Minnesota artist James Hautman’s acrylic painting of a pair of redhead ducks may have been declared the winner of the 2021 Federal Duck Stamp competition over the weekend, but a painting of a redhead duck cradling a shotgun—a human hunter in its sights—fittingly called “Duck Hunting Hunters,” got our vote.
The latter by artist Josie Morway was commissioned by HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver as comical commentary on the now-ended requirement that hunting images be included in the artwork. Beginning with the 2022 contest, the hunting element will no longer be required thanks to Friends of Animals’ successful efforts to overturn the regulatory rule that illegally forced artists who entered the Federal Duck Stamp Contest to promote hunting.
Wildlife artists annually vie for the prestige of seeing their art grace each new Duck Stamp, which waterfowl hunters 16 years of age or older are required by law to purchase and carry with their general hunting license. However, the beauty of the stamps is that anyone can contribute to conservation by buying them, and they can also be used as free passes into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee.
While “Duck Hunting Hunters,” along with four other stamps Oliver commissioned, did not make it past the first round of the contest, he is auctioning them off at bestduckingstamps.com. All proceeds will be donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Federal Duck Stamp Program, which raises approximately $40 million each year to support conservation of wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
At bestduckingstamps.com, you’ll see how one artist replaced the subject of 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring” with a duck and another depicted a magisterial redhead welcoming a hunter and another guy to the marsh. Oliver explained that the two men were well-known duck stamp art rivals.