The Dangers of Flying with Food

If there has ever been a government agency more reviled and renounced that the Internal Revenue Service, it's the Transportation Security Administration. Tasked with making flying safer, the TSA has instead made a trip to the airport nothing short of a miserable nightmare. Overbearing and seemingly incongruous rules (Why can I keep my belt on at some airports but not others? Why is 3 ounces of shampoo deemed safe, but 4 ounces potentially deadly?) create what is at best an illusion of safety.

Now personally, I've haven't had much problem with the TSA. Mostly it's just the inconvenience that's annoying, but I have had a couple things come up missing out of my checked bags the past few years, including a hunting knife. Proving they were stolen is impossible, but I have my suspicions. However, Field & Stream contributor and Mid-South Rut Report Will Brantley recently lost something more important than that to what he suspects is the TSA - nearly a cooler full of deer meat. Brantley carefully prepped and froze the meat from his first-ever mule deer, packed it into a cooler, taped it shut and entrusted it to the airline (and ultimately, the TSA) for the return trip to Kentucky. What he got instead when he picked up his luggage when he landed was a cooler nearly empty of its contents. We both believe somewhere between Denver and Kentucky an unscrupulous TSA agent or baggage ape is enjoying some fresh mule deer backstraps this week.

Denver International is my "home" airport and I fly out of there a lot. I've brought hundreds of pounds of fish and wild game through there over the years, as well as lots of guns and other gear and generally both the TSA and airline representatives are if not knowledgeable about hunting, at least not overtly hostile about it. However, that's little reassurance to Brantley and his missing backstraps.

On my most recent trip, a lazy TSA agent did just about cause a catastrophe in my duffle bag. In Newfoundland, I picked up a jar of homemade mustard pickles from the meat processor, carefully wrapped it in several layers of fleece and tucked away the package deep inside a stuff sack of hunting clothes. At home, I found the jar had been pulled from its cushioned nest and left lying on top of everything in the bag, just begging to be broken. Lucky for me, it survived and the only thing that made me feel better about the episode is the knowledge that that same bumbling TSA agent had also unwrapped the plastic trash bag containing a sodden pair of Schnee's boots that reeked of a powerfully pungent combination of bog water and moose blood.