Jan 25, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
I’m blessed to hunt in Canada a lot both for North American Hunter TV and for my own personal enjoyment. With the institution of new paperwork and a $25 fee for a 60-day gun permit more than a decade ago hunting in Canada has gotten a bad rap with many U.S. hunters. In reality most border crossings with guns are slick and easy unless you decide to enter Canada through the Toronto airport. It’s funny to me that Canada is home to one of the world’s most hunter friendly major cities – Montreal – as well as one of the most hunter unfriendly cities – Toronto. So a recent entry through Canadian Customs at the airport in Quebec City stands out.
At the first entry window I informed the agent I was bringing in firearms for a hunt on Anticosti. As usual I was instructed to pick up my bags including the gun case from the carousel then proceed to the inspection line to complete the appropriate paperwork on the guns and pay the permit fee.
At the carousel an agent had a Labrador Retriever on a leash walking over the circling bags like a treadmill. When he hit my big duffle the dog alerted. The agent asked what I had in the bag and I told him my clothing, hunting gear and ammunition. He nodded and asked me to check with him again when he was finished with the rest of the bags.
I agreed, added my locked gun case to the cart and moved over to the line for the inspection area. When my turn came, I was approached by another agent who looked at my entry card, saw that I would be processing guns and asked if it would be okay if two agents in training were allowed to handle this process so they could learn the procedures. “Sure, what the heck? As long as I end up with a valid permit, why not?”
At the counter I was greeted by the two rookies and the dog handler. He asked me to remove the box that contained the ammunition. I did and he placed in on the floor, then got the dog and walked him past the box. The dog triggered again and received his reward – a moment of play with a bouncy rubber ball. They thanked me and told me to put the box back in my duffle.
Next the rookies found the right form for the firearms. I’m used to filling this all out myself and the agent simply verifying the serial numbers, but they were told by the supervisor to complete the form themselves. To do this they’d have to thoroughly inspect the guns which meant we needed to go to another isolated room for safety and security reasons.
Okay, I was into this now. I wanted to see how it would go.
They decided to allow me to roll the case down the hall and into the next room myself, but once there I was to give them the keys to the case and step back with my hands in sight at my sides while they unlocked the case, removed the guns and did the inspection. Well, you can guess how all that went. I had to show them how to unlock the case. Then once they had the rifles out, they had no clue how to operate the actions, check the guns to assure they were empty or where to locate the serial numbers.
With my back against the door and my hands clearly visible at all times I had to describe how to do all these things to a couple of novices.
Finally, we got it done and the young female trainee started filling out the paper work. This left the rookie male agent to make conversation. He apologized for the “scary” experience of coming to this isolated room.
As I assured him it was no problem and told him I was happy to be part of his training I began to look around the room. The word “scary” seemed out of place until I glanced into the far corner of the room. There was a machine the likes of which I’ve not seen before.
Bottom of the unit was a stainless steel cube of approximately four feet by four feet. It had a number of dials and controls on it and appeared to have some pull-out doors to internal bins. The top was an enclosure of clear Plexiglas panels about five feet high. One side was hinged to create a door. In the middle was a raised oval topped off by a toilet seat! It took a minute to dawn on me where I was and for what this contraption would be used.
I must have been wide-eyed when I said to the agent, “Well, I really wasn’t scared until I saw that!”
He reassured me, “No, no! That’s not scary. It’s state of the art compared to the drive-in entry stations! All they have is a five-gallon plastic bucket and a pair of rubber gloves!”
Soon the paperwork was done, I paid my fee and was officially welcomed into Canada. Now I’m even more convinced bringing firearms into Canada is not that big a hassle when you compare it with other things people try to bring in! Nope, not a hassle at all!
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