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

Horby

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Dec 7, 2020
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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.
Well I appreciate that tidbit, these are the steps of the process I'm trying to digest. As of now if we hunt up to the last day of our planned 6 day hunting trip we don't leave Kotzebue for 2 days after we come out of the field. I am trying to figure out where we can rent or use freezer space in town.
 

Horby

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Dec 7, 2020
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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.
Thank you for the clarification, I will definitely take this information and see what I can come up with.
 

Kevin Dill

Well Known Rokslider
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Aug 26, 2014
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A timesaver to consider:

Bring a few extra meat bags and a good digital baggage (hand) scale to the field. Also bring good labels and a sharpie marker. At the kill site or back at your meat cache, sort and bag the meat according to shoulder, hind, neck etc. Trim as necessary and make those bags weigh in at 50# or just under each. Label the contents of each bag and be sure you have some easy way for you or someone else to know which bags (if not all) you are taking home. When your meat gets back to town those 50# bags can go directly into a box or tote for freezing, with the goal of each meat box weighing 100# or less. Every hour in the freezer helps, and saves you time and effort during the turnaround.

Unless you have lots of extra time in town, I wouldn't spend any of it trimming and cutting up meat. Get it in the coldest possible freezer and let it get (hopefully) rock solid. Thaw it back home and do the processing there.

Digital scales like the ones I mentioned are available on Amazon for under $20. Don't waste money on a more expensive fish scale or such unless you have one. The best labels I've used for meat bags are plastic tree/shrub tables as used by nurseries. They're bright, tough and easy to write on. Attach them with zip ties.
 

Airohunter

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Apr 7, 2020
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Well I appreciate that tidbit, these are the steps of the process I'm trying to digest. As of now if we hunt up to the last day of our planned 6 day hunting trip we don't leave Kotzebue for 2 days after we come out of the field. I am trying to figure out where we can rent or use freezer space in town.
Just hunted Bou in Kotz last year. I can tell you Freezer space is very limited. We booked at the Hotel for that specific privilege but Bears ate all our meat so.....Also Alaska Air was only hauling one set of Antlers per day last year, unsure exactly why but most hunters used an alternative method. I live near an airport so I went ahead and shipped mine on standby, as it worked out they made the flight with the rest of my luggage.
 

william schmaltz

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Nov 3, 2017
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Well I appreciate that tidbit, these are the steps of the process I'm trying to digest. As of now if we hunt up to the last day of our planned 6 day hunting trip we don't leave Kotzebue for 2 days after we come out of the field. I am trying to figure out where we can rent or use freezer space in town.
Hey man, Bismarck is my old stomping grounds so we still travel there at least once a year. I've had several friends/family come and hunt out of that airport. Several have checked meat and antlers directly from ANC on Delta without issues. Others have just done the AK Trophy Express route. Trophy Express has pickups in Billings and Belle Fourche so a couple guys can easily make the run in a day.

A different option you never listed that you could look into would be AK Air Cargo your meat and antlers to Anchorage and it would be in the freezer; then fly to ANC and do a rental vehicle/uber/hotel if needed and pick up your cargo and check it all Delta directly to Bismarck. Bigger PITA and sucks to have to deal with TSA twice and all the other expenses, but it still may be much cheaper than trophy express and then having to drive 6 hours to pickup or flying directly out of Minneapolis or Billings. It may cost $400 in fuel alone to do that trip in 2023! And it's probably cheaper doing that than spending a couple nights in OTZ.

I feel ya how much it sucks flying in and out of Bismarck. I'll be a very happy man the day AK airlines starts flying in there!
 

Horby

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Dec 7, 2020
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Hey William, thanks for the information. I really like your pointer about going with NAC from Kotzebue to Anchorage. I’ll look into that route and then going as checked baggage from anchorage back to Bismarck. I may have some other questions too if you don’t mind later. Do you by chance have any relation to the Schmaltz’s from Anamoose
 

JennB

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Jul 10, 2022
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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.
Thank you so much for this information. My husband and I are headed to AK the first week of September for our first DIY Caribou drop hunt and I’m scouring this forum for answers to all of my questions. This was super helpful!
 

PA Hunter

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Dec 29, 2018
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We used Alaska Alaska Trophy Express last year on our moose, we just didnt feel like dealing with all the aggravation & worry. It worked great for us just another option.
 

Kevin Dill

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Aug 26, 2014
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When it comes down to the logistics of getting meat home I tend to break it down into 3 periods or stages:

1: Field period. Animal butchered and meat bagged. What things can you be doing now to help speed up or ease meat handling once it leaves the field? Meat is clean and ready to transport.

2: Transition period. Pilot takes meat to what location? Who handles it there? How do they typically deal with it? You arrive back in town and must assume responsibility for your meat. It has to be boxed correctly and frozen if you'll take it with you as baggage. If it's getting shipped later, you'll need to be sure it is correctly prepared and handed off to the shipper.

3: Shipping period: The meat is ready to ship. This could mean boxed or in totes and frozen. Or it could mean it's in the meat bags and they are correctly labeled for the shipper to handle. It may or may not be frozen before you leave for home. If not shipping it yourself or taking it as excess baggage, you have to tie up all loose ends with your shipper and count on them to do the job of getting it on a plane or truck for you.

The same is true for any antlers or euro skulls you bring out. Prep work and time can be very important. Reading the above 3 period descriptions; you generally need to be able to answer every question before you leave home for your hunt. Waiting until you get there is NOT a strategy...period. You can also think of all this as a road map. There are typically options and it's good to know what those are...how to adapt if needed.
 
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