The 2019 duck stamp contest was held this past Friday and Saturday at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. Eddie LeRoy from Eufaula, Alabama (who had previously won three Alabama duck stamp contests) was judged the winner, Corey McLaughlin from Wells, Texas came in second and Frank Mittelstadt (second place last year) had another strong showing, coming in third.
This was the second time the Patuxent Refuge has hosted the contest. In 2009, local artist Robert Bealle won with his painting of an American Widgeon and last year’s winner, Scot Storm, came in second (see Figures 1 and 2).
Patuxent has the distinction of being the only refuge in the federal system that supports wildlife research. Located between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, the refuge was established by an executive order of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. At that time the refuge consisted of 2,670 acres. Since then, surrounding lands originally managed by the Departments of Agriculture and Defense have been blended into the refuge and it presently sits on 12,841 acres divided into three tracts.
According to the Patuxent website, the North Tract “offers hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, trails and many interpretive programs; the Central Tract [is] where the offices and study sites of the many research biologists are located… and the South Tract [is] where the National Wildlife Visitor Center and its trails are located” (see Figures 3 and 4).
Holding the contest at Patuxent is very appropriate for it allows attendees an opportunity to see firsthand where their duck stamp dollars go and to gain an understanding for how the work that is done at the federal refuges is so vital to the future of not just waterfowl conservation – but wildlife conservation in general.
No Special Theme This Year
If you recall, last year’s contest featured a “special hunting theme”. As reported in Scot Storm Wins for the Second Time; Frank Mittelstadt is Second the rules for 2018 required that artists include one or more elements “that reflect the contributions waterfowl hunters make to habitat conservation.” Storm’s winning entry included a Wood Duck decoy (see Figure 5).
While there was no such requirement made of prospective artists in 2019, the USFWS announced this past spring that they are proposing a permanent rule change which would make the hunting theme mandatory in future years (see Figure 6).
The USFWS proposal has been met with considerable consternation by much of the conservation community, as well as by many stamp collectors and even some of the artists themselves, including five-time winner Jim Hautman who was quoted as saying “Personally, I prefer not to have it be a requirement every year… Sometimes it’s nice to see a natural scene without any hint of mankind.”
While hunter’s have historically comprised the largest revenue stream for waterfowl conservation through their purchase of the annual stamp, the number of hunters has been decreasing while other potential “markets” such as birding and wildlife photography are on the rise.
Therefore, the concern is that by making a prominent hunting element a permanent requirement, it might “turn off” other large segments of our society that potentially could prove invaluable in helping to make up for declining hunter-based waterfowl stamp revenue going forward.
For an extensive article on this subject, visit Audubon online and check out Hunting Imagery May Soon Be Mandatory for Federal Duck Stamp Contest.
The 2019 Contest
Promptly at 9 a.m. on Friday the exhibits in the National Wildlife Visitor Center Lobby were opened to the public, as were this year’s entries and the opportunity to purchase stamps.
At 10 a.m. the 2019 contest program was opened by USFWS Duck Stamp Program Coordinator Suzanne Fellows. At this time Suzanne extended her sincere, heartfelt appreciation to all of the artists who made the time and effort to participate. I’m sure this sentiment is echoed by the readers of this blog.
Similarly, all of us at Waterfowl Stamps and More would like to extend our appreciation to Suzanne – for everything she does throughout the year to help ensure that our federal waterfowl stamp program remains viable well into the future.
The contest rules specified five eligible species for 2019: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Emperor Goose, American Black Duck, Northern Shoveler and Bufflehead. For a PDF containing detailed information about the contest, the complete rules and regulations and an entry form, click here.
The five judges were artist Walter Matia, biologist Brian K. Schmidt, conservation partner and philatelist David Elwing, artist Wayne Knight and artist Peggy Watkins. Conservation partner Donnie Satchell served as an alternate.
Judging for this year’s art contest was held at the Visitor Center on Friday and Saturday, September 27 and 28 (see Figure 7). The event attracted 193 entries – nearly a 20% increase from the number last year (168). To see all of the 2019 entries in one gallery, click here.
Of the 193 entries, only three were removed (disqualified) prior to round one on Friday. This represents a tremendous improvement over last year, when 15 of the 168 entries were removed – both in terms of the total number of disqualifications and the percentage.
Of the 190 judged entries, 33 made it through round one, also known as the “in or out” round. In order for an entry to make it through this round, at least three of the five judges must vote “in”. Then, after the conclusion of the preliminary round, each judge may “bring back” up to five paintings he/she liked that were voted out. This year, the judges chose to bring back 10 for a total of 43 heading into round two (see Figure 8).
The second round of judging (also known as the semi-finals) took place Saturday morning, starting at 10:15. In the second round, each judge holds up a number from 1 to 5. This year the second round judging was fairly strict, with the highest score of the 13 pieces moving on to the final round receiving a cumulative score of 20.
Leroy Wins; Double Tie Breaker for Second!
In the final round of judging, Eddie LeRoy’s Black-bellied Whistling Ducks was the clear winner with a score of 22. However, both Cory McLaughlin’s Whistling Ducks and Frank Mittelstadt’s Buffleheads tied at 21. An addition round of judging produced an identical result, before yet another round resulted in Middlestadt’s dropping one point for an official 3rd place finish (see Figures 9 and 10).
Richie Prager attended a post judging luncheon and relayed a fun anecdote. The affair was delayed because USFWS officials were having trouble reaching Eddie LeRoy in Alabama to inform him of his success. Apparently, Eddie has entered the the contest nearly every year since 1987 without winning – so he stopped attending years ago.
When they finally located him, Eddie was sitting atop a tractor on his farm in Alabama. Needless to say, he was both surprised and thrilled to hear that he had finally won after over 30 years of trying!
Des Moines, Iowa Announced as Location for 2020 Contest
The Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa was formally announced as the site for the federal duck stamp art contest in 2020. Des Moines is imbued with duck stamp history and significance as the hometown of two of our hobby’s greatest protagonists – Ding Darling and Maynard Reece – and it promises to be one of the most exciting events in the program’s history.
For those of you who have yet to attend a federal duck stamp art contest – this would be the one! Next spring, I will devote an entire blog to serve as a preview and guide to all of the attractions and festivities in store for us.
To learn more about the hobby’s connection with Darling and Reece, see John Olin, Ding Darling, Maynard Reece & King Buck: The Making of an Icon – Parts One through Four.
We would also like to extend our appreciation to longtime collector Richie Prager for assisting with our coverage of the annual duck stamp contest. His on the scene photography and personal insights as an event attendee and a former judge help make these blogs special – thanks Richie!