Driving Through Canada to Alaska: What Firearm to Bring?
Driving through Canada to Alaska is a wonderful experience. The majestic landscapes never cease to fill me with awe. Once you pass into Western Canada, the majority of the remainder of your journey will be in remote regions. It is common to see eagles, hawks, and owls as well as other birds of prey. One time, I came around a corner somewhere in British Columbia and had to break hard to avoid running into a half dozen Great Horned Owls standing in the middle of the road. They glared their contempt at me—probably for disturbing their meal, which at this point was quite unrecognizable but for a few clumps of bloody brown fur but when, as one, they launched into flight, their wingspans seemed to cover the entire width of the road. In seconds, they cleared the treetops and were gone.
On more than one occasion I have encountered wolves, caribou, moose, elk, deer, and bears. Speaking of bears, I have nearly always been armed in bear country. The exception is Canada and that’s because of their strict gun laws. Most of my journeys through Canada have been in the winter, which minimalizes the chance bear encounters but a good friend of mine, Will Koehler, was charged by a grizzly bear in January when temperatures were averaging thirty below zero. The bruins are known to wake up from hibernation now and then for a stretch and a snack. Luckily, Will was fast food and proved too fast to be a snack.
Will Koehler had ridden his snowmachine out to his cabin in the Wrangell Mountains only to find the front window broken out. He was gazing at this when he heard a woof behind him. The bear came for him and he climbed up on the cabin’s roof — the bear followed him. He jumped off the roof and then in through the broken window to find his cabin in ruins. He dug through the piles of debris piled up by the bear in search for his rifle. Just as the bear began to climb in the window after him, Will laid his hands upon his rifle and shot the bear. Will and his wife, Jaia, own and operate Wrangle Outfitters.
Now, when I travel through Canada, I ship my handgun but I bring a shotgun with me. Most shotguns are easy to bring through Canada without a lot of hassle. Non-restricted firearms refer to ordinary rifles and shotguns which have not been modified, like with a hacksaw or grenade launcher attachment. Folding or telescoping stock shotguns that can be fired when the overall length is reduced to less than 26 inches is classed as restricted by the Canadians. More on non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited firearms can be found here => http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/faq/index-eng.htm#a3.
If you do not possess a Canadian Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), you will need to fill out a Non-Resident Firearm Declaration (form RCMP 5589). If you bring more than three long guns, you will need the Non-Resident Firearm Declaration Continuation Sheet (form RCMP 5590).
A shotgun is good bear defense but, unlike a near-to-hand holstered handgun, often gets laid down or leaned against a tree. Of course, that’s when the bear wanders in between you and your shotgun. Alas, there is no hope for packing your handgun in Canada unless you’re willing to risk gigantic fines and prison. Bring the shotgun but don’t leave it in the vehicle when traipsing into bear country; it may be cumbersome but it is comforting.
In a vehicle or RV, a shotgun is unwieldy, especially if accosted by two-legged undesirables but it is better than no gun. In 2002, I researched violent crime in various counties as compared to the U.S. and found in that year and preceding years that Canada had a 7.5% higher violent crime rate per capita than the United States. I deducted that criminals, knowing that the general populace is unarmed, assume their random targets are easy prey.
Unfortunately, liberals feel that since drug laws got all the illegal drugs off the streets, we should do the same thing with guns. We no longer have an illicit drug problem in America—right? No one, not even criminals, can obtain drugs anymore—right? If we outlaw guns, criminals can’t get them—right? Their logic boggles the mind.
Another tidbit of advice when bringing a shotgun into Canada: never claim that it is for self-defense. Self-defense is illegal in Canada. That’s right, you’re supposed to submit to whatever crimes or heinous acts against your person before violating a criminal’s rights. Tell any official who asks that your shotgun is for target shooting, hunting, or competition. If you have pepper spray, be sure it is designated as Bear or Dog spray. If you have a cat, say nothing about cat spray—border guards generally lack a sense of humor. Mace or undesignated pepper spray will get you turned around at the border.
Canadian laws can seem oppressive and intimidating to a United States citizen but don’t let that stop you from making the trip. Canadians are nice people for the most part, friendly, and fun-loving with the exception of one road construction sign holder who was having a bad day. Many Americans feel a sense of relief when they cross the border into Alaska. For many, me included, that sense of relief transcends being back on U.S. soil. There is a sense of freedom in Alaska that goes beyond the other states with only a few exceptions. When you are out of the country, your country awaits your return. Visit Canada and enjoy its beauty and its culture and then come to Alaska and enjoy ours.