Shipping fish, game, and trophies in Alaska
Shipping fish or game out of Alaska? One of the best parts about hunting or fishing in Alaska is getting your meat and trophy out of the field and back home so you can share stories of the adventure with your friends and family over fresh salmon fillets or a nice moose steak hot off the grill. Unfortunately, that can also be the most time-consuming part as well. We’ve gathered some tips from our experiences to hopefully make it easier for you on your next trip.
Getting Your Trophy Out of the Field
▪ If you are doing a DIY hunt, make sure to label all your meat and bags with noticeable tagging. Your tags should have your name and phone number on them or the contact info and name of the person or company picking them up at the cargo or airport destination.
▪ Keep count of how many tags you put on your things so when picking it up you know if anything is missing. (Example: 1 of 5 on a tag will let you or the person picking it up know if they should be picking up 5 bags). If you are with an outfitter or guide rest assured that most outfitters will help with trophy prep before leaving the lodge.
▪ Rural destinations and remote hunts operate under different flight guidelines and things like weather and accessibility can mean that sometimes only half of your trophy will make it back on a flight. Sometimes it can take two or more trips before everything is back.
▪ Make sure you plan on a few extra days in town after your trip to wait on your trophies to arrive. Most often everything arrives on time and goes smoothly but you want to have a cushion just in case it doesn’t to avoid all the airline change fees. If you are tight on time and need to fly out before your trophies are in, you can contact companies like AK Trophy Expediters who will pick-up all your meat and trophies and get it all ready for shipping.
▪ Make sure when you are shipping meat quarters and other meat to have clean game bags when dropping them off. Most rural companies or bush pilots won’t let bloody bags in their planes. Also make sure to cover all the tips and sharp edges on your trophy before putting in the bush plane. This will make pilots happy and protect your trophy from damage.
▪ If you do use a separate company in town to pick up your trophy, make sure to notify them on everything that’s coming in and send a picture if possible of the trophy just in case tags come off. This way they can verify which is yours. This can happen due to poor tagging and you don’t want all of your hard work to get mislabeled.
▪ Also, if you use a private bush-plane company to haul out your trophy, make sure they have the contact info of the person picking up the trophy so they can give them a heads up of when they will be landing since bush flights have many variables. Most bush pilots do not have the time to wait around until somebody shows up. So this just ensures everything gets picked up as smoothly as possible.
Shipping Hunting Trophies Out of State
▪ If you are having a mount made, shipping your trophy directly to your taxidermist will save you money and time. Talk with your taxidermist before your hunt to see how they want everything prepared for your mount. Cutting the skull plate will save you lots of money on shipping for big-antlered animals, so make sure to ask how your taxidermist prefers the skull plate be cut. Make sure to have the taxidermist’s address and contact info on you so you can easily pass along that info to a shipper.
▪ If you plan on having a European mount made, it is common to find a taxidermist in Alaska to do the work. If you are having someone do your European mount out of state you will need to have the skull prepped for shipping before sending it. The skull will need to be free of all meat and hide remnants.
▪ When you ship hides, make sure they are prepped for shipping. Ship hides in a styrofoam fish box or a tote and make sure, if possible, to keep them frozen before shipping. When shipping antlers home make sure they are prepped, and all the tips are covered. This will help avoid damage.
▪ When shipping game meat out of state, make sure to have all the meat deboned to save on shipping costs. If you plan on doing the processing yourself, you may want to look into having the meat deboned at a local meat processor then put into styrofoam fish boxes or a cooler for shipping. Depending on how much meat you have you can check your cooler in as checked luggage which is usually much cheaper than having it shipped. If you are not planning to process the meat yourself you can drop your meat off (or have it dropped off) at a local processor and then have the finished product shipped to you at home.
▪ There are many different options when shipping out of Alaska depending on where you live. It really comes down to how much money you are willing to spend and how long you can wait for the trophy to arrive. Some options for shipping include: Checked luggage on your airline, Alaska Air Cargo, UPS, FedEX, and smaller trucking companies.
▪ Regardless of which option you are using to ship it’s a very good idea to call and see what their size restrictions are so that you make sure to box up your trophy accordingly. Also if you plan on using a trucking company, call and check that they allow animal trophies as some don’t due to insurance reasons.
▪ Make sure fish it is packed in a styrofoam fish box that is the right size. You want it to be able to hold all of your fillets, but not have a lot of extra room. If a box is too big, it is not efficient as an insulated space to keep the fish cold, and it also costs more money to ship.
▪ The cheapest way to get fish home is on the airplane with you. A good trick to save money on shipping is to ship home your clothes in a flat rate postal box and take your fish home on the plane.
▪ If you can’t take your fish with you on the plane due to long connections or such, then overnight shipping is always the best option. UPS and FedEx are the most common shipping companies from Alaska for frozen things.
▪ Since it is so essential to make sure your fillets stay frozen, make sure they have plenty of time to get frozen solid before you leave. It’s also a good idea to wait to ship your fish until you know somebody will be home to receive it and get it in the freezer. The best days to ship are Monday through Wednesday because if it gets delayed for any reason there are generally not freezers in the Lower 48 cargo hubs and you don’t want frozen fish to sit too long.
▪ If you are planning to ship to Canada, plan on two days for UPS delivery due to Customs. Customs will call or email you so be sure to give correct contact info so your package is not delayed.
▪ If you are RVing or camping in Alaska after you fish, make sure to drop off your fish in a cold storage facility to store it while you are traveling in state. Most fish processors will hold fish for a week after processing, and some can ship for you. If you are staying in a hotel for the remainder of your stay make sure to ask if they have a freezer on site to store your fish in for free.
Nick Ploesser is an avid outdoorsman and owner of AK Trophy Expediters. He can be reached at AkTrophyExpeditersLLC@hotmail.com.