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Wow! What a Contest!

Joe Hautman wins Federal Duck Stamp Contest
by Bob Dumaine

The 2001 Federal Duck Stamp Contest was the most memorable and unique amongst contests. For the first time competitively, a single species, the black scoter, was the only eligible waterfowl.

In 1992, after noting that certain waterfowl species were frequently depicted on Duck Stamps while others never appeared, the Federal Duck Stamp office began a program of prescribing which species could be painted in any given year. Eventually, all species of North American huntable waterfowl would be depicted on the Federal Duck Stamp at least once. At the time of this year’s contest, the black scoter was the only species that had never been depicted.

Joe Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., won this year’s contest with his acrylic painting of a drake flanked by three hens. The painting will serve as the design for the 2002-2003 Federal Duck Stamp (RW69). Hautman’s painting was selected over 11 other finalists after a tense last round of judging that required an unprecedented series of four tie-breaking votes to choose the winner.

It was not an easy victory for Hautman, as five entrants were tied for first place after initial final round of voting. In the four additional rounds of tie-breaking voting, Hautman won by only two points over second place finisher Richard Clifton, of Milford, Delaware. Third place went to Daniel Smith, of Bozeman Montana, artist of the 1988 stamp (RW55).

“I’m speechless. I was thinking I didn’t win because it was taking so long,” Hautman told Interior Secretary Gale Norton when she telephoned to give him the good news.

Norton personally attended the contest and seemed not to be bothered by the delay created by the four rounds of tie-break votes. Her presence in the auditorium and obvious delight in watching the outcome of the voting was clearly visible to observers. This marks the first time in nine years the Interior Secretary has attended the contest, and her presence was a most welcome addition. Many major television networks were filming the voting, judges, and interviewing various attendees.

“We have a great tradition in this country – a rich outdoor heritage,” said Secretary Norton. “Americans have always enjoyed our beautiful natural resources. As we look for ways to serve conservation, there is no better example than our own Federal Duck Stamp.”

“I’m proud that the Service continues the Duck Stamp tradition,” said acting Service Director Marshall Jones. “And as we celebrate Joseph Hautman’s rendition of a black scoter that will appear on the 2002 Duck Stamp, we can also celebrate those places where ducks and geese live, breed, feed and thrive: America’s National Wildlife Refuges.”

The judges had an especially challenging job this year as all 246 paintings were of black scoters.

Frankly, any of the top five could have easily won. The panel of five judges were resolved, consistent, and firm as rocks in their voting. Gradually, the five first place finishers were whittled down to three, then two. The two then tied with scores of 21 each, and on the final tie-breaking round, Hautman prevailed by a score of 22 to 20 over Clifton. It was that close.

The two other first place finalists who finished fourth and fifth respectively, were Greg Farrell, Lexington, North Carolina, and Robert Steiner, San Francisco, California. Only a few votes separated greatness from the also-ran category.

Joe won the contest once before in 1992 with his portrayal of spectacled eider. His brother Bob Hautman won last year’s contest, as well as once previously. A third brother, Jim, has won three times. “It feels like I have to win twice to get any respect in this family,” Hautman joked. Combined, the three brothers have won seven times in the past 13 contests, and finished in the top five several other times. It seems the Hautman clan could be more legitimately termed the Hautman Dynasty of Duck Stamps.

Since black scoters do not frequent Minnesota, Joe first saw them on a hunting trip to Alaska in 1990. He kept one to use as a mount to draw the stamp.

There is no doubt other artists could get frustrated, as did competing sports teams during the Chicago Bulls basketball dynasty, the New York Yankees baseball era, the Dallas Cowboys time of dominance, and others. The fact is others need to learn how to win in order to unseat such dominance.

Past winners of the contest who submitted entries, in addition to the winner, were Art Anderson, Neal Anderson, Al Gilbert, Wil Goebel, Ron Jenkins, Ken Michaelsen, Dan Smith, and Robert Steiner.

An artist who has not personally attended the contest might question the fairness of the process. Actually viewing the voting and procedures reinforces the contest’s validity. As a former judge, I can attest to the absolutely integrity of the voting process. One way to get me on a soapbox preaching the fairness of the contest is to hear a non-winner, of which there are many, griping about the outcome.

The panel of five judges change each year, and are separated during voting, not visible to the others. The judges have no idea what others have voted, and are only made aware after completion. A high-ranking member of the Solicitors Office monitors the entire process for integrity.

The system works, and has for many years. It is too bad only one picture of the 246 entries could be the winner, as so many artists spent countless weeks and months preparing their work, only to be disappointed, some for many years.

Bob Steiner, the artist most represented on state duck stamps, entered some 17 times before finally winning in 1997 with RW65; it takes that kind of perseverance.

Judges for this years contest were excellent. First, Eric Hansen, an award-winning outdoor wildlife photographer from Oregon; Cindy O’Connor, Executive Director of the Wetlands Institute of Stone Harbor, N. J.; John Rogers, of North Carolina, former Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Wayne Youngblood, publisher and editor of the Stamp Division of Krause Publications in Iola, Wisc.; and Rita Dumaine, editor of The Duck Report, and VP of Sales and Marketing for Sam Houston (also, happily, my wife).

In my opinion, the one-species contest is the only way to hold the contest in the future. It allowed for the comparison of artwork, and not a prettiest duck contest. All the artists I spoke with were in favor of the single species comparison, and I recommend the USFWS adopt this format in the future.

I want to offer my congratulations to Terry Bell, Acting Chief of the Duck Stamp Office, and her fine staff for conducting a first-class event under the difficult conditions they currently face in Washington.

The 2002-2003 Federal Duck Stamp will go on sale July 1.

For the 2002 Federal Duck Stamp contest, artists can choose to depict one of the following species: American wigeon, snow goose, wood duck, gadwall, and ring-necked duck.

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