A push by the Biden administration to distance a popular hunting license stamp away from acknowledging hunting has been successful. 

Established in 1934, waterfowl hunters aged 16 and older are required to purchase and carry a current Federal Duck Stamp under threat of fine. While most of the revenues from the sales of the stamps – over $1.1 billion since it was established – go to preserve wildlife habitats that a lot of non-hunters such as birdwatchers and hikers also enjoy, it is only sportsmen that have the requirement to purchase and keep one. 

Shortly after Biden took office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moved to change the standing regulations on the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest to delete a requirement to include a hunting-related aspect in the submission. Effective for the 2022 contest, only a handful of the 187 entries judged in this year’s competition – and none of the 54 entries graded to the final round of judging – depicted a hunting scene. While the birds remained, vanished were even subtle background depictions of duck blinds, retrievers, hunters, decoys, shotgun shells, or bird calls. 

Sure, such imagery wasn't required under the new rules, and other folks besides hunters – like philatelists and those looking to cover admission to national wildlife refuges that charge an entry fee – buy the $25 annual stamps, but the sport itself has more or less been sanitized from the stamp for which it is mandated. Some $40 million worth of stamps are sold each year on average with most of those sales going to hunters as validated through federal migratory bird hunting harvest reports

The requirement to add a hunting feature "celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage" to the stamp art was installed as part of an overall effort by the Trump administration to grow the declining number of sportsmen taking to the country’s woods. A survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the time reported the number of hunters dropped from 12.5 million in 2006 to 11.4 in 2016, although the general population rose by more than 30 million in the same period. Of note, a subsequent USFWS report found there was a bump in the number of sportsmen looking for ducks, with 1.04 million active waterfowl hunters in the United States during the 2020-2021 season, up from 989,500 in 2019-2020. 

Prior to the now-deleted requirement, many stamps over the decades of the program have featured a hunting element, with the 1975 stamp even centered on a decoy rather than a duck. 

Banner image: The current 2022 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly referred to as the Federal Duck Stamp. (Photo: Paul Petersen/Guns.com)

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