Crossing the Border Both Ways and Driving in Canada

We drove across Montana on Highway 2 to avoid the mountains to the south and west of us.  This was all farm and ranch land with two lane driving and was just a little boring.  Montana is a beautiful state outside of the mountains with the prairies, farm and crop lands. At Shelby Montana, we picked up I-15 and drove straight north to the Sweetgrass/Coutts port of entry to Canada and exit from the U.S.

This sculpture was just outside of Gladstone, ND. 

 

We drove up to a Kiosk, presented our passports, and answered questions about why we were entering Canada.  We were told where to park and took our paperwork inside.  The person at the kiosk was courteous, but quick and to the point.

The form for declaring the firearm is available on line and also Mike’s Outfitting sent me a copy to complete.  DO NOT SIGN THE FORM.  I didn’t. You will sign it in front of the immigration officer.  I also took in a copy of my contract and copies of the correspondence taken place with Mike’s Outfitting.  I was questioned as to whether I had other firearms in my possession.  The answer was NO. Mike had also cautioned me NOT to bring a hand gun with me.  They signed the form, took my $35.00, gave us back our passports and we were off on our way.

My advice just to save a little money is to fill up your tank before you get into Canada.  They sell gas by the liter and it take 4 liters to make a gallon.  The price of fuel when we crossed the border went up drastically.

We are so used to driving the interstate system in the states that we assumed we would have an easy time filling the tank.  NOT SO.  There are no signs along the highway advertising gasoline stations.  There are some rest areas, but they are very far apart.  My truck holds 36 gallons, so when we got to the halfway point we filled up regardless of where we were and it also gave us a potty break.  In larger cities they do have a section of the highway that advertises gasoline stations available.  We always filled up even if we had 3/4 of a tank still available.

Use a credit card wherever you go if possible.  You may get a charge when you get home for the use of the card, but that is minimal.  The dollar was worth 26 cents more that the Canadian dollar.  Our card makes that calculation for us and we get charged the correct exchange amount.  We used  US dollars a couple of times and no one would make the exchange and considered it straight across the board.

Canada is on the metric system and the highway signs are in Kilometers. That is easy to figure as a 1 mph is equal to 0.621 Km.  So when you see the highway speed sign saying 110 Km, multiply by 0.621 or 0.6 to get the speed in miles per hour.  We hardly ever noticed the Canadians driving the speed limit.  They flew by us and we never passed a car on the way up or back.  I drove the speed limit because we were in a foreign country and I wanted to follow their rules.  We never saw one highway patrol on the entire trip in Canada.  Maybe that is why they all speed.

We came back home the same way we went up.  The thought was to go south in Montana down through the mountain regions, into Wyoming and the across South Dakota.  When we saw there was snow forecasted in the mountain areas of Montana and Wyoming, we stayed on the previous route.

Sweetgrass/Coutts is the busiest border crossing in Canada.  We got up extra early and were on the road at 6:30 after the free breakfast at the Comfort Inn.  When we got to the border there was a line already, but it moved along fairly briskly.  There were a lot of RVs going south for the winter.  We saw signs in the towns warning people to start preparing for winter as it was coming soon.  Also, we saw RV parking lots everywhere along their highway system and dealers in every major city.  People in Alberta must RV a lot and I think there must be a group that heads south for the winter.

Pulling up to the kiosk we were met by a very pretty and friendly young lady.  Smiling all the time she asked for our passports, and where we had been.  “What were you doing up there?” she said.  I said, “Hunting moose.”  “Where is the moose?” she asked.  I pointed to the coolers in the back of the truck and said, “He is in the coolers.”  That brought laughter and she motioned for me to park the truck, leave the gun and the moose in the truck along with my wife and go inside.  Someone will call your name.  That step was easy.

Inside, I sat down and waited.  Other people were called and some had come in after me.  This was beginning to feel like I was going to be questioned or maybe shaken down.  My guide had prepared the skull cap for the crossing, and indicated they should not want to look at this, but be prepared.  Also, I was warned they may want me to open the coolers.  Now this is bad as they were packed to the top and all seams had been double taped.  The processor said, “Don’t worry about a thing, you are good for more than 5 days, but do not open the coolers.  If they are opened, you will have to buy dry ice to make it home.”  The guides suggested that I not argue, but ask that they not open the coolers.

We were in the middle of nowhere so where would I buy dry ice?  Not to worry, we discovered a company called Praxair.  They are in 50 countries with 26,000 employees and supply industrial gasses of all kinds.  Wherever there is a medical complex or an industrial complex, like oil well drilling and processing, there is Praxair.  We then called several spots along the interstate and located who had the dry ice.  Problem solved.  If they opened up the coolers, our overnight stop was Dickinson, ND and Praxair was expecting us if we needed them.

They did not open the coolers and they did not inspect my horns.  Whew!!!!!!!  I presented my hunting license for Alberta, my application to bring a gun into Canada, my receipt from the processor, a processed game tag from the processor, and my contract with Mike’s Outfitting.  They had our passports.

Then a form was completed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.  The officer stood right there and helped me fill it out.  Then another form was completed by immigration and again the officer stood right there and helped me out.  Then another person came over and they both discussed my document to bring a gun into Canada.  It was not stamped.  The people in Canada did not stamp it and they just said they had seen this before and if we come back up to hunt, ask the officials to stamp the form.

The officer in Canada was really friendly and discussed the location where I was going to hunt moose, and gave us a big thumbs up on that area.  We discussed processing too.  They were very helpful.

Then it hit me.  I was asked to complete a form that Homeland Security wanted regarding my rifle.  I was told it was optional, but if I ever hunted Canada again, it would help me get across the border.

 

I wrote a description of the gun, just like the description on the form to enter Canada.  Listed the serial number, and the officer said now I need to see the gun.  When I came out of the door with the officer in his gear and carrying a sidearm, my wife’s eyes doubled in size.  I pulled out the gun, he inspected it and verified the serial number, signed it and back in we went.  I was given a copy and told to keep the document with the gun, if I hunt overseas or come back to Canada.  It will make crossing the border easier.

They gave us back our passports and we were off to fill up the tank with cheaper American gas and head for home via Dickinson, ND, then to Council Bluffs.  Total time from when we got to the border from when we left was 90 minutes, and we did not have to open the coolers. Everyone was courteous and helpful.

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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