If it weren’t so real, it would be a comedy.
We at Lone Star Outdoor News wrote earlier this year about how to “do it yourself” when picking up your African trophies and save the fees of using a customs broker.
It’s really a quite simple process, in theory.
1.Go to the airline cargo office and obtain original manifest from shipping crate(s);
2.Go to USFWS office with form (know the animals’ scientific names) and get the trophies cleared;
3.Go to U.S. Customs office and get shipment cleared;
4.Go back to airline cargo and get your crates.
CEO David Sams did it earlier this year, and it took two trips because of snafus. Managing Editor Conor Harrison also made a few trips to DFW last year when the original documents attached to his crates were removed by Customs in Atlanta for no apparent reason.
This time, I was going to do it all in one easy trip.
It turned out I topped them both.
On Monday, I left the office prepared. This was going to be a snap. The stop at Delta Cargo went without a hitch. The people at USFWS were great and very helpful, and within the first hour or so I was headed to Customs.
Then things changed.
At the Customs and Border Patrol office, two Asian gentlemen were in front of me. The first one handed his form to the agent and was immediately and condescendingly rebuked.
“This form isn’t filled out correctly,” the agent snapped, offering no assistance.
The second man stepped forward with the look of fear on his face. The agent didn’t disappoint.
“This is the wrong form,” the agent said, even louder.
I was next. I smiled, handed him the USFWS clearance documents and asked that my shipment be cleared.
“I don’t know if I can approve this,” he snapped.
“Why not,” I asked.
“Sit down. There are other people in front of you.”
The two terrified men were the only others in the room.
A few minutes passed and I was called up.
“What’s the value,” the agent barked.
“I’m not sure, they are just trophies,” I said. “They have a lot of value to me and virtually no value to anyone else. About $100 each I suppose.”
“I need a value. Where’s your invoice?”
“Invoice for what?”
“For the shipment!”
“Well, I have an invoice from the taxidermist but that’s for the preparation. I don’t think that indicates the value.”
“Give it to me.”
I did and a few more minutes passed.
The agent called me up again.
“You need a commercial broker. The value exceeds the threshold for a personal shipment,” the agent scolded. “Here’s a list of brokers.”
He turned away.
I went outside and called USFWS. They had never heard of anyone being turned away for this reason. They suggested I ask to see a supervisor.
The agent was still there.
“The USFWS supervisor has asked me to ask you to let me speak with your supervisor,” I said.
“They don’t have anything to do with clearing shipments, they just clear the animals,” the agent barked.
I remained, smiling.
“You still want to see my supervisor?”
Papers were thrown down followed by a grunt.
“Wait over there.”
I did and watched through the window while he spoke to someone else. I sat another 25 minutes before someone else came out.
“I’m sorry, but since the value you stated exceeds the threshold you’ll need to do the commercial paperwork,” the supervisor said.
“The value is only there because he insisted on the taxidermy invoice,” I replied.
As you may have surmised, that approach didn’t work. I called Coppersmith, maybe the most well known broker for trophy shipments.
“We use the personal forms for shipments all the time,” I was told. “And almost all of them exceed the amount of your shipment.”
Coppersmith redid the forms and walked them through customs. By Wednesday, I was back to get the clearance and finally get my trophies.
Not so fast. The form cleared by customs wasn’t right for Delta Cargo. A number was cut off in the process of sending copies all over the place.
“They will need an amended form with this number on it,” the broker told me.
I was still smiling. This was too funny. I had spent six hours between two trips. I headed back to the office.
A few hours later, all was good, though, and I headed to Delta Cargo where they were extremely nice and wanted to talk about the hunting.
And now we’re in the office with the trophies reliving the hunts!