camp. When I arrived, they had Pyrodex alright, but in powder form. Taking the outfitter at his word, I’d not brought along a powder measure. Fortunately a hunter the previous season had left about a dozen pellets in camp in a ziplock baggy the previous season. It gave me just enough shots to check the zero on my rifle, take a bear and recreate a shot for taping purposes! That’s cutting it too close for me.
Another great way to put muzzleloading supplies where you need them is to order the components from a cataloger like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops and have them shipped directly to the outfitter or camp. This works great in the United States, but gets dicey on foreign soil as the laws about international shipping of “hazardous materials” is even more complex and convoluted than flying with them!
Bottom line: Muzzleloader hunting at locations to which you must fly is not impossible. It’s just darned difficult and time-consuming. You’ve got to really want to do it and plan plenty of back ups.
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