Be prepared: Applying Boy Scout’s motto to travel


Preparing for a hunting adventure can be as enjoyable and challenging as the trip itself. A great friend and I are heading to Manitoba, Canada soon for several days of duck hunting, and we are already worried about packing all the things we may need and making sure everything is ship shape to avoid problems once there.

Getting ready

We purchased our hunting licenses early, through the mail, using credit cards rather than guessing the exchange rate. It takes two first class stamps to mail a letter across the border but I still find the postman to be extremely reliable. And even though 88 cents seems like a lot, very few of us would volunteer to carry that same letter to a mailbox some 1300 miles away for less than a buck.

Besides that, I, like most older folks, am technically challenged and resist finding my way through the a confusing Internet for an important transaction.

We’ve also filled out (in triplicate) a form that will allow us to cross into Canada with a firearm. We know that a Manitoba crossing guard will look at our shotgun, check the serial number, and watch us sign the firearms declaration form after examining our passports and picture ID.

When we return to the states we’ll need to prove once again who we are and that we are taking our carefully tracked shotguns home with us. We’ll also have to show our ducks and identify each for species.


It all proves that Americans are the most fortunate people in the world when it comes to freedom of travel. We’ll be camping in an outfitter style wall tent that we own and we’ll keep the frost away by heating it with a wood stove that sends its smoke out a stove pipe protruding through the canvas.

Manitoba is well ahead of us on its way to winter so heat will be important. Yes, we check the tent before every outing so we don’t overlook the stakes, a pole or some other important component. We’ll also carve out some carpet pieces from an old rug so that we can change shoes and climb into our bunks in comfort.

I drive a pick up truck with a fiberglass cap, so space for gear shouldn’t be a problem. That’s a bad joke, because we could probably drive a semi truck and still need more room. The tent, stove, coolers, water jug, folding chairs and camp kitchen are real square-footage eaters.

Add a few large duffle bags, a couple pairs of waders, a folding table to cook on, some tarps, cots and anything else that doesn’t move and a truck seems pretty small. But we also are into the latest ground blinds which are very comfortable for field hunting but they are bulky. Keep in mind that duck hunting requires decoys, lots of them, and now we’ve got a serious problem.

Mans’ best friend

Oh yeh, I almost forgot my buddy’s dog, 75 pounds of black lab that already has her eye on one of the seats in the cab. The dog and I may disagree on which seat we get.

So we’ve done some practice packing to see just how cramped we’ll be. So far it looks like we’ll be able to manage but neither of us is willing to forgo several creature comfort items such as pillows, plenty of warm clothes and bulky sleeping bags.

Travel planning is another pre-trip requirement. We’ll attempt to put 1000 miles behind us on the first leg. We plan overnight in Fargo, N.D., then finish up the second day in time to set camp and hunt a couple hours.

Time saver

I recently purchased an EZPASS gizmo which should eliminate several time-consuming toll booth stops. As near as I can figure these electronic devises are another way to eliminate jobs and raise profit levels on toll roads that are being sold and leased by states to for-profit companies.

The practice is encouraged by overcharging the underequipped souls who still stop to pay tolls.

But to be positive, an electronic pass will also do away with Chicago area toll takers who tend to reinvent the tolls depending on their mood. Pay it or stop here seems to be their motto.

This week I’ll stop at the AAA office for the latest edition of maps to follow. Yes. I’ve got a GPS and my side door pockets are already stuffed with maps but I really like real, live paper maps. They are full of information and fun to follow on a long trip.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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