Hunting Themes to End for America’s Duck Stamps?

Hunting Themes to End for America’s Duck Stamps?

Citing “many stakeholders” who have expressed “their dissatisfaction” with hunting being a required theme on Federal Duck Stamp design, the Biden administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently proposed that the hunting-theme mandate be lifted from the annual Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) Contest beginning in 2022.

As explained in a USWFS press release, “This proposed rule would remove the permanent ‘celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage’ theme and the mandatory inclusion of an appropriate hunting element beginning with the 2022 contest; revise the judging requirements to consider that the entries reflect this theme; and revisit the qualifications for selection as a judge.”

According to USFWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams, “Waterfowl hunters have been significant supporters of the program and have had a profound role in wetland and waterfowl conservation over the last century. The intent of this proposal is to allow artists more freedom of expression when designing their entries.”

As this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website reported last year, the USFWS under the Trump administration proposed and then ultimately required duck stamp entries to include elements that reflected a “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme, starting with the 2020 Duck Stamp contest. It also required contest judges to “have an understanding and appreciation of America’s waterfowl hunting heritage and be able to recognize objects related to waterfowl hunting.”

“The Duck Stamp has always been a way for us to celebrate our nation’s waterfowl with beautiful works of art,” said then-USFWS Director Aurelia Skipworth when the hunting theme was proposed. “With these changes, we can now also honor the contribution waterfowl hunters have made over so many decades to conserving these species and a host of others that call our wetlands home.”

But the hunting inclusion upset some and, apparently, continues to upset them. A recent piece at seemed to rather breathlessly hype a supposed “public outcry” against the hunting theme mandate. It noted, “To comply with the new mandates, artists in last year’s competition painted empty shotgun shells and duck calls floating in the water. The scenes looked to some observers like litter and ignited a public outcry over the perceived politicization of what had been a wholesome, beloved corner of the art world.”

The Audubon article cited a wildlife artist who did not approve of the hunting theme and referenced a comment from someone who identified as a duck hunter and also opposed the rule when it was proposed in 2019.

Actually, much of the so-called “outcry” seems to have been generated by anti-hunting groups such as Friends of Animals, which even filed a lawsuit against the USFWS for the hunting-theme mandate.

Stay tuned for an update as this issue unfolds. In the meantime, for those wondering about the significant role of the Federal Duck Stamp in wildlife conservation, all waterfowl hunters ages 16 and older are required to purchase the stamp and affix it to their hunting license each year with 98 percent of the funds raised directly used for the protection and management of wetlands and associated habitats. By purchasing an annual Federal Duck Stamp, hunters continue to fund one of the most successful wildlife conservation programs created to ensure the health of species for generations to come.

About the Author contributor Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated website. He is a member of the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian likes hunting hogs, shooting 1911s chambered in 10 mm and .45 ACP, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats, Peanut Morgan and Simon.