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HUNTERS ALLOWED TO TRANSPORT FIREARMS VIA AIRLINES

PIERRE - With pheasant season fast approaching, hunters in South Dakota and across the country are reminded that they can transport firearms via airlines.

According to Regional Habitat Manager Steve Vanderbeek of Sioux Falls, security is understandably tight in airports and on airlines, and there are some common-sense rules for hunters to follow when transporting their firearms.

"The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) requires passengers carrying firearms in checked baggage to declare their firearms," he said. "When arriving at the ticket counter, one will be handed a small card to sign and date, declaring that the firearm is unloaded. Unless further inspection is requested, all one needs 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. One of these cards must be completed each day a person travels, as it is not valid for a round trip. It is always prudent to contact officials with your airline in advance to determine if there are any additional requirements mandated by that airline."

Vanderbeek 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.

It is unnecessary that one would have to remove the gun to prove it is unloaded. "In fact, there will be security guards posted around the airport, and it would not be wise to uncase your firearm, unless requested to do so," Vanderbeek said. " Hunters are also warned not to make any off-hand remarks or humorous comments about firearms. Any such comments will be treated seriously, and the TSA will prosecute any violations."

Another important note is that TSA regulations forbid people from carrying any firearms parts on them while travelling on an airplane. Thus, all gun parts (choke tubes and magazines) must be stored in the case or in luggage. Hunters should also prepare their firearm for air transportation by casing the gun with the action open and facing up; disassembling the firearm as much as possible; keeping the key to the gun case readily accessible and making sure the gun case is securely fastened.

Ammunition is allowed as checked baggage, but some airlines have weight restrictions as to how much ammunition they can transport. Hunters must declare all ammunition being transported. Ammunition should be transported in its full, original manufacturer’s container or a container specifically intended for storing ammunition. Do not leave or store any ammunition in a firearm’s magazine.

"Also, do not carry knives or any cutting devices on your person or as part of carry-on baggage," Vanderbeek advised. "Pack all cutting devices with your checked luggage."

Sportsmen are again encouraged to check with their local airline officials in advance of travel to make sure they have followed the intent of all regulations. They are also reminded to arrive at the airport well in advance of their departure time to allow for the extra security measures they will face there. TSA has indicated that they will post signs in busy hunting destination airports, such as Sioux Falls, with instructions for how to handle, declare and get firearms loaded as luggage.

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