Helpful tips for the traveling hunter
by Alberta Professional Outfitters Society
- Entrance into Canada
You will be required to clear Canadian Customs regardless of whether you fly or drive. You will need to present a valid passport at the border crossing. At Canadian Customs, you will be asked several questions about the purpose of your trip, the length of your stay, where you live, who you are hunting with, etc. It is a very good idea to have some written verification (like a contract or at the very least a brochure from your outfitter) to show the address of your destination. At this point, all alcohol, tobacco and firearms must be declared. This process usually goes quickly and you should soon be on your way.
- Refusal to enter into Canada
Criminal records, even driving under the influence (DUI), can prevent travel into Canada. If you have any concerns contact Canada Border Agency Services.
If you have any type of criminal conviction, even if you’ve been charged and not convicted, you should notify your outfitter or call Canada Border Agency Services well in advance so that clearance can be arranged.
- Hunting eligibility
Hunters who have a hunting licence suspension, in Alberta or elsewhere, are prohibited from applying for or obtaining a recreational hunting licence in Alberta. For further information, you can contact your local Alberta Fish and Wildlife Area Office (Click here to go to their contact webpage).
Youth hunters are welcome in Alberta, but they must be at least 12 years old to hunt under their own licence. All youth less than 16 years of age require parental permission to purchase a licence, and all youth under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to hunt with a firearm.
- Legal firearms for Alberta
Your Outfitter-Guide will provide you with suggestions for specific calibres and cartridges for your targeted game species. In Alberta, it is unlawful to hunt game with a calibre less than .23 or a shotgun calibre/gauge of less than .410. Centrefire magazines are limited to five-round capacities and shotguns are limited to carrying three rounds. It is unlawful to hunt big game with ammunition that contains non-expanding bullets.
This is not an extensive list of regulations. Please contact the Canadian Firearms Program (1-800-731-4000 or www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/) or your Outfitter-Guide for more information.
- Firearms regulations
You are allowed to bring your personal hunting firearms with you. This includes rifles and/or shotguns. Some restrictions apply, so please refer to the Canadian Firearms Program website for definitions of non-restricted, restricted and prohibited firearms: www.rcmp-grc. gc.ca/cfp-pcaf. Archery equipment does not fall under these requirements and therefore has no declaration form.
For your firearms, a simple one-page form must be filled out to obtain a temporary Canadian Firearms Permit. Your outfitter will provide this with your hunt contract. This form (5589e) can also be downloaded or mailed to you well in advance. Follow the links on the left-hand side for visitors/non-residents and then download the “Non-Resident Firearms Declaration” (5589e). Completing this in advance should reduce the time required to clear customs.
A confirmed declaration costs $25, regardless of the number of firearms listed on it. It is only valid for the person who signs it and for those firearms listed on the declaration. If you are coming with others who will be using firearms in Canada, each of you will need to meet these requirements. The declaration must be signed in front of a Customs Officer.
- Importing ammunition
Non-residents can import 200 rounds of ammunition duty-free for personal use and/or hunting purposes. If you are flying, most airlines have weight restrictions for ammunition. Alternatively, you can check with your outfitter about the cost and availability of your required ammunition in the area where you are hunting. In most areas you can generally purchase common calibres/gauges easily, and in major centers like Edmonton or Calgary, finding a wide selection of hunting ammunition for virtually any firearm should not be a problem. Edmonton has Cabela’s and Calgary has a Bass Pro Shop. There are also many other fine sporting goods and gun shops in Edmonton, Calgary and local communities.
- Bow hunting in Alberta
Bow hunting is extremely popular in Alberta. Bow hunters enjoy seasons for most species that start as early as late August and last until the end of rifle season. Hunters must purchase a Bow Hunting Permit in addition to their licence/tag. Your outfitter will advise you of all the logistics.
All hunting bows must have a draw weight of at least 40 pounds at a 28-inch draw, and all arrows must be at least 24 inches in length and have a broadhead with at least 7/8-inch cutting diametre. There are several archery-only zones in Alberta as well. See the Alberta Hunting Regulations at http://mywildalberta.com or contact your outfitter for more information.
- Crossbow hunting in Alberta
Crossbows are permitted during the regular rifle seasons only. Crossbow hunting is not permitted during the archery seasons in Alberta, except under special permit for mobility-impaired hunters.
Crossbows must have a draw weight of at least 100 pounds and broadheads must have a cutting diametre of at least 7/8-inch. Crossbows are not permitted in archery-only zones. Please contact the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division for more information.
- Airline transport of firearms, bows and ammunition
These are general conditions – please contact your specific airline for their requirements.
Archery equipment is generally accepted as part of a customer’s baggage allowance. Archery equipment is defined as one or a combination of the following: one bow, one quiver containing arrows and one maintenance kit. These items must be encased in a container of sufficient strength to protect the items from damage. Cases containing more than the above listed items may be assessed an excess baggage fee.
Firearms and ammunition
Most airlines will accept one item of shooting equipment as part of a customer’s checked baggage allowance. One item of shooting equipment usually contains: a rifle case containing two or fewer rifles (with or without scopes), one tool kit and up to 11 pounds of ammunition, if it does not exceed 200 rounds. Ammunition in excess of 11 pounds per passenger or that contains incendiary projectiles is prohibited. When checking a firearm, you must declare to the representative that you are checking a firearm. If a security checkpoint is prior to the ticket counter, you must declare the existence of a firearm to security personnel. Present the firearm(s) unloaded and sign a “Firearms Unloaded” declaration. You must lock the firearm(s) in a hard-sided, crush-proof container and retain the key or combination. Maintain the entry permits in your possession and ensure ammunition is packed separate from your firearm(s) in the manufacturer’s original package or securely packed in plastic/carbon fibre, wooden or metal boxes.
- What should I wear to hunt in Alberta?
There are no regulations in Alberta that require specific clothing colours. Since weather can change abruptly, layers are key as they allow for adaptability to changing weather patterns. A moisture wicking base layer, along with a few insulating layers and a waterproof/breathable outer layer is best. This allows you to layer up when it’s cold and peel it off if it warms up. Of course, warm and flexible gloves, warm headgear and warm socks are also important. Many hunters choose to wear scent-blocking garments.
Camouflage can be tailored for the terrain and conditions you hunt – northern boreal forest, prairie grassland, snow, etc. If you’re hunting from a tree stand or ground blind, consider over-boots and over-mitts for added warmth. Finally, ensure all clothing is quiet (soft material). Your outfitter will be able to provide you with specific recommendations for the time and locale of your hunt.
- Alberta’s climate
Alberta is known for having warm, dry summers, and cold winters with heavy and frequent snowfall. Fall hunting seasons, however, can have extremely varied weather conditions. During the early archery seasons, often starting in late August and running through September, average temperatures hover between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In October, average temperatures drop to about 35 to 45 degrees. November average temperatures are below freezing, at 14 to 32 degrees. December and January sees some of the coldest temperatures, regularly dipping to well below zero. However, Chinook winds in the south have seen winter temperatures rise above 70 degrees for short periods of time! For spring bear seasons, hunters can expect mild temperatures, averaging around 30 to 50 degrees.
- Alberta’s time zone
Alberta is on Mountain Standard Time and observes daylight saving time.
- Currency exchange
The Canadian dollar fluctuates against the US dollar. Exchanging US dollars for Canadian dollars can be easily done at any bank in Canada, or at a currency exchange kiosk at the Calgary and Edmonton International Airports. If you require extra cash, an ATM is easily found in any town across the province. Fees may apply.
Credit cards are almost always accepted for virtually any purchase throughout Canada – Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, followed by American Express. Discover Card is not widely accepted in Canada.
- Accommodations in Alberta
Our outfitters will provide their guests with many options for accommodations before, during and after the hunt. If you’d like to find out more about Alberta and our many tourist opportunities, visit www.travelalberta.com.
- Transporting game and trophies
Exporting your game back home is a relatively simple procedure as long as you export the animal (head, hide, meat, etc.) as personal baggage. Your hunting licence will act as your export permit, so keep it handy as you leave Canada. You will also need to fill out a US Import/Export Permit (Form 177). Although these can be picked up at customs, the process is simplified if this form is filled out in advance. Your outfitter can provide more details.
Transporting your game home is obviously easier if you are driving. The requirements will still be the same if you fly and additionally you must comply with your airline’s requirements.
You may be checked by Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement officers when crossing the border back home. This process should be straightforward, provided you have your WIN number and licence(s) handy. Know the name of your outfitter and guide, as well as a general idea of where you were hunting. Remember, while your licence serves as your export permit for most species, you cannot take home wildlife parts or meat that you didnot harvest without an additional export permit.
Each species has slightly different export requirements, so check with your outfitter for those specifics and be sure to plan in advance. It is unlawful to allow the edible meat of any game bird or big game animal, except cougar or bear, to be wasted, destroyed, spoiled or abandoned. You are primarily responsible for the care of that meat.
Most outfitters can help arrange for your meat to be processed, but due to the limited duration of most hunts your animal may not be completely processed before your departure. Plan ahead and make arrangements with your outfitter if you intend to take home large quantities of meat.
There are many quality taxidermists in Alberta, and your outfitter may even have special rates with some of them. It is wise to find out not only what the expected turn-around times are, but also the costs of shipping it home to you.
- Other helpful tips
Some hunts can be very physically demanding while others require very little physical activity. However, being in good physical condition will make any hunt more enjoyable, and increase your odds of success.
Ensure you leave extra time on both ends of your trip for unexpected delays. Being stressed while trying to get to camp or leave camp on a very tight schedule can put a damper on your trip.
International mobile phone roaming rates can be very high. Check with your service provider before entering Canada to avoid unexpected charges. Travel medical insurance is well worth the cost. It’s usually just a few dollars a day and can save you thousands of dollars in case of an emergency.
Canada is officially on the metric system – distances, speed limits and temperatures will be in metric. Watch your speedlimit while you are driving. Most Canadians are fluent in both metric and imperial measures.