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

by Martin J. Smith

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The Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest by Michael J. Smith
261 pages

★★★

In 1934 the Duck Stamp Act was put into place, requiring anyone over 16 who wanted to hunt to purchase the stamp. It was put into place to begin conserving wetlands and waterfowls. A few years later they began a contest for people to design the yearly stamp. For a program that had the government spend $850,000 on it and brought back $24 million in revenue (98% of that going to conservation) in one year and in its time had now conserved enough land the size of Vermont, it’s deemed itself to be the “little program that could”. Yet how many people know about this valuable program? Not as many as should.

I’m not going to lie, this book sounds as exciting as it really is. The author even mentions that it’s not the most exciting, fast paced contest but it is one that should be known. It’s a program that is slowly fading but has done great things throughout the years. If you’re into conservation of land, painting, stamp collecting, or waterfowl – this book is a quick read and worth a look. I picked this book up on a whim from the library, one of my roulette games. Not something I would have read under normal circumstances but glad I did. Educational and interesting – at least to me.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
It is worth noting, as always, that I received this book in a GoodReads drawing in exchange for an honest review.

Before I laid eyes on this little book I'd never even heard of the Federal Duck Stamp Program. In fact when I started it my fiancee looked at me with that expression that says politely and succinctly, "you're reading a book about what now...?" I will admit that I had my doubts as well but I pride myself on always trying to keep an open mind on whatever gems find their way to my door and this one did not disappoint.

From a writing standpoint Smith is consummately professional. He gives us a depth of detail that is admirable and evocative. I'm ready to buy a Duck Stamp, or a dozen, at next opportunity. His portrayal of a government program that works and works well has me sold. Chapters 3, 11 and 12 resonate especially as they withdraw from the details of the contest and the competitors and focus on the background and the origin of the program and conservation in the United States.

The grandness of those three chapters, however, does lead us to the shortcomings of this book. While the program itself a wonder to behold, many of the personal specifics of the competitors I found rather tangled and dull. Yes, the Hautman family is the stuff of legend in this pass-time, but I'm not sure we needed to hear about them and others like them at such length. Other readers will probably find the depth of coverage here endearing but I suffered a bit from Hautman fatigue.

In summary, an amusing little romp through a model government program and one that we should all look to support. ( )
  slavenrm | Apr 13, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802779522, Hardcover)

The Wild Duck Chase takes readers into the peculiar world of competitive duck painting as it played out during the 2010 Federal Duck Stamp Contest-the only juried art competition run by the U.S. government. Since 1934, the duck stamp, which is bought annually by hunters to certify their hunting license, has generated more than $750 million, and 98 cents of each collected dollar has been used to help purchase or lease 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the U.S.-the core of the National Wildlife Refuge System. As Martin J. Smith chronicles in his revealing narrative, within the microcosm of the duck stamp contest are intense ideological and cultural clashes between the mostly rural hunters who buy the stamps and the mostly suburban and urban birders and conservationists who decry the hunting of waterfowl. At issue is preserving the habitat of ducks and other waterfowl for all to enjoy: If the number of hunters continues to decrease-and unless nature lovers support the duck stamp program-this landmark conservation effort faces possible extinction. The competition also fuels dynamic tensions between competitors and judges, and among the invariably ambitious, sometimes obsessive, and often eccentric artists-including Minnesota's three fabled Hautman brothers, the "New York Yankees" of competitive duck painting. Martin Smith takes readers down an arcane and uniquely American rabbit hole into a wonderland of talent, ego, art, controversy, scandal, big money, and migratory waterfowl.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:44 -0400)

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