As I write this, I’m just making my way back from McLennan, Alberta, heading down Canada Highway 49 with Field & Stream contributor and Alberta native Brad Fenson at the wheel. He and I have been up here testing out the new 3 1/2-inch Browning A5 shotgun and Federal’s Black Cloud High Velocity and Close Range loads on the area’s waterfowl. Although we hit a lull in the migration, I’m happy to report both the gun and loads performed as expected on the birds called into range by our guide Kevin McNeil of Blue Sky Outfitters.
The small cooler sitting on the tailgate of Brad’s truck is filled with three limits of ducks–24 in total–that I managed to scratch over the course of the past three days. Tomorrow morning, the ducks will accompany me through customs at the Edmonton International Airport and onto the plane to Denver as a carry-on bag. By the weekend, I’ll be home enjoying some fresh grilled mallards and duck pho.
A lot of American hunters are hesitant about hunting in Canada due to misinformation or just plain ignorance about the difficulty in bringing birds back across the border. Those who do come to Canada to hunt waterfowl rarely bring birds back home–instead eating what they can while they’re here and donating the rest, or leaving it up the outfitter to distribute the birds to families in the area. That’s a shame because bringing birds back to the U.S. is easy and, if you use a carry-on sized bag, doesn’t require paying any extra baggage fees.
The key to hassle-free importation of birds is ensuring they have been processed correctly, with at least one wing still attached for identification, as you can see in the photo. You’ve heard me preach a lot about using the whole bird and ideally, I’d do just that, but I had to make some concessions for the size of my carry-on cooler, so on this trip the birds got breasted instead. That allowed me to take a full three-day possession limit home as allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, versus just a single day’s limit. At customs, I’ll be asked to fill out a declaration form, listing the number and species of birds being imported. Other than that, I’m anticipating no problems coming across the border.
If you’ve ever thought about coming to Canada to experience some epic waterfowling, I’d encourage you to book a trip. Even when the hunting is tough, it’s as good as anything you’ll ever experience in the U.S. And, when you do hit the migration at its peak, the hunting is unbelievable, with hundreds of ducks swarming you at shooting light and wave after wave of geese fluttering into the decoys. By bringing that bounty home, you’ll be able to recall the experience again and again with every bite.