The Wild Duck Chase: Inside The Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest

Martin J. Smith. Walker & Co., $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8027-7952-6
Smith, editor-in-chief of Orange Coast magazine, serves as the “fly on the wall” during the highly competitive 2010 Federal Duck Stamp Contest in his new book, tracing its origins and its current popularity. The contest, originating with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1934 wildlife preservation law in the Great Depression, provides for “the sale of an obscure revenue stamp” bought by hunters and stamp collectors, generating more than $750 million in funds, with 98 cents of each dollar going to buy millions of acres of U.S. waterfowl habitat since its inception. With a low-key writing style supported by fine research, Smith takes the readers behind the scenes as five judges weigh the artistic and commercial quality of the 235 submissions in the only juried contest administered by the U.S. government. The Hautman brothers, Jim, Joe, and Bob, are the most fascinating of the artistic competitors, but the author paints many of the participants in a lively, entertaining manner while the contest runs its hectic course. Smith’s compelling story of a largely forgotten federal program will cast some timely light on the ongoing clash between rural hunters and urban conservationists on preserving the habitat of waterfowl. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 09/18/2012
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