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The Wild Duck Chase

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  83 ratings  ·  22 reviews
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 d ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Walker Books (first published September 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Caleb Anderson
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Informative and entertaining! A look inside the truly unique and niche world of Duck Stamps.
John Frazier
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the most redeeming things about Martin J. Smith's chronicle of the federal Duck Stamp Program is that for one small, almost infinitesimal, moment he makes you believe in the efficiency and agency of a government bureaucracy.

Founded 60-plus years ago as a way to license wild bird hunters, the Duck Stamp Program has evolved into this fascinating intersection of hunting, conservation and art--and it actually works. That 98 percent of the revenues generated from the purchase of the duck stamp
Tom Lewoc
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenally written book. Smith's amazing ability with the written word, created a great read that anyone can pick up an enjoy. Collectors, conservationist(s), hunters, birders, and even the common person would enjoy the historical nature of the stamp program along with the actual craziness of the stamp competition (and us collectors) based on how Smith put this book together.
I enjoyed the fact he never lost the major point of conservation of our future throughout the entire book. H
Pamela Kelley
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book was excellent especially when there was a documentary on PBS to go along with it so you could see the beautiful wildlife. The ducks were given justice in the film. The book describes them perfectly. I recommend the book first and then the film. Excellent information for environmental minded folks who enjoy our wetlands.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-nature
A great look at a micro-culture, or even a few, wildlife artists, duck stamp enthusiasts, hunters and birdwatchers. Terrific conservation program that deserves more publicity, hope this book helped
Rob Slaven
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Leah K
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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 goin
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
My questions to the author:

Why did he write this book? (may be I still don't get it)

What's the secret of the Hautman brothers?

It sounds like the Federal Duck Stamp is a dying institution: what will it take to revive it? Can it be saved?

My take away from the book:

Yes, I have a prejudice against hunters and apparently, I am not alone (I hope I don't offend any of you). Interesting to hear that a mere 1% of ducks are killed by hunters if I understand the statistics presented in the book: refreshing
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very interesting story of the history of the Federal Duck Stamp, the nerve wracking contest to choose the winning art, the important benefits the sale of the stamp provides and a look at some of the "Rock Stars" and quirky characters of this unique contest.

There is a lot of information about the legendary Hautman brothers and a bit less on some of the other participants. Being from Minneapolis, I am familiar with the Hautman family. My father-in-law and late mother-in-law were/is friends of t
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a person who grew up in an agricultural area and had family members who hunted for sustenance, I grew up respecting nature and the ecology of hunting. I was not aware, however, of the Federal Duck Stamp. Our present day lives are so 'sophisticated' and complex that we have lost understanding the importance of our ecological footprint. This book pleads the case for more awareness of our natural resources and in itself is a way to get the word out. I, for one, am going to make more of an effort ...more
Christi McBride
Jul 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a really interesting and enlightening read. Learned a lot about how hunters and fisherman became involved in paying for the majority of wildlife land conservation in the US. Enjoyed the historical perspective and the story of the duck stamp art contest which I knew nothing about. Different from what I normally read, but I liked it.
Oct 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I like examinations of random subcultures/facets of contemporary culture but -- absent great writing or a compelling narrative -- often think they do better as fifty-page articles in Harper's than as freestanding books. This book was perfectly adequate but was not one of the exceptions to that general rule. ...more
Ty Keith
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A page turner in the vein of "The Big Year." This is a book that every "serious" birder needs to read simply to absorb the importance of the Federal Duck Stamp in the continued health of our environment. The birding community, to which I proudly belong, needs to put our money steadfastly behind this program by buying stamp annually and encouraging our brethren to do the same. ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Since its inception, the duck stamp has provided millions of dollars for habitat conservation. The only federally juried art competition is run by the Fish and Wildlife Department, for the art that appears on the duck stamp each year.

Smith delves into the history of the stamp, the art competition, and some of the artists that make their living attempting to paint "the million-dollar duck."
Greg Overall
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I found it well written and interesting. Not only did it chronicle 2010 the Federal Duck Stamp program, but it really delved into the personalities of some of the major contestants and also gave a great overview on the history of conservation as it relates to the Duck Stamp Program and more. I highly recommend it.
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
some of this book i really liked, some was just too much info and i was bored. i'm not not recommending this book, just saying buyer beware. some of you might really like this. i would give it a higher rating if i weren't so bored with too much detail. ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The author weaves the history of the Duck Stamp, the conservation it enriches, and the 2010 Duck Stamp judging - with the various artists - into a cohesive and fascinating story. Whether you are a hunter, stamp collector, bird watcher, and/or nature nut this book is a must-read.
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
Not too many people may find this book interesting but I loved the inside look at the Duck Stamp Competition. I have been aware of this contest on the junior level for many years. The adult personalities are great and driven as are the people who run the competition and the duck stamp program.
Patrick Macke
Mar 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
well written, random, quirky, obscure ... don't be a dork, always looking for some hidden meaning, accept it for what it is, learn something new ... if you can accept that drawings of ducks are art, then you can accept that this is a five-star book ...more
Anna Kitchens
Oct 03, 2013 rated it liked it
To be honest, I skimmed parts to finish it in time for my book club. But it was surprisingly interesting! I have found myself interjecting what I learned into conversation occasionally.
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting story around what is probably one of the most cost efficient government programs in existence. I think I need to go out and buy myself a Federal Duck Stamp.
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Eccentric, special and wonderful.
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Author Martin J. Smith was editor-in-chief of the monthly Orange Coast magazine from 2007 to 2016, and a former senior editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He wrote three crime novels, "Time Release," "Shadow Image," and the Edgar Award-nominated "Straw Men," before turning his writing energy to nonfiction books, including "Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes That Shaped America," "Poplor ...more

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