The Federal Duck Stamp Goes Electric!

The Federal Duck Stamp Goes Electric!

Technology can present its own problems, but high-tech can also provide hunters with expanding opportunities. Case in point: Last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Duck Stamp Modernization Act of 2023—S. 788—allowing waterfowl hunters to purchase federal duck stamps electronically. Not only that, but hunters can then carry their Duck Stamp virtually on their smartphones during waterfowl season.

Originally passed by the U.S. Senate in July, the bipartisan Duck Stamp Modernization Act will “amend the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act of 2013 to allow States to issue fully electronic stamps under that Act.” Due to its importance to American hunters by ensuring expanded access and decreased barriers to obtaining federal duck stamps, the legislation was promoted by the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited and a number of other conservation and hunting organizations across the country.

As the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website,, reported in October, “the landmark legislation was built off a successful pilot program validating E-Stamps for 45 days, which allowed ample time for hunters to receive their duck stamps in the mail, but now extends use of the electronic stamp for the entire waterfowl season. Ushering in an exciting new chapter in the Federal Duck Stamp program, the E-stamp option enhances waterfowl hunters’ accessibility to the stamp while ensuring the future of the critical habitat conservation initiatives the stamp funds.”

The habitat conservation provided by the Federal Duck Stamp program has a long and successful history and highlights the key role of America’s hunters in conserving our nation’s natural resources. Enacted at the federal level in March 1934, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act requires waterfowl hunters aged 16 and older to purchase and possess a valid federal waterfowl hunting stamp, better known as the Duck Stamp, prior to hunting migratory waterfowl.

Since the 2015–2016 season, approximately 1.5 million Duck Stamps have been sold annually. A whopping 98 percent of the Duck Stamp monies generated go directly to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to buy or lease important wetland habitats on our national wildlife refuges. Since the law was enacted nearly 90 years ago, hunter-purchased Duck Stamps have supported the conservation of some 6 million acres of lands critical for the continued strength of waterfowl populations.

Not only does a valid Duck Stamp allow for the hunting of migratory birds (with the appropriate state licensing, of course), a current stamp also provides hunters and others who buy the stamp in the name of conservation free admission into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.

Once the act is signed into law, waterfowl hunters will no longer have to carry the actual stamp on their persons. More than two dozen states currently allow hunters to carry their hunting license paperwork electronically, saving hunters the time and expense of traveling to and from a hunting license retailer. At the same time, hunters and collectors who wish to can still purchase the paper stamps at U.S. Postal Service offices and other authorized retailers.

With cell phones having become such an integral part of our daily lives, this new e-version of the Duck Stamp makes considerable sense. Decreasing barriers to obtaining federal duck stamps will make it just a bit easier for us to get afield in search of migratory birds.

About the Author
Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated. He is a member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Brian enjoys hunting hogs, shooting 1911s, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats, Peanut Morgan and MikaBear.