Tips for the traveling hunter
by Alberta Professional Outfitters Society
Entrance into Canada
Alberta has 3 international airports: Calgary (YYC), Edmonton (YEG), and Fort McMurray (YMM). These airports are serviced by 14 different airlines. Hunters can also drive up through Montana, entering Canada at one of the five border crossings (Carway, Del Bonita, Sweet Grass, Aden, or Wild Horse).
Regardless of whether you fly or drive to Canada, you will be required to clear Canadian customs with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), presenting a valid passport at the border crossing. At Canadian customs, you may be asked several questions about the purpose of your trip, the length of your stay, where you live, and the name of your outfitter. The Alberta Professional Outfitters Society (APOS) recommends carrying some form of written verification, such as a contract, to show the address of your destination. Any alcohol, tobacco and firearms must be declared at customs. Although cannabis is legal for adults in Canada, it is still illegal to transport cannabis and all products containing cannabis, including products containing CBD, across the Canadian border.
Old criminal records – even old driving under the influence (DUI) charges – can sometimes cause issues at the border. If you have any type of criminal charge or conviction on your record, even if you have come to Canada previously, it is best to notify your outfitter and take steps to help ensure a smooth entry into Canada.
Pardon services are available through a private company based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba:
Pardon Services Enterprises Phone: (204) 453-0099
Bringing Firearms, Bows and Ammunition into Canada by Air
Please contact your airline to check their requirements, but in general:
Archery equipment is typically 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 incur 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 that is in excess of 11 pounds per passenger or that contains incendiary projectiles is prohibited.
When checking a firearm, you must declare 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 unloaded and sign a Firearms Unloaded Declaration. You must lock the firearm 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 separately from your firearm in the manufacturer’s original package or securely packed in plastic/carbon fiber, wooden, or metal boxes.
All clients will need to obtain a Wildlife Identification Number (WiN). This can be done online through AlbertaRELM. You must pay the one-time $8 CAD fee for the WiN after the number is issued to you to ensure your outfitter can purchase your licence.
Hunters who have a hunting licence suspension, in Alberta or elsewhere, cannot obtain a recreational hunting licence in Alberta. For further information, your outfitter can contact their local Alberta Fish and Wildlife Area Office.
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 will provide you with suggestions for specific calibers and cartridges for your targeted game species. In Alberta, it is unlawful to hunt game with a caliber less than .23 or a shotgun caliber/gauge of .410 or less. 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 talk to your outfitter to get more information.
You are allowed to bring eligible firearms with you into Canada. 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.
A simple, one-page Non-Resident Firearms Declaration form (5589e) must be completed to obtain a temporary Canadian Firearms Permit. Your outfitter will normally provide this form with your hunt contract. Completing this in advance should reduce the time required to clear customs. You do not need to complete this form for archery equipment.
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 the firearms listed on it. If you are coming with others who will be using firearms in Canada, each of you will need to meet these requirements independently. The Declaration must be signed in front of a Customs officer.
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 will be hunting. In most areas you can purchase common calibers/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.
Bow hunting in Alberta
Bow hunting is extremely popular in Alberta. Bow hunters enjoy seasons for most species that start as early as August and last until the end of rifle season. Hunters must purchase a Bowhunting Permit in addition to their licence. 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 broad head with at least 7/8-inch cutting diameter. 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.
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 diameter of at least 7/8-inch. Crossbows are not permitted in archery-only zones.
What should I wear to hunt in Alberta?
There are no regulations in Alberta that require specific clothing colours. Blaze orange is not required. 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 is cold, and de-layer if it warms up. Warm and flexible gloves, quality headgear, and cozy socks are 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 are 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 to match the time and locale of your hunt.
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, starting in late August and running through September, average temperatures hover between 50 and 55 F. In October, average temperatures drop to about 35 to 45 F. November average temperatures are below freezing, at 14 to 32 F. December and January see some of the coldest temperatures, regularly dipping to well below zero. However, the Chinook winds in the south have seen winter temperatures rise above 70 F for short periods of time! For spring bear seasons, hunters can expect mild temperatures, averaging around 30 to 50 F. More information on seasonal average temperatures in Alberta is available on the Travel Alberta website.
Alberta’s Time Zone
Alberta is on Mountain Standard Time and observes daylight saving time.
The Canadian dollar fluctuates against the US dollar. Exchanging US dollars for Canadian dollars can be done easily at any bank in Canada, or at a currency exchange kiosk at the Calgary and Edmonton International Airports. If you require extra cash, ATMs can be found in any town across the province, but 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.
Transporting Game and Trophies
Exporting your game back home is simple as long as you export the animal (head, hide, meat, etc.) as personal baggage. Your hunting licence will act as your Export Permit, so be sure to 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 US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) , the process is simplified if this form is filled out in advance.
If you are leaving Alberta through a major airport, you may be checked by Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement upon departure. You should have your WiN number and licence(s) on hand, know the name of your outfitter and guide, and have a general idea of where you were hunting. A copy of your contract may also be helpful. Be aware that you cannot take home wildlife parts or meat that you did not harvest without an additional Export Permit. Your outfitter will be able to assist you with understanding the requirements, but Ron's Wildlife Services can also provide additional expertise on importing and exporting wildlife trophies, if needed.
More information on CITES requirements for black bears is available on the Government of Alberta website. 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 your 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. You will need to plan 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.