When you’re planning a wingshooting trip, whether it’s out-of-the-country or just out-of-state, there are many details to consider. There are some adventurers who enjoy dotting all the “I”s and crossing all the “T”s. To these folks, it’s all part of the trip and a way to be deeply involved. Planning and covering details is a welcome facet of anticipation.
For others, the enjoyment of a distant wingshooting adventure is in simply showing up and having a good time. Their view is more of a luxury, all-inclusive resort vacation. “Worrying” about details and a million little decisions leading up to the trip detract from the enjoyment of the experience for them.
To each their own. Neither philosophy is right or wrong – they’re just different.
However, there’s one decision both types of wingshooters need to make – and they might not even realize it’s an option. For a distant trip should you take your own hunting shotguns or should you borrow or rent from the outfitter, lodge, or club? There are pros and cons to both options.
Flying or Driving?
First consider your mode of transportation to your destination.
Driving to a wingshooting destination usually means it’s no problem to bring your own guns. However, you need to check the regulations not only at your destination, but over all the territory you’ll be covering on your way there and on the way home. There are differences in regulations about firearm transport from state to state and even municipality to municipality. You need to know the laws and plan for the most restrictive you’ll encounter.
If you’ll be overnighting along the way, you need to consider how you’ll secure your firearms. Is locking them in the vehicle out-of-sight enough or should you bring them into your hotel room? In today’s paranoid society, just carrying a gun case down the hall in a hotel can get you a visit from security or worse!
Flying with firearms comes with its own set of potential headaches, and it’s getting expensive. Most airlines are now charging for every checked bag and some charge extra for firearms. We’ll provide a future post on tips for flying with shotguns, but it’s not a stretch to understand how worrying about the fate of an expensive shotgun checked as baggage is the kind of thing that can make a trip less enjoyable. There are parts of a wingshooting trip you want to be an “adventure,” but the security of your shotgun is not one of them!
Depending on where you’re traveling, either option – bringing or renting - might be the bigger hassle, so you need to determine the locale’s firearm restrictions. State to state, regulations for hunting or target shooting shotguns don’t vary much. You can generally bring your own quite easily. It’s when you’re traveling out of the country, things can get dicey.
Travel to Canada from the U.S. with your own shotguns is easy. At the border crossing you declare to the customs agents that you’re bringing in shotguns for hunting or target shooting purposes. You complete a Canadian Firearms Permit form which includes your vital stats and description of the gun(s) – make, model, caliber/gauge, action, barrel length, and serial number. You pay a $25.00 fee and the permit is good for 60 days. Keep the stamped permit with the firearm at all times – that means in the case during transport and in your pocket in the field or at the range.
It’s actually a bit more complicated for a non-resident to “borrow” a firearm in Canada. You must have either: A) a Possession & Acquisition License (PAL) for which you must complete a course ahead of time, B) a confirmed Temporary Firearms Borrowing License, or C) direct and immediate supervision of the licensed owner of the firearm (and that DOES NOT mean a guide working for an outfitter who actually owns the firearm.)
Conversely, travel to Mexico with your firearms is nearly impossible – at least it’s fraught with potential problems. If everything isn’t done properly, the results can range from confiscation of your firearm and the vehicle in which you transported it to tens of thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees to up to 30 years in a Mexican prison. While there is a “process” by which you may be permitted to take firearms into Mexico, there is so much graft and corruption it’s hard to have faith the paperwork you receive is “real.” If you’re going to Mexico to shoot doves, quail, or waterfowl – make arrangements to borrow or rent a shotgun from your outfitter.
These examples are at the extremes. Travel to other foreign countries fall in between both as far as firearms restrictions and local customs. The best advice is to work with your outfitter. He or she will be able to answer all your questions about importation of firearms and their ability to provide quality guns for you, if you wish. If they can’t answer those questions or seem hesitant – find another outfitter!
Real Life Example
Personally, one of my favorite wingshooting destinations is Argentina. (At least it was before the current political turmoil there. I’m not sure I’ll go back until things are settled.)
On the first trips to Argentina, I always took my own shotguns. Here in the states, there simply are not the opportunities for high-volume shooting that there are in South America. In the 3-5 day trips to Argentina – I often fired as many rounds through my guns as I would in as much as five hunting seasons at home!
Then one night, we were flying home from Cordova via Santiago, Chile. We’d transferred planes and were settling into our seats for the flight to Houston. That’s when three armed officers came on to the plane and spoke with the lead flight attendant. They were speaking in Spanish and pointing at paperwork they were carrying.
They turned and came down the aisle – to my seat! They instructed me to come with them and walked me off the plane and down the stairs onto the tarmac. My orange gun case was lying on the pavement below the cargo doors. After a few anxious moments, I figured out they wanted me to open the case and inspect my shotguns. I complied, and they glanced at the two disassembled firearms.
I’m not sure what they were expecting to see, but apparently they were satisfied and turned and walked away. I re-locked the case and carried it over to a baggage handler who I watched send it up the belt.
Back in my seat, it was about halfway to Texas before my heart rate went back to normal.
On all my South American trips since, I rent guns from the outfitter! It’s actually no more expensive since the import fee in Argentina was $150 and outfitters generally charge $50/day for rental. Many high-volume wingshooting outfitters are on a special program with Beretta so they are resupplied with new guns at least once or twice a year. I’ve always found the guns to be higher-end models and in excellent working condition.
Bottom line is – when I go to hunt/shoot in Canada, I take my own shotguns. Anywhere else outside the States, I’m looking pretty hard at renting or borrowing.