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Fear and Loathing at Canadian Customs

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April 18, 2012

Fear and Loathing at Canadian Customs

By David E. Petzal

This took place in the 1990s at an airport in one of Canada’s western provinces, and involved a member of that country’s Immigration Service, which is dedicated to making life as hard for American hunters as it possibly can.

I had been invited to this province by a scope manufacturer to hunt whitetail deer, freeze, and see what great stuff they made. By sheer chance, a few weeks previously, Field & Stream had been visited by a minister of Canada’s Department of Tourism who asked the magazine’s help in persuading sportsmen to visit their country, eh? He left a couple of his cards, and I, in a rare stroke of foresight, kept one.

So I got to the Canadian airport and on the entry card, where it asked whether I was there on business or pleasure, I checked off business, because I was, after all, representing the magazine and was the guest of a manufacturer. This was a mistake.

I was waved into an office where I encountered a member of the Immigration Service who asked if I had a work permit for what I was about to do. No, I said, I was going deer hunting, and if there was any actual work connected with the event it would take place later back in the United States.

“Well,” she said, “I can’t let you in without a work permit.”

I smiled. I was faced with the one chance you get in a lifetime where you get to make them sweat for a change.

I took out the Tourism Minister’s card, laid it on the counter, and explained how I came by it.

“Now,” I said, “since I can’t get in without a permit, and since I have no intention of taking out a permit, I’d like someone to escort me to the baggage claim so I can pick up my rifle, and then to the ticket counter so I can go home. And when I get home the first thing I’m going to do is give Minister So-and-So a call and tell him about our little adventure here. And the second thing I’m going to do is write about this and keep everyone out of Canada that I can. And finally, I think that your life next week is going to be a lot more interesting than it is this week.”

Frantically, the immigration person dragged out a huge book of regulations. I watched smiling, and encouraged her by telling her that she’d better find something in her effing book that would let me into Canada. Finally, she did. I congratulated her on keeping her job, and went on the hunt as scheduled, where I froze, and shot a monster eating whitetail with only three points on either side.

But this happened only once in 40 years of flying with guns. The rest of the time, I have had to put up with various officials’ crap until they became bored with me and moved on to the next hapless traveler.

Comments (45)

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from rob wrote 2 years 5 hours ago

Good Lord when does your book come out?
I have been very lucky at customs, but have never flown into Canada, always drove across the border. It has been, in my expierence, much easier getting in than getting out. Both for fishing and hunting.
We were going across fishing one time, and the young Canadian border guard was asking for ID and if we had beer, booze, drugs, guns, etc.. We told him we had no beer, and he looks at us and says, "How the hell can you go fishing when you gots no beer, eh?"
We all busted up laughing, he gave us our ID's back and waved us on through.
Welcome to Canada.

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from FL Hunter wrote 2 years 3 hours ago

Great story. But I have always found its much easier and nicer going into Canada than coming back into the US. When entering Canada the border agents are friendly, nice, & extremely pleasant. When entering the US they treat you like a criminal and act as if they are some sort of bada$$.

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from murdo15194 wrote 2 years 3 hours ago

Great article. In my experience, as an American citizen, US Customs agents can be equally as nasty to returning citizens - particularly at the Sault Ste. Marie, MI and Canada crossing. I can tell you, it's a real shocker to be treated so poorly for no reason by a fellow citizen, simply because he has the badge and authority to do so. They've earned themselves quite a negative public reputation up there.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 hours ago

I have not had pleasant experiences with U.S. Customs and Immigration. They put on their attitude sometimes, but I just show my military retiree ID card and tell them that I have all day to play their %+$@*$& games and the only thing they have to lose is their job. The Canucks have been quite friendly, but I only go there to salmon or steelhead fish, eh.

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from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 2 hours ago

In the past, have related some of my airport adventures and misadventures over the decades. Your mention of Canada reminds me of a humorous episode that happened back when the Danube was blue, and terrorists did not romp the globe. There was a TWA, but no TSA. I had landed in Vancouver gone through customs and rechecked rifle and baggage northward. At the gate, somehow the attendant became aware I was carrying a pocket knife and sent be cringing back to the checkin counter to check said knife. Where upon that attendant stormed back arguing to no avail with the gate keeper. He flatly stated not to worry about it he would see to it my knife was at Fort Nelson when I got there. Upon arrival, we looked high and low, and checked with terminal employees with no success. Finally, spotted a huge box, large enough to hold a bicycle, with my name on it, tearing it open found taped to the side, my knife.

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from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 1 hour ago

Another story of my well traveled pocket knife. Once upon a time in Africa, pre TSA, I dumped my change onto the counter along with the infamous knife. The attendant opened the blade, checked the edge, and promptly cut his thumb. He stated I could not take the knife . I asked if it was too long? No, he said, too sharp. I was at a loss for a retort, so boarded my plane, kissing my faithful knife goodbye. Arriving in Bulawayo I was paged to the cockpit, without looking back, the skipper passed me over his shoulder my old knife.

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from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

So in 40 years of dealing with government bureaucrats you actually had the upper hand once? I knew there was something special about you a long time ago. Congratulations on being the one in a million.

I am so used to being spat upon that I cower at the mere mention of the word government. In fact I had to pass through a metal detector today and failed three times even after taking off my belt and shoes. A lady with a magic wand proceeded to have her way with me for about five minutes which is all I can take anyway now that I have passed the half century mark, and then they decided I must be made of steel. She could find nothing on my person but I could not walk through that gate without alerting everyone in the building.

Third time this has happened. I am thinking UFO abduction and some sort of tagging device. Might as well laugh, crying does no good.

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from Ol Krusty wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Woo Hoo! Congratulations Dave, I could imagine a certain writer walking around the office with a bounce in his step and a gleam in his eye for the next few days.

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from NHshtr wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Maybe the Canadian Border Patrol gets a bug up their shorts sometimes.

My 5 buddies and I have driven to Labrador for trout, salmon, laker and pike fishing five or six years in a row. While there we ate a lot of our catch and our lodge filleted and froze a lot more.

Once when we were exiting Canada (in 2 vehicles), the border guards had asked what we had been doing in Canada and of course we told them we had been at so and so lodge fishing. They had us open our huge cooler to reveal a lot of frozen fillets. They then asked us to identify the species of each fillet - which was wrapped in freezer paper. Not a requirement that we ever heard of before. We looked at each other rather puzzled since that was a first and they were all mixed. The guards threatened to detain us if we couldn't do it. So I decided they couldn't tell which was which any more than we, so I promptly began to write species names on the wrappers. Thankfully, I remembered the species possession limits per person. When I was done, they smiled and sent us on our way. They never referred to a possession limit chart or in any way checked the count. But they were happy that there was a name on each.

On the next two trips, the lodge said it was unnecessary, but we marked the wrappers anyway. However, we were not asked to open the coolers again.

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from George Szaszvari wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Yet another example of the lowest form of life afflicting modern life, the bureaucrat. Good job on the way you frightened that Canadian Customs creep.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Ya’Dave, Customs regardless of place & Country they can be a pain in the butt! The last time I flew, I recognize one of the TSA Agents as one of the employees from a Pizza Joint. Guess he got fired and qualified for a job with TSA. LOL!!

After four years in AK on my migration to my next Duty Station from Eielson AFN to Luke AFB June 1990, I to ran into one of those lovely Customs Officers going into Canada. I immediately handed her my Military ID Card, Travel Orders and NATO Travel Orders which listed every firearm I had including ammunition by type and quantity including reloading supplies by type and quantity including by weight. Everything was going well until she asked if I had any handguns, no, they were shipped with my household goods by Government Contracted Carrier and instantly she wanted me to unload both vehicles, utility trailer and remove the horses to. I smiled and kept my kool and asked for a phone. Why she asked? I was told by this gentleman (showing her the mail correspondence) to call him if I had any problems. Instantly she couldn’t get me out of dar fast enough, NO LIE GI !!! Heck! I didn’t know who he wuz, just he probably worked in the head shed of customs who called me back several times concerned my trip would go without any problems. This Fella was great! For US Customs, it wuz the horses Coggins Tests, Vet papers both US and Canada and the places we stopped and the number of days of travel. Could care less about the rest, just the horses.

Hey WAM, taking a commercial load into Canada did the same thing. Customs Agent wuz playing every game and when a Major walked up wanting to know what wuz going on because She really lost her kool and I wuz smiling and calm as a Baptist Preacher, the Major to looked at my papers and when he spotted my Military ID, he to couldn't get me out of dar fast enough. Agent wanted to know if I had any Coke? Ya, got some on ice want me to get you one?!

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from Longbeard wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I guess that's what ya call a "trump card", Dave.

Had something similar to Happy's experience on a whitewing trip to Ol' Mexico pre-9/11 but still had to pass through metal detector, etc boarding plane to TX. Had my 3.5" folding Buck knife packed in my carry-on, legal back then. But security agent saw the knife on x-ray, insisted on examining it, opened the blade and held it up to what was supposed to be a 4" piece of tape to determine if it was under the 4" limit. but part of the tape had been torn off the counter edge, leaving only about 3 3/8". The agent declared the knife over the limit and would not acknowledge the missing portion of his "official" standard measure. Had to go back to ticket counter, buy large box, pack and check knife. Guess what was the very last thing to hit the luggage carousel in Harlingen? At least it made it and I still use it today. Not like the numerous Leatherman mini's I had to surrender after 9/11 because I forgot it was in my pocket.

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from Joe Potosky wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Readers should know that to enter Canada with a long gun a 60 day temporary permit is required. Cost $25 Canadian.
Permit can be filled out and approved at the crossing. Hand guns not permitted. Import 200 rounds duty free for hunting purposes, or up to 1,500 rounds duty free for use at a recognized competition.
Also, if driving a you will need a Passport or Enhanced Drivers License to re-enter the USA! If flying, only a passport will be accepted.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, as I cross into Canada 20 - 30 times a year to shoot clay targets.

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from longtrail wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I am always there for "business meetings". Not paid in or by Canada.

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

To paraphrase Chief Dan George: "It's good to have an edge."

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from ckRich wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Happy, I beg you, write a book.

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from BarkeyVA wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

While waiting for a flight at the Great Falls, Montana Airport following a 6-day "Blast and Cast " hunting and fishing trip, I was paged by TSA. I had left 10 shotgun shells in the elastic shell loops in the pockets of my hunting coat packed in my checked suitcase. The TSA agent said they would have to confiscate the shells unless I could put them in their orginal box, which I did not have. It didn't matter that the loose shells were much more secure folded up in my hunting coat than they would have been rattling around in a partially filled box, but rules are rules.

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from tom warner wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Having crossed the Canadian border more times than I can count, surely many hundreds over the years, I feel that I can speak with more authority than most on that subject. My buddies and I own a cabin in the Quebec wilderness and so usually cross at least 3-4 times each year. By and large the crossings, usually at the Thousand Islands, have been very painless, with only a few incidents with the occasional officious idiot - usually a woman I regret to say. I have also flown across to various other places
many times, usually in the west to hunt in the western provinces. Some years ago, while passing through customs in Edmonton, Alberta, I was directed to a little office on the other side for some unknown reason, where there were a few others lined up, all Americans. Upon stepping up the the desk I was greeted by a unfriendly individual who asked if I ever had a "court appearance"? I replied that I (luckily) had not, whereupon this person looked doubtful, and another person spent some time checking me on a computer. After finding nothing, I was told that I could leave. I politely asked what this was about and was refused and told to "move on". Not long thereafter I found out what was going on from another hunter friend in Saskatchewan, who had been refused entry because he had gotten a DWI ticket when he was 18 years old. He was then in his 40's. It seems that customs personal at various crossings have been and are running some kind of extortion racket victimizing Americans - I think largely hunters. If the individual has EVER had gotten a ticket for a DWI or any other minor transgression, no matter how long ago, he will be refused entry; if he protests, he will be told that if he pays a large sum in "fines", he can pass through, usually I think around $250 - $300. It cost my previously mentioned friend $300 and caused him to miss a connecting flight. This has happened to many, many people, and is flat-out extortion and blackmail. Outrageous! I assume this crime is "legal", but who can say? Since that time I have heard MANY further stories, some of them truly awful! Not long after my experience, I contacted Don Causey at the Hunting Report and asked if anything could be done. He told me that he was aware of it and intended to bring it up at the next NRA meeting. What ever came of it I have no idea, but I have been told that this racket is still going on. I now have a very unfriendly feeling toward Canada in general. Dave, have you heard these stories? I presume that you must have? Anyone else care to comment?

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from SD Bob wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I've had the same experince as Murdo15194 crossing at the Soo back into the US. Going in, the Canadian officials were professional, coming home the US officials were not. The worst is when we tried bringing real Canadian beer back. The agent at the border had asked what we had to declare and we said beer. They detained us, put us in a room for who know's how long and then proceeded to read us the riot act for smuggling beer and when I retorted that we weren't smuggling beer because we declared it, they proceeded to open and dump out every bottle. We had two cases to split between the 4 of us and at the time you could import 1 each and not pay a duty. I could go on forever but we stopped going because it just wasn't worth the hassle.

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

For what it is worth, my father-in-law only half-jestingly claims that one of the next big military conflicts will be between Canada and the US over water rights...maybe Trey Parker et. al. were right?

Now that the has permanently retired from his civvy version of his AF intel position, I won't get any more inside information. So don't be surprised if the tanks start to line up...

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Water rights? Surely you jest. The Canadians have more frigging water than they could ever use and what source of water starts in Canada that we would ever tap? The Great Lakes?

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Dunno the complete scenario, but he made it sound like the sources for water in the Rocky mountain states has something to do with Canadia...we all gave him a hard time about it (the war part).

If you are from or know anyone in Colorado, they are all about water and everyone is pissed at Denver for sucking it all up. Too many people in Colorado.

But then, I'm no hydrologist and don't know about such things.

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Has been 5-6 years since I've been to Canada but I've never had a problem. After some 10 trips I cannot recall one incident that I would even consider impolite. I have also ferried my share of critter parts and guns across the border.

However, I hear a lot of grumblings from my friends, just as I am reading here. Maybe I've just been lucky.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

@Oryx

Water is a big deal everywhere in the Mountain West east of teh Cascades/Sierras all the way to the Great Plains. Too many people living where there is not enough water. Phoenix, L.A., Denver, Tucson, etc. come to mind.....

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from Bernie wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I have crossed into Canada upwards of 60 times, usually without incident. However, almost a decade ago I drove over to North Dakota, picked up my father, who was in his late 80s at the time, we pulled his old boat up to the Peace Garden to cross the border. A pleasant young Canadian woman, who was with Canadian customs, visited with us a minute, then asked us to pull ahead and park. I complied. Then I noticed an older woman--also Canadian customs--strutting out of the building as she donned a bullet-proof vest! She rifled through my entire pickup, had us remove the boat cover on Dad's old Lund, even went through his tackle boxes! This took almost an hour. When she was finished, I said, "I've been crossing this border since 1962 and never have been subjected to this." Her reply: "There's a first time for everything!" And she walked away.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I scrub through my truck ensuring all remnants of hunting gear, guns, ammo, etc. are removed before my infrequent trips across the border. Eff 'em. Keep your money at home!

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from The_UTP wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Dave: Do you think it's ethical to use your clout as an editor for a national magazine to resolve something like this? I am a business/financial journalist, and the generally accepted rule among my species is that it's an abusive of press power to use coverage as a threat to make the reporter's life easier.

I can see where you might reason that the top tourism official had come not weeks before begging for coverage. In my mind, the correct thing to do would have been to keep mum that you were a journalist or knew the minister. Then when you got sent back home, you call the minister and explain to him what happened and that you're writing a story about it -- and would like to know whether he has any comment. Threatening a low-level functionary in order to get your way seems like an abuse of the power of the press.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP

What a crock of egalitarian crap, sir.

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from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

to The_UTP: In a word, no. What the customs person was demanding was absurd on its face to anyone with an ounce of common sense, and not in the best interests of her own country. It was not as though she were asking something reasonable or useful.

Second, I've found that the press has very little clout with government functionaries, unless you happen to be a TV news anchor, and even then...

As a rule, people have no recourse with these clowns, so when the one chance I will have ever have in my life came, I used it, and ethics be damned.

If she had been a worthy customs agent, she could have stood her ground and had me escorted to the ticket counter, and taken her lumps, if there were to be any.

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP, the function of the exercise was to go hunting, not to act as a test subject for the border crossing.

What Dave did probably saved the agent's bacon, as she would have caught hell seven ways from Sunday if he didn't come clean and show her his "hole card," so to speak, and instead gave an accurate description of the performance to her superior.

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from tobmine wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Screw the Canadians and they can keep their deer, moose, bear,fish,etc. Went there once and never go back. Oh, if you ever had a DUI, you probably will be denied entry. Some good people in rural Canada with a Socialist government.
By the way if you fly through Chile on your way to Argentina, better check with airport authority in Santiago or your guns will be held to the next day. They will not notify you while waiting at airport. Start early as they will be very difficult on a good day. Been there and done that several times.

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from tobmine wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Screw the Canadians and they can keep their deer, moose, bear,fish,etc. Went there once and never go back. Oh, if you ever had a DUI, you probably will be denied entry. Some good people in rural Canada with a Socialist government.
By the way if you fly through Chile on your way to Argentina, better check with airport authority in Santiago or your guns will be held to the next day. They will not notify you while waiting at airport. Start early as they will be very difficult on a good day. Been there and done that several times.

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from joejv4 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Talk so some of the fishermen on Lake Ontario who stray across (or maybe just too close the the imaginary borderline that runs through the lake. There are recent newspaper articles (out of Watertosn NY, I believe) where the Canadian Customs folks board fishing boats and ask if the operator has legally entered Canada with a phone call and a number and other stuff. If they haven't they face having to pay $1000 on the spot or having their boat impounded. One reason I stay close to the south shore of the lake.

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from Michael Shepard wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

HERE IS ONE GOOD ONE! 4 years ago, 4 of us were going to Manitoba on a caribou hunt. Out of NW Montana to Thompson, Manitoba via my club cab Chevy truck. WE drove to the biggest border crossing,at Sweetgrass. we had already done our pre-registration on guns, gear, knives ..etc..with our Border Patrol. We went thru our side like greased butter..then,,bang. When we as a group of 4 stated to the young Canadian lady what we were doing, she demanded our passports, drivers licenses, and told us to sit down. After an hour, I asked what waqs going on..she very indignantly told us to go to Immigration. My comment was we were not moving there, just hunting. After 3 hours later. I finally demamded our stuff and we left. I drove to NE Montana, and at mid-night, was complimented by the Canadian side on all our stuuf being perfect. We got to our destination just in time to fly out. It still pisses me off. So you never know,,At Sweetgrass, there were 3 other groups of American hunters waiting..some were there for 12 hours, waiting for this young lady to do something..never again

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from blackjac wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Another "funny" - five of us leaving Newark airport checked in at Air Canada for the first leg of our flight to BC for a bear hunt. Having hunted there once I swore to bring some "civilized Italian food" along with us. The agent asked if we were bringing any foodstuffs into Canada. One of our party opened his big mouth and allowed were were bringin Italian ham (prischutto-sp) provolone and Italian bread! The agent told me unless the food was canned, it would not be allowed thru customs in Canada------being a "PAL"- he offered to take the food off our hand there in Newark to avoid any problems!!!I gracefully declined his offer. Upon arrival, we buried my duffel on the bottom of a cart and piled everyone's gear atop. Customs were very interested in our firearms and paid no attention to our pile of gear-thank God! The hunt was a great success-we went five for five on bear plus some great evening snacks of ham, cheese and---I forgot to mention--a few bottles of homemade Italian "red"!!!

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from crowman wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Have you noticed that most of the horror stories started out with the word SHE did this and that. Just goes to show what I've been saying for decades it takes a woman to take something simple and make it 20 times harder than it's got to be. Sexist not really just observations.

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from Bernie wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Crowman, you are correct! Every time I have had trouble at a border crossing, Canadian or U.S. Customs, it has been an overzealous woman who created the problem. Hope I don't sound sexist, but unforunately, it has been my experience.

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from The_UTP wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

To Dave: Thanks for your response. I'll have to register that I disagree that what the agent wanted was absurd -- if you tell customs at a sovereign country that you're coming into the country to work, I don't think it's nuts for them to ask whether you have a work visa. Americans seem to become quite agitated when their southern neighbors enter their country to work without notifying the government of their intentions. Why is it so absurd for the Canadians to feel differently about their southern neighbors?

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from buckstopper wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP
I dont know what rag you lay down ink for but i'll bet the letters slant left. the MSM doesnt give a crap about heartland america only the masses in the big cities. Our southern border problem is not the same as the northern border problem, as my old pappy used to say, "dont confuse education for intellegence!"

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from NHshtr wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP,
You'll have to read Dave's description again.

Although he marked "business" on the card, when asked about it, he said no, he was going deer hunting, any work would be done in the U.S. She should have just asked him to change the notation to pleasure not business, and let him go on his way.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

If all the *&$#^%& Canadians will stay north of the border, I promise to never go back there again. They must pass out free driver's licenses to all the Asian immigrants at the airport. Same for the turbaned semi-truck steering wheel holders that I hesitate to call "drivers".

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from BScrabber wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I do not intend on traveling abroad for hunting abything exactly because of situations like the one in this article intended to cause you grief and hardship. They are supposed to be looking for criminals,drug trafficing, illegal aliens, and terrorists. Now a guy who comes with a legally transported hunting firearm and some TSA type wants to give you grief for what, any reason they can because they hate hunting and/or guns? Its a joke. First thing that comes to mind is the song from the South Park movie.

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from Carl Huber wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I can only speak to my own experiences. Between the 1980's-90's I crossed the border maybe twenty times a year. Granted this was only with my boy's hockey or rugby equipment. But I did find the Canadian people very nice and very helpful. Granted over the years their coaches were a Hockey Hall of famer, two other pro players and the father of two medaled Olympic skaters. This didn't carry any sway in a Toronto burger joint and I was still treated well. One difference I did notice between the two countries was Canadians seemed to be a little more willing to abide to any law. They didn't have the mind set of this is legal why are you breaking my shoes. I was up there during the OJ trial. They found Mark Thurman's testimony that he never ever used a racial slur amusing. Everyone has and if your sworn to tell the truth and you lie about one thing. You could be lying about everything. They also don't jump the wall without a warrant. Maybe this is were the wheels came off in filling out an entry form. I have even spent time in Quebec. A very formal people who only speak french. I consider this rude. But being polite myself got along quite well. Incidentally a Canuck was a slur denoting a french speaking Englishman. One other difference I did notice was Toronto and Detroit. Equal in racial diversity separated by a lake. One year I was there Toronto had three violent deaths, Detroit was over a thousand. Only difference was the out of wed lock birth rate was less than 2% in Toronto. What do you think was the rate in Detroit. Now I'm not lining up to take a long soapy shower with Canada. Quebec has the second highest snowfall in the world. Our health system has theirs beat by a mile. At least for now. And their sin tax is scary.

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from The_UTP wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

to buckstopper: I write for a business and financial newspaper that's decidedly non-partisan. Real lefties don't make it far in financial journalism because you have to accept at least the basic tenets of market capitalism in order to engage in it. As for the media, of course it ignores the heartland. Media is a business, and an increasingly unprofitable one at that. It's always been economically inefficient to cover the sparsely populated interior of the nation, and most national print outlets can't spare the resources to cover it. (I can't speak for television news because it's largely info-tainment and not journalism). In case you think this is Coastal snobbery, I was born and raised in a small town in the middle of Missouri.

To NHStr: You're certainly right. I guess I'm young enough I've never expected government people to have the sense to exercise some judgement and let things slide.

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from jasond wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I am a Canadian who enjoys travelling to the USA and visiting our neighbours and the country. When I was younger (say 20's) I had a few issues when crossing the borders both ways. Now that I am older and more mature, I seem to get along with both sides (as we all should). Let's face it; there are idiots on both sides so there is no sense arguing over who is worse, because that is an arguement that will go on for a long time. Keep up our good neighbour relations and enjoy the outdoors which is what we all have in common.

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from FL Hunter wrote 2 years 3 hours ago

Great story. But I have always found its much easier and nicer going into Canada than coming back into the US. When entering Canada the border agents are friendly, nice, & extremely pleasant. When entering the US they treat you like a criminal and act as if they are some sort of bada$$.

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from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 1 hour ago

Another story of my well traveled pocket knife. Once upon a time in Africa, pre TSA, I dumped my change onto the counter along with the infamous knife. The attendant opened the blade, checked the edge, and promptly cut his thumb. He stated I could not take the knife . I asked if it was too long? No, he said, too sharp. I was at a loss for a retort, so boarded my plane, kissing my faithful knife goodbye. Arriving in Bulawayo I was paged to the cockpit, without looking back, the skipper passed me over his shoulder my old knife.

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from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

to The_UTP: In a word, no. What the customs person was demanding was absurd on its face to anyone with an ounce of common sense, and not in the best interests of her own country. It was not as though she were asking something reasonable or useful.

Second, I've found that the press has very little clout with government functionaries, unless you happen to be a TV news anchor, and even then...

As a rule, people have no recourse with these clowns, so when the one chance I will have ever have in my life came, I used it, and ethics be damned.

If she had been a worthy customs agent, she could have stood her ground and had me escorted to the ticket counter, and taken her lumps, if there were to be any.

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from Happy Myles wrote 2 years 2 hours ago

In the past, have related some of my airport adventures and misadventures over the decades. Your mention of Canada reminds me of a humorous episode that happened back when the Danube was blue, and terrorists did not romp the globe. There was a TWA, but no TSA. I had landed in Vancouver gone through customs and rechecked rifle and baggage northward. At the gate, somehow the attendant became aware I was carrying a pocket knife and sent be cringing back to the checkin counter to check said knife. Where upon that attendant stormed back arguing to no avail with the gate keeper. He flatly stated not to worry about it he would see to it my knife was at Fort Nelson when I got there. Upon arrival, we looked high and low, and checked with terminal employees with no success. Finally, spotted a huge box, large enough to hold a bicycle, with my name on it, tearing it open found taped to the side, my knife.

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from crowman wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Have you noticed that most of the horror stories started out with the word SHE did this and that. Just goes to show what I've been saying for decades it takes a woman to take something simple and make it 20 times harder than it's got to be. Sexist not really just observations.

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from rob wrote 2 years 5 hours ago

Good Lord when does your book come out?
I have been very lucky at customs, but have never flown into Canada, always drove across the border. It has been, in my expierence, much easier getting in than getting out. Both for fishing and hunting.
We were going across fishing one time, and the young Canadian border guard was asking for ID and if we had beer, booze, drugs, guns, etc.. We told him we had no beer, and he looks at us and says, "How the hell can you go fishing when you gots no beer, eh?"
We all busted up laughing, he gave us our ID's back and waved us on through.
Welcome to Canada.

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from murdo15194 wrote 2 years 3 hours ago

Great article. In my experience, as an American citizen, US Customs agents can be equally as nasty to returning citizens - particularly at the Sault Ste. Marie, MI and Canada crossing. I can tell you, it's a real shocker to be treated so poorly for no reason by a fellow citizen, simply because he has the badge and authority to do so. They've earned themselves quite a negative public reputation up there.

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from Joe Potosky wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Readers should know that to enter Canada with a long gun a 60 day temporary permit is required. Cost $25 Canadian.
Permit can be filled out and approved at the crossing. Hand guns not permitted. Import 200 rounds duty free for hunting purposes, or up to 1,500 rounds duty free for use at a recognized competition.
Also, if driving a you will need a Passport or Enhanced Drivers License to re-enter the USA! If flying, only a passport will be accepted.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, as I cross into Canada 20 - 30 times a year to shoot clay targets.

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from ckRich wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Happy, I beg you, write a book.

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from SD Bob wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I've had the same experince as Murdo15194 crossing at the Soo back into the US. Going in, the Canadian officials were professional, coming home the US officials were not. The worst is when we tried bringing real Canadian beer back. The agent at the border had asked what we had to declare and we said beer. They detained us, put us in a room for who know's how long and then proceeded to read us the riot act for smuggling beer and when I retorted that we weren't smuggling beer because we declared it, they proceeded to open and dump out every bottle. We had two cases to split between the 4 of us and at the time you could import 1 each and not pay a duty. I could go on forever but we stopped going because it just wasn't worth the hassle.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 2 hours ago

I have not had pleasant experiences with U.S. Customs and Immigration. They put on their attitude sometimes, but I just show my military retiree ID card and tell them that I have all day to play their %+$@*$& games and the only thing they have to lose is their job. The Canucks have been quite friendly, but I only go there to salmon or steelhead fish, eh.

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from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

So in 40 years of dealing with government bureaucrats you actually had the upper hand once? I knew there was something special about you a long time ago. Congratulations on being the one in a million.

I am so used to being spat upon that I cower at the mere mention of the word government. In fact I had to pass through a metal detector today and failed three times even after taking off my belt and shoes. A lady with a magic wand proceeded to have her way with me for about five minutes which is all I can take anyway now that I have passed the half century mark, and then they decided I must be made of steel. She could find nothing on my person but I could not walk through that gate without alerting everyone in the building.

Third time this has happened. I am thinking UFO abduction and some sort of tagging device. Might as well laugh, crying does no good.

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from NHshtr wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP,
You'll have to read Dave's description again.

Although he marked "business" on the card, when asked about it, he said no, he was going deer hunting, any work would be done in the U.S. She should have just asked him to change the notation to pleasure not business, and let him go on his way.

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from Ol Krusty wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Woo Hoo! Congratulations Dave, I could imagine a certain writer walking around the office with a bounce in his step and a gleam in his eye for the next few days.

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from NHshtr wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Maybe the Canadian Border Patrol gets a bug up their shorts sometimes.

My 5 buddies and I have driven to Labrador for trout, salmon, laker and pike fishing five or six years in a row. While there we ate a lot of our catch and our lodge filleted and froze a lot more.

Once when we were exiting Canada (in 2 vehicles), the border guards had asked what we had been doing in Canada and of course we told them we had been at so and so lodge fishing. They had us open our huge cooler to reveal a lot of frozen fillets. They then asked us to identify the species of each fillet - which was wrapped in freezer paper. Not a requirement that we ever heard of before. We looked at each other rather puzzled since that was a first and they were all mixed. The guards threatened to detain us if we couldn't do it. So I decided they couldn't tell which was which any more than we, so I promptly began to write species names on the wrappers. Thankfully, I remembered the species possession limits per person. When I was done, they smiled and sent us on our way. They never referred to a possession limit chart or in any way checked the count. But they were happy that there was a name on each.

On the next two trips, the lodge said it was unnecessary, but we marked the wrappers anyway. However, we were not asked to open the coolers again.

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from George Szaszvari wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Yet another example of the lowest form of life afflicting modern life, the bureaucrat. Good job on the way you frightened that Canadian Customs creep.

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from Longbeard wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I guess that's what ya call a "trump card", Dave.

Had something similar to Happy's experience on a whitewing trip to Ol' Mexico pre-9/11 but still had to pass through metal detector, etc boarding plane to TX. Had my 3.5" folding Buck knife packed in my carry-on, legal back then. But security agent saw the knife on x-ray, insisted on examining it, opened the blade and held it up to what was supposed to be a 4" piece of tape to determine if it was under the 4" limit. but part of the tape had been torn off the counter edge, leaving only about 3 3/8". The agent declared the knife over the limit and would not acknowledge the missing portion of his "official" standard measure. Had to go back to ticket counter, buy large box, pack and check knife. Guess what was the very last thing to hit the luggage carousel in Harlingen? At least it made it and I still use it today. Not like the numerous Leatherman mini's I had to surrender after 9/11 because I forgot it was in my pocket.

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

To paraphrase Chief Dan George: "It's good to have an edge."

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from BarkeyVA wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

While waiting for a flight at the Great Falls, Montana Airport following a 6-day "Blast and Cast " hunting and fishing trip, I was paged by TSA. I had left 10 shotgun shells in the elastic shell loops in the pockets of my hunting coat packed in my checked suitcase. The TSA agent said they would have to confiscate the shells unless I could put them in their orginal box, which I did not have. It didn't matter that the loose shells were much more secure folded up in my hunting coat than they would have been rattling around in a partially filled box, but rules are rules.

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from tom warner wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Having crossed the Canadian border more times than I can count, surely many hundreds over the years, I feel that I can speak with more authority than most on that subject. My buddies and I own a cabin in the Quebec wilderness and so usually cross at least 3-4 times each year. By and large the crossings, usually at the Thousand Islands, have been very painless, with only a few incidents with the occasional officious idiot - usually a woman I regret to say. I have also flown across to various other places
many times, usually in the west to hunt in the western provinces. Some years ago, while passing through customs in Edmonton, Alberta, I was directed to a little office on the other side for some unknown reason, where there were a few others lined up, all Americans. Upon stepping up the the desk I was greeted by a unfriendly individual who asked if I ever had a "court appearance"? I replied that I (luckily) had not, whereupon this person looked doubtful, and another person spent some time checking me on a computer. After finding nothing, I was told that I could leave. I politely asked what this was about and was refused and told to "move on". Not long thereafter I found out what was going on from another hunter friend in Saskatchewan, who had been refused entry because he had gotten a DWI ticket when he was 18 years old. He was then in his 40's. It seems that customs personal at various crossings have been and are running some kind of extortion racket victimizing Americans - I think largely hunters. If the individual has EVER had gotten a ticket for a DWI or any other minor transgression, no matter how long ago, he will be refused entry; if he protests, he will be told that if he pays a large sum in "fines", he can pass through, usually I think around $250 - $300. It cost my previously mentioned friend $300 and caused him to miss a connecting flight. This has happened to many, many people, and is flat-out extortion and blackmail. Outrageous! I assume this crime is "legal", but who can say? Since that time I have heard MANY further stories, some of them truly awful! Not long after my experience, I contacted Don Causey at the Hunting Report and asked if anything could be done. He told me that he was aware of it and intended to bring it up at the next NRA meeting. What ever came of it I have no idea, but I have been told that this racket is still going on. I now have a very unfriendly feeling toward Canada in general. Dave, have you heard these stories? I presume that you must have? Anyone else care to comment?

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

For what it is worth, my father-in-law only half-jestingly claims that one of the next big military conflicts will be between Canada and the US over water rights...maybe Trey Parker et. al. were right?

Now that the has permanently retired from his civvy version of his AF intel position, I won't get any more inside information. So don't be surprised if the tanks start to line up...

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Water rights? Surely you jest. The Canadians have more frigging water than they could ever use and what source of water starts in Canada that we would ever tap? The Great Lakes?

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Dunno the complete scenario, but he made it sound like the sources for water in the Rocky mountain states has something to do with Canadia...we all gave him a hard time about it (the war part).

If you are from or know anyone in Colorado, they are all about water and everyone is pissed at Denver for sucking it all up. Too many people in Colorado.

But then, I'm no hydrologist and don't know about such things.

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Has been 5-6 years since I've been to Canada but I've never had a problem. After some 10 trips I cannot recall one incident that I would even consider impolite. I have also ferried my share of critter parts and guns across the border.

However, I hear a lot of grumblings from my friends, just as I am reading here. Maybe I've just been lucky.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

@Oryx

Water is a big deal everywhere in the Mountain West east of teh Cascades/Sierras all the way to the Great Plains. Too many people living where there is not enough water. Phoenix, L.A., Denver, Tucson, etc. come to mind.....

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from Bernie wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I have crossed into Canada upwards of 60 times, usually without incident. However, almost a decade ago I drove over to North Dakota, picked up my father, who was in his late 80s at the time, we pulled his old boat up to the Peace Garden to cross the border. A pleasant young Canadian woman, who was with Canadian customs, visited with us a minute, then asked us to pull ahead and park. I complied. Then I noticed an older woman--also Canadian customs--strutting out of the building as she donned a bullet-proof vest! She rifled through my entire pickup, had us remove the boat cover on Dad's old Lund, even went through his tackle boxes! This took almost an hour. When she was finished, I said, "I've been crossing this border since 1962 and never have been subjected to this." Her reply: "There's a first time for everything!" And she walked away.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I scrub through my truck ensuring all remnants of hunting gear, guns, ammo, etc. are removed before my infrequent trips across the border. Eff 'em. Keep your money at home!

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP

What a crock of egalitarian crap, sir.

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from Oryx wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP, the function of the exercise was to go hunting, not to act as a test subject for the border crossing.

What Dave did probably saved the agent's bacon, as she would have caught hell seven ways from Sunday if he didn't come clean and show her his "hole card," so to speak, and instead gave an accurate description of the performance to her superior.

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from tobmine wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Screw the Canadians and they can keep their deer, moose, bear,fish,etc. Went there once and never go back. Oh, if you ever had a DUI, you probably will be denied entry. Some good people in rural Canada with a Socialist government.
By the way if you fly through Chile on your way to Argentina, better check with airport authority in Santiago or your guns will be held to the next day. They will not notify you while waiting at airport. Start early as they will be very difficult on a good day. Been there and done that several times.

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from tobmine wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Screw the Canadians and they can keep their deer, moose, bear,fish,etc. Went there once and never go back. Oh, if you ever had a DUI, you probably will be denied entry. Some good people in rural Canada with a Socialist government.
By the way if you fly through Chile on your way to Argentina, better check with airport authority in Santiago or your guns will be held to the next day. They will not notify you while waiting at airport. Start early as they will be very difficult on a good day. Been there and done that several times.

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from joejv4 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Talk so some of the fishermen on Lake Ontario who stray across (or maybe just too close the the imaginary borderline that runs through the lake. There are recent newspaper articles (out of Watertosn NY, I believe) where the Canadian Customs folks board fishing boats and ask if the operator has legally entered Canada with a phone call and a number and other stuff. If they haven't they face having to pay $1000 on the spot or having their boat impounded. One reason I stay close to the south shore of the lake.

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from Michael Shepard wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

HERE IS ONE GOOD ONE! 4 years ago, 4 of us were going to Manitoba on a caribou hunt. Out of NW Montana to Thompson, Manitoba via my club cab Chevy truck. WE drove to the biggest border crossing,at Sweetgrass. we had already done our pre-registration on guns, gear, knives ..etc..with our Border Patrol. We went thru our side like greased butter..then,,bang. When we as a group of 4 stated to the young Canadian lady what we were doing, she demanded our passports, drivers licenses, and told us to sit down. After an hour, I asked what waqs going on..she very indignantly told us to go to Immigration. My comment was we were not moving there, just hunting. After 3 hours later. I finally demamded our stuff and we left. I drove to NE Montana, and at mid-night, was complimented by the Canadian side on all our stuuf being perfect. We got to our destination just in time to fly out. It still pisses me off. So you never know,,At Sweetgrass, there were 3 other groups of American hunters waiting..some were there for 12 hours, waiting for this young lady to do something..never again

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from blackjac wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Another "funny" - five of us leaving Newark airport checked in at Air Canada for the first leg of our flight to BC for a bear hunt. Having hunted there once I swore to bring some "civilized Italian food" along with us. The agent asked if we were bringing any foodstuffs into Canada. One of our party opened his big mouth and allowed were were bringin Italian ham (prischutto-sp) provolone and Italian bread! The agent told me unless the food was canned, it would not be allowed thru customs in Canada------being a "PAL"- he offered to take the food off our hand there in Newark to avoid any problems!!!I gracefully declined his offer. Upon arrival, we buried my duffel on the bottom of a cart and piled everyone's gear atop. Customs were very interested in our firearms and paid no attention to our pile of gear-thank God! The hunt was a great success-we went five for five on bear plus some great evening snacks of ham, cheese and---I forgot to mention--a few bottles of homemade Italian "red"!!!

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from Bernie wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Crowman, you are correct! Every time I have had trouble at a border crossing, Canadian or U.S. Customs, it has been an overzealous woman who created the problem. Hope I don't sound sexist, but unforunately, it has been my experience.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

If all the *&$#^%& Canadians will stay north of the border, I promise to never go back there again. They must pass out free driver's licenses to all the Asian immigrants at the airport. Same for the turbaned semi-truck steering wheel holders that I hesitate to call "drivers".

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from BScrabber wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I do not intend on traveling abroad for hunting abything exactly because of situations like the one in this article intended to cause you grief and hardship. They are supposed to be looking for criminals,drug trafficing, illegal aliens, and terrorists. Now a guy who comes with a legally transported hunting firearm and some TSA type wants to give you grief for what, any reason they can because they hate hunting and/or guns? Its a joke. First thing that comes to mind is the song from the South Park movie.

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from Carl Huber wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I can only speak to my own experiences. Between the 1980's-90's I crossed the border maybe twenty times a year. Granted this was only with my boy's hockey or rugby equipment. But I did find the Canadian people very nice and very helpful. Granted over the years their coaches were a Hockey Hall of famer, two other pro players and the father of two medaled Olympic skaters. This didn't carry any sway in a Toronto burger joint and I was still treated well. One difference I did notice between the two countries was Canadians seemed to be a little more willing to abide to any law. They didn't have the mind set of this is legal why are you breaking my shoes. I was up there during the OJ trial. They found Mark Thurman's testimony that he never ever used a racial slur amusing. Everyone has and if your sworn to tell the truth and you lie about one thing. You could be lying about everything. They also don't jump the wall without a warrant. Maybe this is were the wheels came off in filling out an entry form. I have even spent time in Quebec. A very formal people who only speak french. I consider this rude. But being polite myself got along quite well. Incidentally a Canuck was a slur denoting a french speaking Englishman. One other difference I did notice was Toronto and Detroit. Equal in racial diversity separated by a lake. One year I was there Toronto had three violent deaths, Detroit was over a thousand. Only difference was the out of wed lock birth rate was less than 2% in Toronto. What do you think was the rate in Detroit. Now I'm not lining up to take a long soapy shower with Canada. Quebec has the second highest snowfall in the world. Our health system has theirs beat by a mile. At least for now. And their sin tax is scary.

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from The_UTP wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

to buckstopper: I write for a business and financial newspaper that's decidedly non-partisan. Real lefties don't make it far in financial journalism because you have to accept at least the basic tenets of market capitalism in order to engage in it. As for the media, of course it ignores the heartland. Media is a business, and an increasingly unprofitable one at that. It's always been economically inefficient to cover the sparsely populated interior of the nation, and most national print outlets can't spare the resources to cover it. (I can't speak for television news because it's largely info-tainment and not journalism). In case you think this is Coastal snobbery, I was born and raised in a small town in the middle of Missouri.

To NHStr: You're certainly right. I guess I'm young enough I've never expected government people to have the sense to exercise some judgement and let things slide.

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from jasond wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I am a Canadian who enjoys travelling to the USA and visiting our neighbours and the country. When I was younger (say 20's) I had a few issues when crossing the borders both ways. Now that I am older and more mature, I seem to get along with both sides (as we all should). Let's face it; there are idiots on both sides so there is no sense arguing over who is worse, because that is an arguement that will go on for a long time. Keep up our good neighbour relations and enjoy the outdoors which is what we all have in common.

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from longtrail wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

I am always there for "business meetings". Not paid in or by Canada.

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from buckstopper wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

UTP
I dont know what rag you lay down ink for but i'll bet the letters slant left. the MSM doesnt give a crap about heartland america only the masses in the big cities. Our southern border problem is not the same as the northern border problem, as my old pappy used to say, "dont confuse education for intellegence!"

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from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Ya’Dave, Customs regardless of place & Country they can be a pain in the butt! The last time I flew, I recognize one of the TSA Agents as one of the employees from a Pizza Joint. Guess he got fired and qualified for a job with TSA. LOL!!

After four years in AK on my migration to my next Duty Station from Eielson AFN to Luke AFB June 1990, I to ran into one of those lovely Customs Officers going into Canada. I immediately handed her my Military ID Card, Travel Orders and NATO Travel Orders which listed every firearm I had including ammunition by type and quantity including reloading supplies by type and quantity including by weight. Everything was going well until she asked if I had any handguns, no, they were shipped with my household goods by Government Contracted Carrier and instantly she wanted me to unload both vehicles, utility trailer and remove the horses to. I smiled and kept my kool and asked for a phone. Why she asked? I was told by this gentleman (showing her the mail correspondence) to call him if I had any problems. Instantly she couldn’t get me out of dar fast enough, NO LIE GI !!! Heck! I didn’t know who he wuz, just he probably worked in the head shed of customs who called me back several times concerned my trip would go without any problems. This Fella was great! For US Customs, it wuz the horses Coggins Tests, Vet papers both US and Canada and the places we stopped and the number of days of travel. Could care less about the rest, just the horses.

Hey WAM, taking a commercial load into Canada did the same thing. Customs Agent wuz playing every game and when a Major walked up wanting to know what wuz going on because She really lost her kool and I wuz smiling and calm as a Baptist Preacher, the Major to looked at my papers and when he spotted my Military ID, he to couldn't get me out of dar fast enough. Agent wanted to know if I had any Coke? Ya, got some on ice want me to get you one?!

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from The_UTP wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

To Dave: Thanks for your response. I'll have to register that I disagree that what the agent wanted was absurd -- if you tell customs at a sovereign country that you're coming into the country to work, I don't think it's nuts for them to ask whether you have a work visa. Americans seem to become quite agitated when their southern neighbors enter their country to work without notifying the government of their intentions. Why is it so absurd for the Canadians to feel differently about their southern neighbors?

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from The_UTP wrote 1 year 52 weeks ago

Dave: Do you think it's ethical to use your clout as an editor for a national magazine to resolve something like this? I am a business/financial journalist, and the generally accepted rule among my species is that it's an abusive of press power to use coverage as a threat to make the reporter's life easier.

I can see where you might reason that the top tourism official had come not weeks before begging for coverage. In my mind, the correct thing to do would have been to keep mum that you were a journalist or knew the minister. Then when you got sent back home, you call the minister and explain to him what happened and that you're writing a story about it -- and would like to know whether he has any comment. Threatening a low-level functionary in order to get your way seems like an abuse of the power of the press.

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