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This year's Federal Duck Stamp features a beautiful painting of a lesser scaup. Monies from the purchase of the $25 stamp go to purchase and protect wetlands around the United States. (Photo courtesy Rob Phillips)

I purchased my Federal Duck Stamp the other day, which is quite unusual for me. Not that I don’t buy a Duck Stamp every year, because I almost always do, it is the timing of the purchase that is uncommon for me.

It seems most years I am scrambling to buy a duck stamp late in the hunting season when I am invited to join some friends on a duck hunt. There have been years when even the post office was sold out of duck stamps. Or, at least they were sold out locally come January when I finally might actually be heading to the duck blind.

While I have chased ducks pretty much my whole hunting life, I am not an avid duck hunter. There are many years when I won’t shoot even one duck. Not that I don’t like hunting ducks, because I do, it is just I am not a big duck eater, and shooting something I am not going to eat doesn’t seem right to me.

There is no need to get into the whole, “you aren’t cooking it right, if you don’t like duck,” discussion. No matter how duck is prepared, it still tastes like duck to me.

There are times however, usually once or twice a year, when I will get an invite to do some duck hunting with friends, and I will go if I know I can find someone who will take a duck or two for dinner.

So, when I saw the sign at BiMart the other day that said they had duck stamps, I thought I should go ahead and save myself the headache of trying to find one come some late Friday in January.

Besides, the twenty-five dollars that the duck stamp costs, goes to a really good cause, whether I actually hunt ducks this season or not.

With a rising concern for the rapid loss of wetlands in the United States, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (or Duck Stamp Act), was signed into law in 1934 by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Under the act, all waterfowl hunters 16 years of age and over must annually buy and carry a duck stamp while hunting waterfowl.

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In addition to serving as hunting license and conservation tool, a current Federal duck stamp is also a free pass into any national wildlife refuge that charges an entry fee. Because nearly all of the proceeds are used to conserve habitat for birds and other wildlife, birders, nature photographers and other outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to purchase duck stamps to help ensure that they can always see wildlife at their favorite outdoors spots.

Ninety-eight cents of every duck stamp dollar goes directly into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to purchase or lease wetlands and wildlife habitat for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge System. This helps to ensure these lands will be around in perpetuity for wildlife and the public to use.

Around $800 million dollars have gone into the fund since 1934 and nearly six million acres of habitat has been saved. Most of the dollars raised through the duck stamp program have come from hunters, and over the years it has become one of the most successful conservation programs ever.

There is also a state migratory bird permit that is required of waterfowl and dove hunters in Washington State. The permit is one of the many options you can add when you purchase your annual hunting license. Because I like to hunt doves, I add it automatically in the spring when I buy my new license for the year.

And, while the state migratory permit doesn’t immediately come as a duck stamp, there actually is a stamp issued in Washington each year. To receive this year’s stamp, which shows an eager black Labrador retriever rushing out of the cattails, with a couple mallards flushing in the distance, all you need to do is send a copy of your license into the Washington Waterfowl Association in East Bonney Lake with a self-stamped envelope and you can receive one at no charge. For more information go to www.washingtonduckstamp.com.

The general waterfowl season is still a little over three weeks away, opening on Saturday, October 16, so there is plenty of time to go grab a duck stamp. And, even if you aren’t a duck hunter, buying one of the stamps goes into the big pot of money raised annually to help, not just the ducks, but all the wild things that utilize the wetlands of our country.

I’m not sure I will hunt ducks this year, but I know my money has been well spent. And, if it saves me from running all around town some dark, wintry night looking for a duck stamp, after a call from a friend with an invitation to go chase some mallards the next morning, all the better!

Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 30 years. He can be reached at rob1@spdandg.com.

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