Besides bow set up and broadhead selection I think Dipping, Packing, Shipping and Clearing of trophies is one of the most talked about topics for an African hunt.
Since trophies cannot be brought back as part of your baggage they must be shipped. Trophies shipped from Africa must be “Dipped & Packed” in order to clear import by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Swine and primates also require United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) clearance. When talking to prospective outfitters see if you can contact the Dip & Pack as well as the Shipping or Cargo companies they work with to get a written estimate of your “wish list” animals. Whether or not you can contact them and whether or not you trust them may have an effect on your choice of outfitter.
I was able to get in touch with both the Dip & Pack company, Swift Dip, and the Shipping company, Safari Cargo Systems, to obtain written estimates of my wish list. Dip and pack for the trophies on my wish list; gemsbok (cape, skull horns), wildebeest (skull, horns), blesbok (skull, horns), wart hog (skull, tusks) and kudu (back skin, horns, skull); was estimated at $520. Before I departed I also contacted the taxidermist I intended to use in order to get trophy identification tags.
Now, what I ended up doing was having the following slightly different list of items dipped and packed; gemsbok (skull, horns, tail), wildebeest (skull, cape, backskin, horns), blesbok (skull, horns), wart hog (eight tusks mounted) and kudu (back skin, horns, skull) for a final price of $640. The service, particularly the communications, received from Natasha Lotter at Swift Dip before and after the hunt was outstanding! Who says, “It is all just a big pleasure,” in business these days? My trip to South Africa was completed on August 25th, 2010 and I received the final invoice from Natasha around September 28th, 2010.
In order to keep stateside shipping and processing costs down I chose to have the wart hog tusks mounted on a plaque as a “finished trophy”. Having the swine treated this way allowed me to take possession of the trophy shipment myself at the port of entry (POE) vice having it shipped to a USDA approved taxidermist for reprocessing and then to my house at additional shipping and processing cost. I don’t remember where I learned about the swine processing, but prior to my trip I discussed it at length with Swift Dip, Safari Cargo Systems and D&L CHB, the clearing agent I eventually decided to use. My taxidermist was a little skeptical before I went to take possession, but later confirmed I was correct. As he pointed out before, “Everyone wants a little piece of the pie.” I was hoarding my pieces, dad-blast-it!
Natasha Lotter at Swift Dip mounted these tusks herself. This is one of my favorite pieces.
After dipping and packing the shipment was sent to Safari Cargo Systems for shipment to the United States. My $813.03 estimate turned into a $1048.26 actual bill. Contrary to the dipping and packing process where I added more work and materials for the wart hog tusk plaque the overall amount of items shipped really didn’t change that much so the increase didn’t make me happy. Several of the line-items I was being charged for weren’t on the original estimate and those that went up, such as “Facility Fee” were less than quantifiable. I questioned the changes. However, keep in mind that the dipping, packing and shipping take place after we, the hunters, have left South Africa. We have zero leverage if we want to see our trophies again. The explanation was that SCS doesn’t know ahead of time what permits will be needed so the cost is variable. Ok, I lost some pieces of my hoarded pie, dad-blast-it!
Pietre at SCS provided good service and excellent communications prior to and after the hunt. Again, my trip to South Africa was completed on August 25th, 2010 and I received the final invoice from SCS around December 14th, 2010. Then, I had to wait on the actual shipment to happen.
One complication I encountered during the dip, pack and ship process was getting payment to the South African companies. My credit union, whom I’ve done business with and been very satisfied with for 23-plus years was absolutely clueless and not all that helpful on the customer service side. I didn’t trust using my credit card internationally, especially in RSA, and Swift Dip was not set up to accept credit card payments. After one hour in the local branch and literally hours on the phone with the central office I did accomplish the transfers, but it was quite an ordeal spanning multiple days for each transfer and cost me about $50 in fees. Unfortunately the only tip I can offer on this is to contact your financial institution ahead of time and see what they require to perform international money transfers.
As previously mentioned incoming trophy shipments to the U.S. must be cleared through the USFW and possibly the USDA. There are several reputable companies such as Fauna and Flora and Coppersmith’s (these are examples, not endorsements) that can be utilized to handle this task. This service may include temporary storage after arrival as well as transportation to your taxidermist. Of course, these services cost money. My original intent was to clear the shipment myself in order to save money. I made a lot of inquiries on the African forum of Bowsite, Africa Hunting.com and made a lot of calls to those who offered help, to the USWFS, U.S. Customs and the USDA.
In the end I never felt like I had enough information to confidently proceed on my own. So, I decided to hire D&L Custom House Brokerage to do the clearing based on recommendations from another southeast Wisconsin hunter who had used them several times. Lisa and Laura were excellent communicators and extremely helpful throughout the process. Their estimate was $285. Note that a limited power of attorney is required for a clearing house to handle your shipment AND Customs requires (italics) your Social Security Number on it. Since I’m eligible to do so I had one of our Navy lawyers review the document. She had her supervisor review it and neither could find anything wrong with it except advising me to not give out my SSN if possible. Rescinding the power of attorney after receipt of the shipment is advisable.
SCS finally gave me the word that the trophies would ship around the 11th of February, 2011. I notified D&L CHB so they were on the lookout. On the 22nd of February I was notified by Laura that the shipment was in, but not cleared. On the 25th I was notified that I could pick up my shipment. Mrs. dustyvarmint and I made a quick trip to the Chicago-O’Hare International Airport to pick up it up from the transportation and storage company that had custody. Interestingly, they had more than one name and attempting to get directions was a little dicey.
Once there the counter worker shuffled papers from right to left and left to right, but wouldn’t really talk to me. Already being nervous about this unknown process I was on edge. Eventually she called D&L and notified them that one day’s storage fee would have to be paid in order to release the shipment. I knew that, Laura had told me ahead of time. Had she just asked me for the payment I could have handed it to her. So, I blurted that out, handed her enough money to cover the $10 fee and it was settled. The warehouse loaded up the crate and we were on our way.
Once home I unpacked the shipment from the truck while Mrs. dustyvarmint took photographs. First, even though I knew what to expect, it was disheartening to see the damage the dip and pack process did to the horns. The wildebeest and kudu horns, in particular, were in horrible shape. The wildebeest horns actually looked like cinders from a fire. The beautiful white accents on the blesbok horns are now a snot-yellow. Somehow, the plate had been removed from the skull of my kudu. The wart hog plaque, however, was fantastic. The taxidermist’s trophy tags were pretty much destroyed. The smell of mothballs hung heavy in the air and took months to exit the house.
The transportation company by Chicago O’Hare airport.
The crate just before unpacking.
The lid is off.
Everything was well-packed and wrapped.
A closer view with horns visible under the bubble wrap.
That is a back skin in the forefront.
A lot of money in a little pile.
My beautiful wildebeest.
The skull plate of my kudu.
A blesbok with the horns on the wrong sides. I’m a jackwagon!
D&L billed me $295; ten dollars more than estimated. Swift Dip arranged a substitute kudu skull to replace the chopped up one. Outdoors Buddy Seth and I transported the wildebeest cape, horns and backskin to the taxidermist, Safari Room Taxidermy, as well as the gemsbok tail and kudu backskin. While I was prepared to pay the roughly $825 for the wildebeest shoulder mount I wasn’t thrilled to pay $180 each for the backskins, but the choice was either throw them out, leave them in the basement or have them tanned. After paying and coordinating to bring them back I decided to have them tanned and I’ll figure out what to do with them later.
Overall, though, I was and am very disappointed. Not in Swift Dip at all as I would heartily recommend them, but just the amount of money and time it takes to coordinate the shipment for what I ended up with. And, all of them still need a lot more work. As mentioned before, photographs are my true memories so it is possible I value the physical trophies less. It is highly unlikely that I would bring trophies back if I went to Africa again. They would not go to waste as there is a market for their use there in RSA.
happy hunting, dv
If you liked this blog you may like the following:
- WWAC – What Would Africa Cost?
- dv Goes to Africa – Expenses Part I
- dv Goes to Africa – Expenses Part II
- dv Goes To Africa – Bow and Arrow Set Up
- dv Goes to Africa – Packing List and Packing
- dv Goes To Africa – Completing The CBP Form 4457
- African Archery Safari – Part 1
- African Archery Safari – Part 2
- African Archery Safari – Part 3, Travel Day 3
- African Archery Safari – Part 4, Hunt Day 1
- African Archery Safari – Part 5, Hunt Day 2
- African Archery Safari – Part 6, Hunt Day 3
- African Archery Safari – Part 7, Hunt Day 4
- African Archery Safari – Part 8, Hunt Day 5
- African Archery Safari – Part 9, Hunt Day 6
- African Archery Safari – Part 10, Hunt Day 7
- African Archery Safari – Part 11, Hunt Day 8
- African Archery Safari – Part 12, Return Trip Day 1
- African Archery Safari – Part 13, The Conclusion
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Copyright © Jerry E Long, 2009-2011