So this is the time of the year us waterfowl hunters really start to get antsy. At work we daydream about laying in a corn stubble field waiting on flocks of honkers to fly in dragging their toe nails across the rich soil before attempting to land. You and your buddies come up looking down your barrel and lining up a huge canada goose back-winging in your decoys twenty-two yards out. Early morning light flashes with gunfire as the middle of the flock drops out. You pull up to see a second bird lucky enough to have survived the first volley, trying to get out hard right. You swing your gun throwing a wall of #2 shot that stops the goose dead in it’s tracks. You look up at your smiling friends as the few remaining geese sneak out the back door, laughing at each other exchanging fists bumps and hand smacks. DAMN I MISS THAT AND THANK GOD FOR CANADA!
Canada, season starts September 1 and ends when the last bird has left for the migration south. The weather can start out warm and end up subzero in only a few short months. Fields are full of the much needed energy migratory birds will need to fly south for the winter. Massive roosts of birds sitting on bodies of water scattered throughout the country side. Large flocks of birds flying over early morning and late afternoon.Passing up on fields of 1000 birds to only set up on 10,000. It is a waterfowler’s heaven on earth.
I made my first trip in 1996 and have been there 17 different times hunting four different provinces. I’ve freelanced hunted there, hunted with Canadian friends and booked with outfitters. I’ve filmed and fun hunted. I have shot almost every species of waterfowl that has flown over the country. I would say I know a little bit about how to hunt Canada and if you are unlucky enough not to have experienced arguably some of the best waterfowl hunting in the Northern Hemisphere it’s not too late. You have the ability to hunt vast lands with little pressure and amazing opportunity to hunt different species of birds with extremely generous bag limits.
Here are a few things that a person needs to know when hunting Canada.
You are required to possess a valid federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit with a Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp to hunt migratory birds in Canada. This permit and stamp are valid in all provinces and territories. Most provinces and territories have additional license requirements for hunting migratory birds and/or to carry firearms. To know what you require, and if there are further restrictions for hunting migratory birds, please verify the applicable regulations for the province/territory where you will be hunting. Note that all required permits and licenses must be in your possession while you are hunting.
Crossing the border
Questions they will ask you as
- What do you do for a living? (Want to make sure you have a job to go back to)
- Where are you going?
- What is the purpose of the trip?
- Do you have any hand guns?
- How much tobacco do you have?
- How much alcohol do you have?
What you need to know
- You will need a passport or an enhanced drivers licensed
- You cannot enter if you’ve had a DUI/DWI without documentation of a pardon from the government. They take drinking and driving very serious.
- No hand guns or hand gun ammunition allowed unless you get a special permit which is difficult to get
- You must register your firearms at the border using the Canadian Customs Non-resident Firearm Declaration
- You can register up to 3 shotguns or long guns or a combination on one $25 form
You can bring the following (without paying additional tax fees):
- 200 rounds of ammunition
- I roll of tobacco
- 1 carton of cigarettes
- 2 bottles of wine
- 40 fluid ounces of alcohol
- Beer 24 pack of 12 ounce cans
Bringing your gundog
- Must have proof of current rabies shots and vaccinations
- Health certificate signed by your veterinarian
Bringing back birds
- Must leave a wing on the breast/body to be able to identify the birds all the way home
- At the border you will need to fill out a US Fish and Game Report Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish and Wildlife
- You may not import processed items made from birds you take, such as sausage
- You may also mail or ship your game birds back to the United States. You must put the full name and address of the exporter and importer on the package.You may import as many waterfowl Canadian authority allow you to export. This number usually corresponds to daily bag and possession limits.
- You can give away your birds and not have to bring any back
- They may ask you if you registered your gun before you crossed, make sure you retain your Canadian Customs Non-resident Firearm Declaration form you received when you registered your firearms with Canadian Customs
Other miscellaneous tips
- Diesel is yellow handled
- Look at the small numbers on most speedometer to see kilometers per hours
- You can get landowner maps at the county offices
- They serve gravy on their fries
- Alcohol and tobacco is twice as much as it costs in the states
- Use your credit card for the best current exchange rate
- Most places will take US currency, but some won’t give you the exchange rate
So my advice on hunting Canada, if you are young and adventurous have a trailer with twelve dozen decoys and love the chase, scouting, getting permission, basically working for your birds, then you by all means should try and freelance it. It is very easy to get permission up there as long as you smile and respect the property. There are no guarantees that you will get a spot, the land owner might have his field tied up by local hunters or an outfitter he’s leasing to, but he probably knows a person who does allow guys to hunt. Another option that has worked extremely well for me, is hunt the Huterites/Amish lands. These colony of European ancestral farmers own vast amount of land are more than willing to give permission. You might have to meet half the curious colony as they come out of the wood work to see where the mud covered foreign truck and trailer are from. And you might have to bribe the cow boss or field boss or any other boss that feels like they can get some sort of bottle of alcohol from you. But it is well worth it.
If you do plan on freelance, I strongly suggest you get there two to three days earlier than you plan on hunting, and getting to know the land and who owns it. Get yourself a landowner map at the local county office and start driving, glassing and marking locations. If you can lock down serval fields prior to hunting, you can almost guarantee a couple really good smashers. It’s very difficult to hunt in the morning then trying to scout the evenings and get permission. The fields are so massive you can easily be lead astray by flocks of geese flying across the county or not spot that field full of birds because you’ve lost all your light. If you know where the birds are you can go watch them that night knowing you’ve already secured permission.
One thing that has helped me is meeting friends up in Canada. There are plenty of great Canadian hunters that would love to take their hop drinking Southern neighbor on a field duck hunt.
Now if you only think you can do it one or two times in your life time or your time is limited and you don’t feel like driving 2 to 4 hours a day finding birds, you should look into hiring an outfitter. There are solid outfitters I know all over Canada. Rob Reynolds of Ranchland Outfitters in Alberta is probably one of the most consistent services I’ve been fortunate enough to hunt with. The food usually is amazing, with a lot more flavor than I’ve experienced in the fast food world of Canada and the lodging is usually better than the bedroom you sleep in at home.
All in all Canada is an amazing and religious place for the diehard waterfowl hunter and I encourage anyone who puts on a set of waders and stand in a marsh, to try it at least once.