Regulating the art of duck is honking, by Froma Harrop


I won’t lie. I want plenty of space placed between a beautiful duck gliding over the marshes and the orange duck neatly laid out on my plate. And I’ll never forget the shocking sight of a hawk snatching a baby duck out of the water. His pathetic little charlatans still haunt my ears.

As you can guess, hunting is not my thing. But as a meat eater, I can’t get on high horses about those pulling animals for sport or food or both. Wild ducks eat fish and frogs. I guess the duck and I are all locked into the same food chain, where one creature depends on the next for food.

And that brings us to an interesting little controversy over, of all things, a government regulation on the art of the duck.

Each year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service holds a competition for a portrait of a swimming bird to appear on the federal duck stamp. Athletes pay $ 25 for the stamp, which entitles them to hunt waterfowl in American wildlife refuges. The service uses the proceeds to help manage these critical habitats.

The controversy centers on a Trump administration rule that the winning artwork includes a depiction of the hunt. Proponents claim that the imagery of the hunt would show the reality that hunters contribute powerfully to the cost of preserving refuges.

A counter argument is that bird watchers, conservationists and others who may not be hunting enthusiasts also buy these stamps because of the magnificent works of art. Putting high powered hunting gear on the duck stamp would discourage purchases by non-hunters, cutting into funds available to feed the wildlife that both groups enjoy. Also, the official name of the stamp written at the top is the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, so its connection to hunting is not exactly hidden.

This year’s duck stamp shows a duck cry floating among reeds. A duck call is a device that hunters blow on to mimic the sound of a quack duck, thus attracting the real bird. These days, duck calls are often marketed as military grade weapons, with names like Commander Triple Threat Duck Call.

Frankly, I had no idea that the vintage wooden tube discreetly placed in a lower left corner of the last duck stamp was a duck call until I read about it. And why can’t a duck call also meet the needs of bird watchers?

Both sides are making valid points in this low-stakes fight, but there really shouldn’t be two sides.

It’s true that hunters and fishermen have paid for habitat restoration since the Great Depression, when economic hardship led to the plunder of America’s wildlife population. The duck stamp was created in 1934.

The Pittman-Robertson Act, signed three years later, imposed a tax on the sale of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. Most of the $ 7 billion raised so far has gone to state wildlife agencies for conservation and hunter education. Mississippi, for example, raised more than $ 116 million from Pittman-Robertson, now known as Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration. And, like other states do, Mississippi also sells hunting licenses.

Interestingly, some hunters have complained that the duck call on the most recent duck stamp portrays some sort of rubbish. Imagine the reaction if it were a socket.

Bird migration expert and hunter Scott Weidensaul of New Hampshire wants to drop the required reference to hunting. “The birds are in crisis and they need all the friends they can have today,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “We should make (the contest) as inclusive as possible.”

We can kill this unnecessary regulation and this irritating addition to culture wars in one fell swoop. Let’s do it.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To learn more about Froma Harrop and read articles from other Creators authors and designers, visit the Creators web page at

Photo credit: 19689426 on Pixabay

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