By Tim Callahan

It was the 1930s in America – the Dust Bowl had dried up most of the Midwest’s marshes and ponds. The ducks were in big trouble; so were a lot of Americans.

An idea was born to have a duck stamp to raise money for waterfowl habitat. Since its introduction in 1934, duck stamps have raised more than $500 million for conservation, mostly to buy land for our national wildlife refuges all over America.

The first duck stamp cost one dollar and was designed by Ding Parling. Over a million stamps are sold each year to waterfowlers, stamp collectors, and bird watchers.

Did you know that your federal duck stamp is your pass to enter any National Wildlife Refuge?

By the way, try to visit the Erickson Center for the Arts to view the top 20 duck stamp entries from last year’s competition. They’re on display until June 12.

There is also a junior Duck Stamp competition in each state to introduce kids to the whole duck stamp process. Each state send their first place winner to compete for the Junior Duck Stamp title. The deadline for this year’s duck stamp competition is August 15. Judging takes place in September and is held in different locations around the U.S. In 2018, the contest was held at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I and a lot of people attended that event.

That year, Bob Huatman from Minnesota won with a painting of a pair of flying mallards. Bob was in attendance, as were his brothers, Jim and Joe, who are both past winners.

The judges cannot communicate with each other. A contest coordinator shows each of the five judges the entry, and they declare it to be IN or OUT. The “ins” move on to the next phase of judging. No signatures are on the paintings to make it a fair competition. Although the artist receives no money for his win, it does open a lot of doors.

The Michigan Duck Stamp Competition is held August 3 and 4 in Bay City on Saginaw Bay. It’s a great event to showcase my paintings of Michigan wildlife. I also should mention the great effort of Ducks Unlimited, which raises money for habitat restoration in the USA, Mexico, and Canada.

Although I’ve not won a duck stamp yet, I’ve been close, and that keeps me going.

Well, I’m putting the pen down for now and pickup up with paint brush. Later I’ll talk about my duck stamp design and how I go about the design. It’ll be fun!

Recommended reading: The duck stamp story by Eric Jay Dolin and Bob Dumaine. Krause Publications.

Info on the Federal Duck Stamp: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Duck Stamp Office MS: MB
5275 Leesburg Pike
Fallschurch, VA 22041