Hunting Theme No Longer Required for Entry in U.S. Duck Stamp Contest

by Shelby Scott

For many Americans, our heritage is based on the noble sport of hunting. In celebration, hunters aged 16 or older must acquire the famous Duck Stamp annually. The Duck Stamp is a noteworthy work of art on a stamp celebrating the creativity of artists nationally. However, the former Trump Administration altered the contest requirements.

Artists participating in the Duck Stamp Contest had to incorporate a reference to waterfowl hunting somewhere within their artwork. Now, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, supported by Biden’s administration, eliminated the hunting requirement for the duck stamp.

Artists participating in the contest this year must still feature the hunting theme within the stamp’s design. However, the new mandate goes into effect next year, according to AP. The announcement came this week. Overall, it intends to encourage artists’ freedom of expression in capturing some of America’s most popular waterfowl.

The stamp design’s hunting requirement, instituted in 2020, supposedly intended to draw attention to the role hunters have in maintaining bird conservation efforts. However, certain groups, including the National Audubon Society, said the mandate created unnecessary political controversy. The National Audubon Society serves as one of many organizations dedicated to the conservation of birds and their natural habitats.

Organizations Have Mixed Feelings Concerning the Mandate

The Society’s policy manager Erik Schneider said, “It is the birds themselves that unite both birders and hunters and that is what should be celebrated in the duck stamp.” And while other organizations, like Ducks Unlimited (another conservation group) hesitantly supported the mandate, they nevertheless said their representatives were okay with the change.

The organization’s Chief Operating Officer, Nick Wiley, said, “The key point here is that [the mandate] is not taking away hunting. It is continuing to allow the flexibility for artists to include hunting and give a nod to the hunting heritage.”

So, while the mandate received mixed emotions, it appears involved parties are relatively cordial concerning the stamp design and artists’ freedom of expression.

The Famous Duck Stamp Has a Long History

While the debate may seem a bit ridiculous to those outliers of the conversation, it’s truly an important topic among hunters and conservationists alike. The first Duck Stamp went public in the 1930s and, according to the AP, has generated more than $1.1 billion in conservation efforts. The outlet explained that those efforts include the preservation of about 6 million acres of wetlands.

The first Duck Stamp Contest took place in 1949 and was open to any U.S. artist interested in participating. Contest winners will not receive a financial prize. However, they will have the ability to keep the rights to their designs. Additionally, they have the freedom to sell the design to collectors.

Duck Stamp collectors include not only hunters but conservation supporters and art collectors simply taken by the designs. Currently, artists need to submit their hand-drawn works on a 7×10 sheet. The size works best to shrink it down and fit it on the year’s stamp.

The winner will be announced next month.