by Bill Miller
Are you headed to Quebec soon to enjoy a great hunting trip for caribou, moose, black bear, whitetail or small game or waterfowl? Start the adventure with low stress travel by following these quick tips.
Put Your Paperwork in Order
Much as we don’t like it, there is always paperwork involved, whether you’re staying in the States or going just next door to Canada. Do you have your hunting license? Do you know the arrangements for acquiring it? Some hunts require purchasing the license “on-line” with enough time for them to mail you the paper licenses and tags.
Are you taking a dog with you? Make sure Scout’s vaccination records and health certificate is up to date and in the glove box of your vehicle — you can be asked to produce proof of vaccinations in the field, and fined if you cannot. There are specific, additional health certificates required for crossing the border into Canada … and back.
When you travel to Canada, you’ll need to register your firearms at customs. While this paperwork and payment is best handled right there as you cross the border, you should check out the website http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/pub/bsf5044-eng.html.
If you’re going on an outfitted/guided hunt, the best source of information to ensure you have the correct documentation or, at least, information to complete paperwork enroute, is your outfitter.
Leave Plenty of Time
Whether traveling by vehicle or airlines, it’s a stress saver to allow plenty of extra time to deal with the unexpected issues that nearly always crop up. If possible, add 50% to anticipated time schedules. So, if you normally get to the airport two hours ahead of your flight, make it three hours for your hunting travel. If it looks like the drive to camp will take 10 hours on the road, plan 15.
It sounds difficult, but if you do this, you’ll arrive in camp much more rested, relaxed and ready to enjoy a great hunt. Few things are as detrimental to enjoyment of a long anticipated hunt than arriving late and starting it tired and harried. Another time tip is to insist your travel agent plan a flight itinerary that allows a minimum of two hours on any layover. Relying on short layovers greatly ups the odds of missing flights and of being separated from your checked bags (including your gun or bow!)
Also, if you’re flying, try never to book the last flight of the day. If something prevents you from making an early morning flight, you have all day to catch another. However, if you miss the last flight, you’re definitely staying overnight!
Make Your Gear Recognizable to You
When I used to travel a great deal on airlines with my hunting dogs, I always insisted they wear some uniquely colored collar — hot pink for example. That way I figured if the dog was some how let loose on the tarmac, I would know instantly if it was my dog.
Same goes for all checked bags, especially gun and bow cases. Mark yours so you can identify it at a distance. While it’s a good idea if your hunting gear can travel incognito, looking like golf clubs or a trade show booth or something non-attention-getting like that, you definitely want to be able to distinguish it as your non-attention-getting gear.
This is a helpful tip any time your gear will be combined with others, even if it’s in the back of a pickup truck or camper. When you pull up to the border crossing it allows you to instantly identify your gear for the customs agent if they ask.
When you’re headed on a distant hunting trip, it’s nearly always with the hope of bringing home something from the hunt; could be trophies, could be meat, etc. So plan ahead and take along what you’ll need to bring home your harvest efficiently and with the least amount of hassle. Because it’s so expensive to travel with large and heavy checked baggage on the airlines, I often pack my gear in a couple of coolers on the outbound trip, then box and ship that gear home via UPS or Fed Ex or the like and fill the coolers with meat to bring home on the plane. My outbound bags also contain plastic bags and duct tape that help prep and package the meat or trophies coming home with me. Then I leave the leftovers in camp for the next guy and to reduce the weight of my take home bags.
If you’re driving, make a plan to deal with meat and trophies for the long trip home. I’ve seen many hunters come up with ingenious ways to power a full-sized chest freezer on a trailer or in the back of a truck while they travel. If you’ll make overnight stops, just plug the freezer in at the hotel. That should keep the meat in perfect condition all the way home.
Know the Rules
How many shotgun shells can you import into Canada and not pay tax? What animals or animal parts require a CITES permit? Are there differences on international possession limits of game and fish than there are in the states? What are the restrictions on semi-automatic firearms in Canada?
Not knowing and wondering if you’re breaking the law – even unintentionally — is stressful. Know the rules before you go, make sure you’re abiding by them, and your hunting vacation will be stress free … no matter where you’re traveling.