Trophy clearance through customs

Discussion in 'Before & After the Hunt' started by pudwillcurt, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. pudwillcurt

    pudwillcurt AH Member

    Feb 20, 2010
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    Rapid City
    Member of:
    Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Alaska
    Help, I have received notice that my trophies will be ready for shipment on 11/06/11 and I am unclear what I have to do on my end. Do I need an agent? Has anyone done it on there own? What are the steps. How do you answer all the questions on the form 3-177? I was going to have my son pick them up at DFW Airport for me - with power of attorney, but not sure what I would be getting him into.

  2. smokepole

    smokepole AH Member

    Mar 1, 2011
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    nra life member
    south africa, Zimbabwe, AK, VA, TN, NM, CO KS, SD, MT (USA)
    This smokepole's wife (aka personal assistant/secretary). I can't speak for DFW,though I have been there many times, but last week I did personally clear and pick up his trophies from Atlanta airport. I found EVERYONE there, from FWS to US Customs, including Delta cargo to be very pleasant and helpful. File an online 3-177 ( all the info you need will be on the taxidermists packing list and airbill, the online instructions for filling it out are complete enough, for an individual there will be a number of places you can leave blank. FWS actually cleared our shipment before it even arrived and had the paperwork at the cargo terminal. The process wasn't completely seamless, but overall not bad. The first hiccup was that the cargo got bumped from the plane on the night it was to ship (apparently trophies are lower priorty-even at $2200 charge) and I didn't know about the online shipping tracker (like UPS/Fed Ex) so I had to return to our daughter's house for one more night. (Atlanta is about 6.5 hours from our home) That evening, I confirmed that it was enroute, and went back to the airport the next morning. After I got there, I was told that it had to be cleared by USDA first and that this usually took 24 hours (the cargo agent said he had seen things sit around for a week or more)
    but as he was giving me directions to customs so I could plead my case, an agent happened to arrive and she not only gave me the number for USDA, she came out to my vehicle to tell me that a USDA agent was in the cargo area at the time and she would go get her for me. When I told her what I was trying to do she said, the cargo agent was correct, it usually was the next day after arrival before they released it, but when I showed her the copies of papers I had brought, ie print out of the cleared 3-177 that FWS had emailed to me, printed copies of everything that the shipper had included in their email, airbill, packing list, ALL export permits and africa conservation clearances (be sure your shipper knows you plan to clear customs yourself and they will email this to you) (SBS Logistics was SUPER to work with) she said she would take care of it that day. A couple of hours later I was told I could pick up all my papers at cargo and go to customs, which was down the road in an office complex not designed for a truck and trailer, but I managed.
    Customs did inspect my POA since the shipment was in my husbands name and I explained the the dollar amount on the invoice was for taxidermy SERVICES and there was NO value (apparently shipments valued at over $2000 need a broker) the agent took everything to his cubicle and returned in about 15 minutes apologizing for the delay and wished me a safe trip. I returned to cargo where a very pleasant fellow loaded the crate onto my trailer. All in it was about 5.5 hrs from arrival at the airport to loading. If I had known about the need to have USDA clearance also and waited until it was done it would have been quicker. I now know, that a shipment can be in the cargo receiving area for several days without accruing storage charges (I had thought is was a matter of hours) That was my experience. A couple of other thoughts, Atlanta FWS people were reachable by telephone, Customs not so much, and the Customs website email a question is worthless. They just send back a paragraph from the vague info on the website.
    The only "charge" was a $50 facility fee charged by Delta which is pretty stupid considering what Delta was paid for the transport, but the agent actually was apologetic about it. All in all we came out ahead because #1. I work part time so didn't lose any income for the trip, #2 I was able to stay with my daughter, so the extra day didn't cost anything except a little more gas.

    Sorry this ran so long, but I hope it helps you make your decision. My husband is leaving next week for a buffalo hunt, but plans to have any taxidermy work done in the US (29 months was a long wait) Dip,pack,ship stuff has to be sent to a taxidermist so I guess we will have to involve a broker next time.
    Good luck!



    Apr 15, 2009
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    Member of:
    USA, S. Africa
    I think smokepole's wife covered it quite well. There are others here who have cleared their own trophies and found it fairly easy to do. There is a chance of incurring storage charges after the trophies clear USDA. My recent shipment ran through Atlanta first en route to LAX. For whatever reason the trophies had to clear USDA in Atlanta before routing to LAX where they had to clear USFWS and Customs. There weren't any storage charges incurred in Atlanta no matter how long it took from what I was told. However once they cleared USDA it was another matter. In LAX the first 3 business days were free if I recall. Fortunately my trophies cleared USFWS and Customs before that time expired and I was there the same day from Phoenix to get them.

    No, I did not clear the trophies myself. I paid $400 to have them cleared. But my situation was different. I was already taking time to go to LAX to pick them up to save on that shipping. The last thing I wanted to do was to get hung up on some missing paperwork and thereby lose that much more time from work. So for me the $400 was worth that time and not having to deal with the paperwork hassle.

    If you do decide to use a clearing agent, I highly recommend Hunter's International. They're located in the bay area of California but can help you with clearing trophies at any airport. You can find them here:

    Hunter International Brokerage Services, Inc.

    Of the various brokerages I talked to, the folks there were the easiest to talk to. I was a first timer too with a million questions and they were very patient to answer all of them as well as sharing other information. They only deal in clearing animal trophies and thus make it their specialty whereas some other clearing agents work in other areas. If you give them a call, ask for Maria and by all means let her know you were referred there by an AH member.

    Best of luck with your shipment and please share pics of your trophies when you get them!

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