One of the biggest trends over the last twenty years is to collect federal waterfowl stamps used on license. The motivation behind this method of collecting is the desire to document the role the stamps have played in the license and stamp system. Federal waterfowl stamps fall under the umbrella of revenue stamps. Their primary purpose is to generate a fee from hunters. Once the fee has been paid, the stamp itself serves as a colorful receipt that conveys the rights to hunt waterfowl (within the rules and regulations established for that particular year and sometimes for a specific area).
In 1934, the receipt was required to be affixed to a hunting license of some kind (usually state issued) or, in lieu of a hunting license, the blue stamp holder better known as Form 3333. When hunting, this receipt was required to be carried on the hunter and be readily available for inspection by a game warden.
When a game warden asked to see the receipt during waterfowl seasons, he was verifying the fee had been paid. This is essentially the purpose of the federal waterfowl stamp in the license and stamp system. In subsequent years, this model would be adopted by other levels of government, including state, local, military and tribal.
The fees generated through the sale of the 1934-35 federal waterfowl stamps to hunters (and to a lesser extent collectors and conservation donors for two weeks in mid 1935) went to restore and preserve wetlands and funded a myriad of related waterfowl conservation efforts. In this way, waterfowl populations could be kept in a perpetual state of equilibrium for future generations to enjoy.
The ideology behind the license and stamp program is that the segment of the population who stood to benefit the most from waterfowl conservation – the hunters – should contribute a big share of the cost to administer the conservation programs. Historically waterfowl hunters have acknowledged the importance of the program and have been almost unanimously supportive of it’s accompanying fee requirements.
Today, the early years of the waterfowl conservation program and the integral license and stamp system are seen as conservation history. Within this context, the licenses with stamps affixed are viewed as historical artifacts and are highly sought by advanced collectors, exhibitors and all of those with an appreciation for waterfowl conservation. The collecting of such stamp usages offers many choices as the subject is diverse and nuanced. In this post, we shall examine some of the possibilities.
Collecting on License
By far and away the most common form of early federal waterfowl stamp usage is on state licenses. The reason for this is because it was the right of the state governments – not the federal government – to license hunters. This right, in fact, prevented the first federal waterfowl stamp from being issued all through the 1920s and up until 1934, as the states were worried that a federal stamp would infringe upon their right to license hunters. Many attempts to get a National hunting stamp passed through Congress failed until the need became absolutely necessary following the terrible drought and subsequent dust bowl years across the Great Plains in the early 1930s.
There are many types of state hunting licenses. There are resident hunting licenses, resident combination hunting and fishing licenses (see Figure 1) and non-resident licenses. It should be noted that if a non resident hunter already possessed a valid license with a federal stamp affixed from his own state – he was only required to purchase a new license in the visited state and did not have to purchase a second stamp. He then needed to carry both state licenses while hunting.
One of the more fascinating types of state license usages occurred when the hunter lost his license. Some states had preprinted “DUPLICATE” licenses that were available to hunter’s at a reduced fee upon proof of original purchase. At this point the hunter was required to purchase a second federal stamp (at full price) and affix it to the duplicate license (see Figures 2 and 3).
Often, the state did not have preprinted duplicate licenses or the loss occurred in a remote area where the licenses were not available. At this point duplicate licenses were created as needed and these account for some of the most interesting waterfowl stamp usages (see Figures 4a and b).
For the 1934-35 seasons, a state license was not always required to hunt on private property. Sometimes an enterprising farmer or rancher would charge the hunter and create handmade private licenses. In these cases, if the hunter wished to shoot waterfowl, a federal stamp was still required (see Figure 5).
In many states, licensing was handled at the county level. Perhaps the most highly sought after of all county usages were recorded in Hawaii from 1934 through 1936 (after which time waterfowl hunting was no longer permitted). Each of the main Hawaiian Islands was also a county and printed and issued separate hunting licenses. For the 1934-35 seasons, only 137 federal waterfowl stamps were issued in all of the Hawaiian Islands combined. At least one example of a 1934-35 federal waterfowl stamp has been recorded used on a Hawaiian hunting license (see Figure 6).
When the federal waterfowl stamp program originated, many military bases and reservations did not print their own licenses. In subsequent years, most installations would print licenses and a few printed and issued their own fish and game stamps. For the 1934-35 seasons, most bases still used state licenses (see Figure 7).