Traveling with a crossbow leads to great adventure. Here’s how to get there wisely and safely.
The elk trip had been planned for months. Finally, reaching camp, I had just enough time to cock the bow and take a practice shot. With target deployed, I turned the crank to bring back the limbs, when suddenly I heard a strange metallic sound. Suddenly, the crank didn’t work, and the bow was too powerful to cock by hand.
I’d flown the bow fully assembled in a large bow case and had no idea what had happened. Surely TSA opened it before boarding. Had they fooled with it? Perhaps dry-fired if for fun? I’ll never know what happened on that flight to Colorado, yet I’m extra cautious about flying and traveling with crossbows.
Disassemble if you Can
Most crossbow cases are large and cumbersome. Yes, they protect your bow, but may incur increased airport fees or don’t fit easily in a car trunk or with other gear. Traditional crossbows have a single limb bolt that attaches the riser to the barrel of the stock. If your model operates this way, it’s best to remove the bolt and then reinsert it into the stock for travel. This helps assure that it doesn’t get lost in transit. Once done, your bow will fit in almost any standard bow case or some gun cases.
Once the bow is disassembled, I lay one or two side-by-side and use slip-ties to hold them against a foam pad in the bottom of my Cabela’s two-compartment bag. In this way, the scope is held snugly against the foam pad and the cables, string, and limb assembly are protected from excessive vibration. Make sure that you carry the proper Allen wrenches to reassemble the bow. I’ve found that my bows shoot exactly as before using this method.
One Piece Bows
If you bow does not disassemble, you will need a traditional hard crossbow case. Even inside one of these sturdy cases, it’s best to pad your strings and scope against vibration. If you bow comes with a soft case, you may want to place it inside of the hard case for double protection against vibration. Once you turn your bow over to the TSA, you want to take extra precautions against vibration and wear. You can never be sure that the person inspecting your bow isn’t an anti-hunter and willing to sabotage your gear.
Another option is to heavily pad your bow and fly or travel it in a roller bag. This is a bit riskier but works well if you are driving and have control of your bow. The limbs of most crossbows make a perfect “clothes tree” such that you can zip your jacket over the limbs as if dressing a manikin. I begin with a down coat and other soft clothing and end up with my outer hunting coat. I put a foam pad under the bow and use other gear in the bag to keep the bow from being crushed.
The Redneck Pack
Since most crossbows come with rifle sling studs, I’ve learned to adapt this “redneck” packing design to protect my bow. When elk hunting, I often leave camp a full hour before daylight and must crawl over deadfalls and through dense underbrush. With the bow over my shoulder it’s easy for the bowstring or cables to be ripped by branches or arrows to become dislodge from their quiver. Since it’s usually cold in the mountains, I zip my heavy outer coat over the bow so that it’s completely protected from thorns and nasty branches. In this way, I can climb and move without becoming sweaty and I’m confident that my bow is out of harms way.
New Contoured Options
Look for TenPoint to greatly assist traveling hunters with contoured cases that are a fraction of the size of traditional crossbow protection. Also, the cases are much lighter than traditional models and will make travel safer and easier. These rigid, water-resistant cases feature an extremely durable shell, as well as a velvet interior for added protection. The interior of the case includes two hook and loop straps to secure the crossbow during travel, and storage for a quiver that also includes straps. An integrated stirrup pass-thru with storm flap allows you to hang the crossbow, in the case, for easy storage.
If used with TSA approved locks, the case is TSA compliant. Use the padding tips above and you’ll be set to go. Have crossbow… will travel.