Shipping meat and horns-AA checked baggage vs AA air cargo

Matt79

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Guys,

This September two friends and I are hunting with renfros for 2 weeks. When I booked the trip couple years ago I researched getting the horns and meat home. Back then the cheapest and easiest way was to check it as extra luggage and have it with your flight on way home. That is the way I would still love to do this. Few months back I read that in 2021 they started allowing only one set of antlers per flight potentially? This really throws a wrench in our original plans.

Does anyone have real details on this topic and if they are really enforcing it? We don’t want to get to airport to check the antlers to be told they won’t take them on our flight. If so do your antlers just get put on next available flight? If put on another flight at later date, do they get held at your airport for pickup? Little confused on how to handle this and would like it cleared up before we go. There is little information on the topic on the Alaska air website.

Another option I’ve read about is using Alaska air cargo, and then we wouldn’t have to worry about then not shipping with us. Can anyone give me info on this option and how it works. I’ve read it’s similar cost to shipping as luggage.

All information on the topic you can provide me is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Matt
 

wildwilderness

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You should call AK Air Cargo for the right answer. I have seen antlers as checked baggage, but don’t know about limits.

In Anchorage the Cargo drop is a separate location right by the main airport so that would be easy enough if you are a “known shipper” unless the cargo shipment is entirely within ALaska then you don’t have to sign up. The antlers would most likely arrive on a different flight though.
 

AKDoc

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I've not heard what and if there will be antler restrictions with Alaska Airlines this fall...last year was the first I've ever seen that, and I'm not sure how consistently they enforced it. I'd bet they don't do that this year, but you should have a Plan B just in case.

Look into Alaska Air Cargo as a Plan B. Check-out the website and see how closely they will ship to where you live. If all of that looks doable, then become a known shipper in advance...it's not a hard process. In Bethel the Alaska Air Cargo office is in the same building as the passenger terminal (you just go into the left door instead of the right!). I've shipped moose meat to friends several times over the years, and they do a great job.

I'll be going out with Renfro for two-weeks this Sept as well. You are going to a great moose hunting location!

Edit: Sorry to be redundant...you got some good feedback from others while I was typing and sent my response!
 
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live2huntelk

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Talk to Sharon about using Renfro's Alaska Air Cargo known shipper for shipping your antlers. I believe she offered that up to hunters last year after the unexpected change from Alaska Airlines. Other friends of mine used my Alaska Air Cargo known shipper account last year hunting with Renfros. The person shipping the antlers pays at counter when checking your antlers and/or meat at Alaska Air Cargo with a credit card. Renfros has a person that will wrap the antlers at the hanger for a fee or you can purchase materials and wrap your own prior to taking them to Alaska Air Cargo. If interested in more details PM me.
 

Kevin Dill

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I'll strongly advise you to have 2 GOOD plans for shipping stuff home, in case one of them falls through. And personally, a third possible option isn't a bad idea to have in your pocket.
 

william schmaltz

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A lot of talk about this last year but not sure how it ever played out. Worth the call to see if it's still in place. I asked an AK Airlines lady in Anchorage mid September about it and she had no idea what I was talking about. She asked about a dozen people around her and they all gave me the same look. Said she's been checking all kinds of antlers to the same destinations over the last month. She went as far as pulling out the handbook and said she couldn't find anything. What happened once they were past her, who knows though. I would call numerous offices and try to get the same answer before trusting it.

Shipping, checking as luggage, and AK trophy express are all good options but the best depends on where you live, how much meat you're brining back with you, and what your plan is for processing. If you're nowhere near an AK airlines cargo office then shipping probably gets scratched. If you have one where you live, it's probably the best option - especially if the outfitter lets you use their known shipper number. Or get a known shipper number and ship stuff up and make life really easy. Last I looked into getting a known shipper number it was $275 for them to do the confirmation for me. That cost probably varies vastly depending on where you live. Someone also mentioned some sort of work around it if you're a business owner. Worth looking into. Shipping is by far the easiest IMO. You watch it go into the freezer or cooler when you drop it off. You fly home and just go straight home and sleep or prep your working space while your meat is safe in the freezer at the cargo office until you're ready to pick it up over the next couple of days. There is no rush or hauling around heavy boxes. It's just nice that way. It's cheap too, backhaul out of Bethel is pennies.

My buddies that have come to hunt are 6 hours from the closes AA cargo office and they want their whole moose so they go with the Alaska Trophy Express option. They have had no complaints. The only problem is that the closest AK trophy express gets to them is also 6 hours away. But the pickup is typically in October when it's plenty cold outside. We always ship the whole moose to Anchorage by Everetts and then take it over to where AK Trophy Express has a pickup location (freezer). Not sure how it works if you're not dropping off in Anchorage (or another pickup location). I know NAC was one of the pickup locations, but shipping moose meat has turned into a nightmare with them over the last few years. If you go with NAC from Bethel, make sure you call them and call again. They have crazy rules and I'm not even sure moose antlers would fit in them stupid boxes they make people use now.

I fly with meat as checked baggage several times a year and it's a great option. I've only had to deal with a couple coolers at most and that's about all I want to deal with. But you have to deal with it the minute you get home and there is always that chance that it sits on the ramp for a couple days. You could always check your meat if you really want to go that route and then use AK trophy express or cargo the antlers back. Or any other combination.

I prefer to ship everything. I ship everything out so I only have optics, batteries, and a gun when I get on and off the plane and everything is ready at the hangar before I'm even there. No stress. Then on the way home I bring the same stuff on the plane. I get home and spend a day with my family and get my garage and processing items ready on my time. That way I'm not stressed if the weather isn't cooperating (warm) and I can hang with the little people that I've just spent 10 days away from. Pick up cold meat from cargo a day or two later and start processing.

You have plenty of options and it's not as stressful or complicated as people make it. Don't overthink it!
 

ReinsuranceShooter

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Happy to share whatever intel I can but live2hunt was on point. My brother and I used a known shipper number and went Alaska air cargo - just over $1k for 2 sets of antlers / euro style and about 850lbs of meat. Renfro took us to Alaska cargo in bethel the day of our flight early for cargo drop and we picked up the meat the next day at the Alaska air cargo terminal in Seattle.

13 Rubbermaid totes of meat and 2 skulls ready to head home. It was pretty darn slick. I stressed like hell over it the entire trip but was shocked with how well it went. Next time I won’t give it a seconds thought. While the locals will put good use to the meat, I am all about taking home what I can and enjoying it - it is tasty stuff and as natural as you will find.
 

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mnydir

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My uncle and I both shot moose last fall and they both came home as checked baggage on our flight along with capes and meat. Air cargo is kind of a joke in some ways. It's the exact same plane but usually more expensive then if you have an Alaska airlines credit card. But a lot depends on where in Alaska you're departing from and if you are taking all the meat with you.
 

HuntHarder

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This is my plan
I used them 2 years ago from AK to Phx. It was a little Spendy, but overall a fairly painless venture. I was very fortunate in that, a couple other guys hunting with the same outfitter lived less than 20 miles from me back in AZ. Us 3 all spit a shipping box that consisted of capes and horns. The meat I was able to check as baggage on Alaska air.
 

Panhandler80

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I used them 2 years ago from AK to Phx. It was a little Spendy, but overall a fairly painless venture. I was very fortunate in that, a couple other guys hunting with the same outfitter lived less than 20 miles from me back in AZ. Us 3 all spit a shipping box that consisted of capes and horns. The meat I was able to check as baggage on Alaska air.
Sent them $300 last week.
 

Panhandler80

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Sent them $300 last week.
Last year they dropped one off in South Georgia which is not bad for me. Not great but not bad 3 1/2 hours one-way. My sister Liz halfway there. And a great taxidermist in her town. Pick up my antlers cape and meet and drop off the mound an hour and a half from my house. Not bad for $1000. Transport wise. There’s no Alaska air option for me. Unless I drove to Atlanta. And I’m going to book a independent flight from Anchorage to mime next spot. So I guess my point is there is no putting my meat on a Alaska Air flight to come home. And for the cost of parking Atlanta two weeks it’s a no brainer
 

solo06

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Went on a moose and caribou hunt this past fall, so I also researched this a fair amount. Flew out of Fairbanks, all flights/connections by Alaska Airlines to home. I know that different airlines can handle these issues differently and AA isn't always an option depending on your home airport.

Regarding the known shipper number, if you're using a planning/guided service, they will probably provide you with theirs if you ask (ours did). Or, if you use a local taxidermist in AK (we rented freezer space from one), they may also offer this to you (ours did). I wouldn't go through the hassle or especially the expense to get a known shipper number if you can just use one from one of the services you're already using (guide, taxidermist, etc.).

When I looked into using Alaska Airlines for checked bags versus air cargo, they calculate the cost a little differently, but were really close in total cost, as others have mentioned. I believe air cargo was slightly more. Personally, since air cargo had to be dropped at a different location and the cost was close (if not more expensive), I didn't see the point in using AA air cargo. I checked a ridiculous number of checked items and everything was accepted and arrived smoothly.

I had also heard about antler restrictions on AA flights, and being on a first-come first-served basis. I was also nervous when standing in line to check in for my flight and saw 4 caribou racks in line in front of me. But, when I got to the counter, everything checked without any difficulties. No issue with multiple racks on the same flight (I saw the same hunters on the plane with me, and my antlers, checked after theirs, arrived without delay).

I had caribou antlers, and had the taxidermist split them because I heard that you had to do this for AA to take them. That was also part of the pitch for using Alaska Trophy Express (which we didn't use), because using this service avoids having to split your antlers like the airline supposedly requires. But, standing in line, I quickly noticed that the 4 caribou racks in front of me were not split, since they were all well-wrapped European mounts. After checking mine, I asked if there would have been any issue if I had brought un-split antlers like those others, and the AA representative just acknowledged that split antlers like mine take up a little less space, but all antlers are ultimately accepted. In the pictures above, I'm also noticing unsplit moose antlers that flew home. After that experience, I'm left wondering why anyone would split their antlers.

Also keep in mind that your first 2 checked bags have to be under 50 lbs. and under 62" linear to avoid an extra weight/size fee on those 2 bags, but the third checked bag and beyond are all $100 each, regardless of size and weight (up to 100 lbs. and up to 115" linear). So, don't worry about keeping those additional meat boxes, luggage, etc. all under 50 lbs. each and small in size, even though they're checked bags, or it will cost you a lot more in shipping at $100 each for those. It's costing you $100 each anyway (bag 3 and beyond), so load those containers up to just under 100 lbs., and 115" linear is really huge.
 

No Saint Thomas

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Consider becoming a known shipper. It will allow you to transport your items on passenger aircraft outside of the normal baggage.
 

Akirie

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The 100lb bag note above is key. Max your free 50lb bags then make every extra bag 99lbs for $100.

Also, invest in a quality 2 gun case to combine your partners gun and free up a free bag. Pistols can go in the gear bag as long as they are declared and in a proper case (double check rules haven't changed).

Pretty simple approach and works for me since I'm not near a cargo location.
 

Horby

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Ok I have all the questions. This is a topic we are really stressing about. A group of us are booked to be caribou hunting September 2023. We are trying to get answers on our options for flying meat and antlers back as checked baggage. We are coming from North Dakota and don't have Alaska Air as an option. I have tried to get straight answers from both Alaska Air out of Billings (Closest terminal) or Delta Airlines out of Bismarck with very little confidence in their answers. Options we are looking at: Driving to Billings to fly Alaska Air, thinking this may be easier for flying with meat and antlers, or flying out of Bismarck with Delta Airlines. Does anyone have any recommendations? Has anyone had any experience with Delta? It would be slightly more expensive plus the extra day of traveling to fly out of Billings but if it will prevent a hassle we are willing to go this route.
 

z987k

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Ok I have all the questions. This is a topic we are really stressing about. A group of us are booked to be caribou hunting September 2023. We are trying to get answers on our options for flying meat and antlers back as checked baggage. We are coming from North Dakota and don't have Alaska Air as an option. I have tried to get straight answers from both Alaska Air out of Billings (Closest terminal) or Delta Airlines out of Bismarck with very little confidence in their answers. Options we are looking at: Driving to Billings to fly Alaska Air, thinking this may be easier for flying with meat and antlers, or flying out of Bismarck with Delta Airlines. Does anyone have any recommendations? Has anyone had any experience with Delta? It would be slightly more expensive plus the extra day of traveling to fly out of Billings but if it will prevent a hassle we are willing to go this route.
Don't know if it helps you but Alaska code shares with American should they fly somewhere closer to you.

Also, the thread title.... AA is American Airlines. AS is Alaska Airlines.
 

Kevin Dill

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Ok I have all the questions. This is a topic we are really stressing about. A group of us are booked to be caribou hunting September 2023. We are trying to get answers on our options for flying meat and antlers back as checked baggage. We are coming from North Dakota and don't have Alaska Air as an option. I have tried to get straight answers from both Alaska Air out of Billings (Closest terminal) or Delta Airlines out of Bismarck with very little confidence in their answers. Options we are looking at: Driving to Billings to fly Alaska Air, thinking this may be easier for flying with meat and antlers, or flying out of Bismarck with Delta Airlines. Does anyone have any recommendations? Has anyone had any experience with Delta? It would be slightly more expensive plus the extra day of traveling to fly out of Billings but if it will prevent a hassle we are willing to go this route.
I know nothing about the specifics of your trip, but I may be about to throw a wrench in your gears. Consider that most hunters want every hunting day possible right up to the day they are picked up from camp. Then it's typically a flurry of get back to town, get the gear repacked, deal with meat and antlers....then head home. However, what happens if you kill a great velvet bull the last day in camp? If your meat and antlers go out the day before or same day you do, you'll have little to no time to get all of it cleaned up, protected, frozen, boxed and so on so that it's good to fly with. Don't even think about heading home with meat that isn't well frozen or antlers that have any potential to leak blood.

Getting meat and antlers ready to fly home will involve you, your pilot, maybe another entity in town (or village) and the airlines. You'll need to understand every step of the process in order to make it happen in very short time.
 
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