Monday, December 31, 2007

Josh has been busy...Winner of 75th Anniversary Federal Duck Stamp Contest Named

Joshua Winchell, 202 219-7499
Rachel F. Levin, 612-309-5760 (cell)

Wildlife artist Joe Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., today won the 2007 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest - the oldest and most prestigious wildlife art competition in America - with his depiction of a pair of pintail ducks. Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced the winner in front of a crowd of 300 people at the contest, held at BIG Arts in Sanibel, Fla.

"It was a privilege for me to congratulate Joe Hautman when the judges chose his art to grace the 75th Duck Stamp," said Secretary Kempthorne. 'The Duck Stamp program is unique in the realm between art and conservation. This art will be transformed into an equally beautiful stamp and help protect wetlands by generating funding through the sale of that stamp to hunters, stamp-collectors and conservationists. People talk about how art can change the world, and the Duck Stamp is an excellent example. You just need to look at the more than five million acres of waterfowl habitat protected by their purchase using funds from the stamp for proof of the power of this art."

Hautman's painting - chosen from among 247 entries from artists across the country - will be featured on the 2008-2009 Federal Duck Stamp which will go on sale in late June 2008. Federal Duck Stamp sales raise about $25 million each year to fund wetland habitat acquisition for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The annual Federal Duck Stamp Contest is the only federally-sponsored juried art competition, and is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This year's contest crowns the winner of the 75th duck stamp since the program's inception in 1934. Before 1949, a commission selected the design.

"This was the most exciting Duck Stamp contest in history,' said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "To have a three-way tie for first place, then to have the artist and his family right here in the audience, was fantastic. We're going to continue to move this contest around the country to give the public a chance to own this."

The competition was surrounded by a week of public events at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and BIG Arts celebrating the life of artist, conservationist and creator of the Duck Stamp, J.N. "Ding" Darling. Born in 1876 in Michigan, Darling was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his conservation-themed cartoons. He also served as Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey, the forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from 1934-1935. Darling's conservation legacy remains the foundation for the broad-based support and strategic vision of North America's successful waterfowl management efforts.

All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry the current Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp - commonly known as the Duck Stamp - but conservationists, stamp collectors and others also purchase the stamp in support of habitat conservation. Ninety-eight percent of the proceeds from the $15 Duck Stamp go to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which supports the purchase of acres of wetlands for inclusion into the National Wildlife Refuge System.

To date, Duck Stamp funds have been used to acquire habitat at hundreds of refuges, in nearly every state in our nation. There are 548 national wildlife refuges spread across all 50 states and U.S. territories. A current Duck Stamp can be used for free admission to any national wildlife refuge open to the public. Refuges offer unparalleled recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, bird watching and photography.

Joe Hautman won the Federal Duck Stamp contest in 1992 and 2002. He has also won multiple state Duck Stamp contests. His brothers, Bob and Jim, are also multiple Federal Duck Stamp Contest winners.

Hautman attended the Federal Duck Stamp contest this year with his family. The audience gave him a standing ovation when his art was chosen as the winning piece.

"I've been to a lot of Duck Stamp contests, and this is the most exciting one I've been to," Hautman said. "I'd like to thank my family, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, who turns this artwork into wetlands and ducks."

Hautman's winning art depicts two pintails--a male and female--nestled gracefully atop reeds in a marsh.

Second place went to Harold Roe, of Sylvania, Ohio, who painted an acrylic of a lone green-winged teal. Roe has previously placed highly in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. Third place went to Scot Storm of Freeport, Minn., who painted a pair of mallards in acrylic. Storm's work appeared on the 2004-2005 Federal Duck Stamp.

Eligible species for this year's contest were the mallard, northern pintail, canvasback, green-winged teal and harlequin duck.

Although no cash prize is awarded for winning the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the artist receives worldwide recognition and, because he or she retains the rights to the original art, can profit from the sale of limited edition prints.

Duck Stamps bearing this year's winning design will go on sale at post offices, National Wildlife Refuges, some national retail chain stores, and various sporting-goods stores nationwide in late June of 2008. The 2008-2009 Duck Stamp will be available at select locations in both a self-adhesive format and the traditional gummed format. In addition, the Service recently started a three-year pilot program allowing the state fish and wildlife management agencies of Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin, to sell stamps electronically through their individual automated licensing systems, providing a special receipt as proof of purchase.

The five judges for the competition were selected by the Secretary of the Interior for their dedication to conservation and professional expertise. They are:

• Jim Sprankle of Sanibel Island, Fla., is one of the best-known wood sculptors of wild birds in the world and a former pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.

• Matt Hogan is executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Matt is an avid hunter, angler and fly-fisherman.

• Jeanie Morris from Springfield, Mo., is president of the Springfield Arts Council and has studied painting with many well-known artists in both the United States and Europe.

• Cheryl Ganz is the chief Curator for Philately at the Smithsonian?s National Postal Museum. She co-chaired the Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History and was curator of National Postal Museum exhibits at the Washington 2006 World Philatelic Exhibition and the American Philatelic Society Stamp Show 2006.

• Eugene Hester of Springfield, Va., is a former Deputy Director of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is an avid wildlife photographer and outdoor writer, his photographs and articles appearing in many national and state magazines, as well as books, calendars and other publications.

(alternate judge)
• Richard Slaughter, from Easton, Md., is the publisher of the nature and conservation-focused Attraction Magazine. He is an avid waterfowler, collector of working decoys, wildlife art expert and collector of Federal and State Duck Stamps.

Downloadable images of the top three paintings and additional information concerning the contest will be available on the Internet at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices, 64 Fishery Resource Offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Contacts: Joshua Winchell, 202 219-7499 Rachel F. Levin, 612-309-5760 (cell)

Friday, December 21, 2007

He's Just Not Right!

Being the politically incorrect person that I am I would like to wish all of my grouser friends, fellow duck and goose hunters and all of your families a very "MERRY CHRISTMAS" , "HAPPY HANUKKAH", Happy Boxing day for our friends from Canada and let's not forget "HAPPY KWANZAA" . Here's hoping all of you have a good safe holiday season and I look forward to seeing you in the second season!

How's that for being cheap and not sending out Christmas cards, just saved myself at least 41 cents!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dreaming of Grouse Camp

Since we seem to be in the mood, I thought I'd pull out a few pics from Grouse Camps past in hopes that Grouse Camp 2008 really does happen.

JT reflecting on a fine day at Camp Heberlein.

Man is that a sharp looking dog!

Rich and Pete doing what they do best - road hunting!
Happy Holidays Everyone!

McPhee on the DL with a Sprained Shoulder

Cause, most ignoble:
Rolling off our bed in the
Middle of the night.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow Ducks - Unabridged

Headed to Canoga Crick last Monday eve. The Tidball B&B is conveniently located 9.1 miles from the Waterloo Holiday Inn, home to the annual Cornell Extension School. A winter storm was brewing and the ride from central Pennsylvania involved white knuckles, four wheel drive and a lot of luck. I arrived in time to slow Mo on her evening chores while waiting for Keith to return from one of the many committees on which he serves. Hogs were slopped, horses and steers watered and fed.

Committee Man was soon home, sending Mo to collect TMR left-overs from the neighbor’s farm as we manly men uncorked a demi-bouteille of Muscat, caught up on recent histories and made our hunting plans. The wind blew snow in horizontal panes and the fire crackled. It was perfect. Eventually Mo returned from her chores, joining us for a glass of dessert wine. I felt a pang of guilt but Committee Man assured me that Monday was Mo’s day to do the chores. Oh, the charmed life of Committee Man.

I woke up Tuesday to Keith’s knock on the door. The snow was still falling, out of which materialized Mike O’Connor. We slid down Cemetery Road in Keith’s incongruous, leather-seated farm vehicle, the White Wildebeest. It took some fancy driving, but we made it across one of Keith’s cut corn fields to our hunting site. With six inches of snow, we had to perform the Canoga Shuffle to install decoys as well as to expose soil and stover. At some point the Flying Circus and two Mojo’s joined our menagerie. This was the ritual of goose hunting, but our spread was intended for mallards and blacks. The wind blew and snow filled our divots.

Just as the hunt began Mike’s nephew and a friend joined us. We were ensconced in a small stand of uncut corn, thoughtfully left in place by the hunting-addicted land owner. For the first half hour of sunlight, there was nothing but snow to watch. Then, the honk of geese caught our attention and Keith invited the Canadas to our fieldwith a few love clucks. As he worked the geese, three mallards dropped out of the sky. We scrambled to meet them with steel. Keith dropped a drake. The hunt was on! We continued to call, both geese and ducks. At times, birds would materialize over our shoulders, close enough to know not to return if they were fortunate enough to get away. I must confess to a few rookie actions, including jumping up (instinctively) shortly after several undetected mallards buzzed by within 10 yards but long after they were out of range. The snow and steel flew and the birds obliged us.

Speaking for my own performance only, I missed more than I killed, but I was content with the outcome. I scratched down a mallard hen that crashed into the snow 80 yards away. I connected on another hen that had been grazed by someone else. It flew over 300 yards, clearly wounded, and was lost in the fluries. I trudged down corn rows, and, for awhile, feared that my search was hopeless. But, there she was, one field over (just where Mike thought she would be), having left a six foot snow divot where she first ricocheted off the ground before settling in a second, blood-soaked divot twelve feet from the first. Ah, the forensics of retrieving downed game.

By 9:00 I had to leave for a hot shower and the conference in Waterloo, which, unfortunately, had not been cancelled. I must confess to a somewhat uneven performance in my first talk. I connected better with the audience on the subject of snow ducks than on my own research. A second talk proved to be my professional redemption, but I was anxious to return to snow ducks as soon as the last question was answered. By 3:00 I was back at Canoga. Alas, the storm and birds of the morning hunt had moved on. So, we admired a beautiful sunset and (Watershed) Committee Man treated me to an informative tour of the Canoga Creek watershed.

Back at the Canoga B&B, Victoria, Charlotte and Mo awaited our return. We popped a bottle of bubbly as well as we prepared a very late dinner. Victoria ably blessed the farm, food and meal. I nervously awaited the Tidball verdict (both generations): fresh, peppered duck breasts on a bed of salad, sautéed cheeses, roasted potato chips and (gen 1 only) a Portuguese red of forgotten varietals. All was perfect. After dinner we crooned a few tunes, enjoyed the fire and, of course, planned the following morning’s hunt.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cast Iron Skillet Goose with Horseradish for Carol and Gordon

Per boneless goose breast: marinate ~ 24-36 hours in equal parts veg or olive oil and red wine (not red wine vinegar), to nearly cover breast; 1TBL soy, 1/2 TBL worchester, rough cut garlic, dash marjorum, dash summer savory. Turn often to keep moist. Take your big ol' cast iron skillet, sautee more rough cut garlic in mixof butter, cooking oil, bacon grease (whatever your pleasure--we used mostly bacon grease). Bring it up to absolutely smoking hot. Yes, it will be a pain to get that blackened garlic off the pan. That worry is for later. Sear whole goose breast about 2 mins per side until blackened. Pour in enough of the marinade to create a broth. DO NOT REDUCE HEAT--this means the marinade better be pre-heated or you may crack your skillet wide open. Cover skillet and cook breast about 3-4 more mins per side or until desired doneness (you can cheat and bisect the breast cross-ways to see what it looks like--for my $.02, the very outer should be seared black, fading to a good deep red in the middle [not the flaccid pink of the Black Lake DuckI ncident, of Which we Shall Not Speak]). When desired level of over-cookedness is achieved (deliberate swipe at the heathens among us who refuse to eat waterfowl until the livin bejeepers is cooked out of it), slice as thin as you can manage (across the breast), and serve on baguette slices with horseradish and a twist or two of fresh pepper.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Got Geese.

The hardest part was the drive.

I woke up at my usual time for the drive to Canoga—430, which usually gives me plenty of time to shuffle around in the cold, dark house, sleepily fumbling for gear and then have a lazy cup of coffee back in bed before hitting the road. This morning, I parted the curtains to find a wall of swirling white: snowing and blowing hard, and 37 miles to the rendezvous. Yikes!!!

It was bad. Nothing had been plowed—my Ithaca property tax dollars hard at work as usual. I normally make the whole drive in 45 minutes, but after that amount of time I still was only as far as Taughannock Park, 10 miles north of town. Left a message for Keith telling him to head to the field, and kept ‘er in 4WD low. The wind was out of the SE, and near Varick, where the road runs next to the lake, there were drifts better measured in feet than inches. I pushed on, driven by thoughts of the epic hedgerow hunt a few years ago. Could this be another one of those days? After a couple of hours of this nonsense, it was a great relief to find and follow the already drifted over tracks of the boys along Hoester’s hedgerow. Dekes already spread, layout blinds at the ready: because, perhaps, of my Ithaca residence, I drew the blind on the far left wing.

This was another of those days. Things started slowly enough—a couple of singles that worked the spread perfectly and fell to Zack’s gun and mine. Zach, bless his heart, asked “Captain Mike,” in charge of calling the shots on our side, whether it was okay to shoot the goose wandering around in the spread (Mike never saw it come in). And then the birds started to fly like wild--doubles, groups of 10, bigger flocks—they all worked us hard. Birds on the ground. The spread was perfect. Or who knows, because it was crappy out and the geese had been there yesterday, we probably could have had a half dozen shells tossed haphazardly about (probably even upside down) with us standing there in blue barncoats drinking coffee, and they might have still come. I don’t think there is a finer, more moving sight in all outdoors than geese dropping out of the sky, out of the grey, ghosting out of the wind, rain, and snow, with wings cupped and feet down.

Zach and I, on the left, were worked particularly hard. When this pattern became obvious, I inquired whether any of the right-wingers wanted to rotate blinds. No. No? Just keep shooting? Really? Okay. And so the morning went, cuddled in the popup blinds, watching geese, and all of us shooting well, because we were so relaxed. We had to keep careful recounting of the dead geese to make sure we weren’t over our limit. Finally, we determined we needed just 2 more. A pair came in, low, on my left. O’Conner shouted “take ‘em both!” I held on the front bird, fired a single shot, and both fell out of the sky. I held each to the sky and shouted to the wind and snow “I AM….HUNTER!!!”

Days like this don’t happen very often.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Got Geese?

Focused on geese the last two days here in Canoga land (dark geese first split ended today).

Saturday, Eric and I had Bill the Kite Killer and Gary out with us. We concentrated on the white ones and got three, plus a couple of Canadas. First New York state snow geese for all involved.

Today, we turned all of our attention towards Branta canadensis. The last picture here is dedicated to Rich, whose cup runneth over in the geese department this morning. We killed 23 Canada geese today, in the Hoster field behind the house. But I will leave the story and hopefully pics for Rich to post.