Canada reopened its shared border with the U.S. on August 9. It was welcome news for waterfowlers, who were denied access to Canada during the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also a huge relief for waterfowl outfitters, who missed out on a year’s worth of revenue because of travel restrictions.
“I’m excited to go back up there,” says Troy Maaser of Neu Outdoors Canada, a duck and goose outfitter in Saskatchewan. “I’m just in the beginning stages of the outfitting deal, and I need to meet more farmers and get those relationships built for years to come.”
But with only a few weeks to prepare and several mandates in place, many hunters are still hesitant about heading north this fall. American hunters who are already in Canada or in the process of traveling there say the process is fairly straightforward. Here’s what you need to know.
Travel Requirements for American Duck Hunters
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As of August 9, the country allows entry for non-essential travel to American citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before entering. Canada recognizes four vaccines: Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca COVIDSHIELD, and Johnson & Johnson. If you’re not sure whether you qualify, you can find out here.
Further, all travelers must submit a negative pre-entry COVID-19 molecular test (not an an antigen test—you can find the list of approved tests here) conducted within 72 hours of their arrival. Fully-vaccinated travelers will not need a post-arrival test unless they are randomly selected to complete a Day 1 COVID-19 molecular test.
With limited exceptions, all travelers—whether arriving by air, land, or sea—must use the app or web portal platform ArriveCAN to submit travel information, proof of vaccination, pre-entry COVID test results, and a quarantine plan within 72 hours before arrival in Canada. If you meet eligibility requirements, fully vaccinated travelers won’t have to quarantine upon arrival. But travelers must still provide a quarantine plan and be prepared to quarantine if border officials determine they do not meet the requirements. Foreign nationals traveling for discretionary purposes who don’t submit info through ArriveCAN might be denied boarding on flights or entry into Canada. Hunters traveling with groups can include multiple travelers in an ArriveCAN submission. The website also features an instructional video and information covering several contingencies.
“It’s their way of speeding up the process once you get to the border,” says Cooper Olmstead, who operates Habitat Flats’ Saskatchewan outfit.
Olmstead, who traveled to Canada on August 25 in preparation for waterfowl season, recommends that travelers wait to fill out ArriveCAN info until they have a confirmed negative molecular COVID test result. Of course, travelers must still meet standard pre-COVID border crossing requirements, such as possessing a valid passport and, if transporting a firearm, filling out a non-resident firearm declaration form. You also need to visit a U.S. Customs office prior to your trip in order to obtain the necessary paperwork for your firearm.
Canada has not set any COVID-related restrictions for bringing dogs into the country. As before, you must show proof of a rabies vaccination for dogs that are older than eight months. Olmstead says he always brings a USDA health certificate for his dog so there are no questions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not announced any restrictions on bringing harvested gamebirds—within possession limits, of course—back to the U.S.
Read Next: How to Hunt Ducks and Geese
Easy Crossings at the Canadian Border
The COVID stipulations have stirred some rumors about time-consuming border crossings. Olmstead said he’d heard a few such stories. But his experience was a pretty seamless one.
“It takes us a little bit [to cross] with work permits, but I didn’t think it was bad at all,” he says.
Maaser said his clients report similarly smooth experiences.
“Everybody I talked to said they went right across, and it was the easiest border crossing they’ve had,” he says. “Nobody’s had any issues.”
Despite the opening of non-resident waterfowl hunting in Canada, Olmstead and Maaser say their 2021 client numbers are down. The biggest hurdle they are running into is the hesitancy by some Americans to get vaccinated.
“The shots are the main thing,” Maaser says. “People who want to go aren’t getting the shot.”
Olmstead agrees, but said other issues have also complicated annual hunts.
“We’ve lost a lot of [clients] for a number of reasons,” he said. “Some people don’t want to get the vaccine. Some have gotten it but then don’t follow the criteria, like they haven’t gotten it in enough time to go. A couple of guys lost their passports, or they expired, and those guys can’t get them expedited. It’s just been a tough year.”
Still, these waterfowl guides say that 2021 will be better than 2020, as they’ve regained the opportunity to entertain clients in North America’s waterfowl mecca, which is a far sight better than last year.
“At least it’s something, and that’s better than nothing,” Olmstead said. “We’re kind of getting back in a rhythm again. At least you get to see farmers and make those connections again.”