Joe Hautman's winning painting of three tundra swans will be featured on the 2023-2024 federal duck stamp.
Written by Jessi Cole
Joe Hautman has won the 2023-2024 Federal Duck Stamp Competition with his painting of three tundra swans flying across a waterway. There were 187 entries in this year's competition and a panel of five judges.
The win comes as Joe’s sixth, tying his own brother Jim Hautman's record for most wins for the prestigious “Million Dollar Duck” competition. Their younger brother Bob Hautman has won three times.
Joe grew up waterfowl hunting with his father and brothers, but by the time he was. of hunting age the waterfowl flyway had moved westward out of the Minnesota range. He recalls mornings spent in the duck blinds with his father as an appreciation for the few ducks they saw.
His introduction to the duck stamp program came from his father, who religiously collected the stamps from their launch in 1934. His father, in fact, had five or six stamps for each year, each one signed by a different member of his family. Joe says that his father was not the collector-type, so the fact that he was enamored with the duck stamp made his sons take notice.
Joe says, “There’s a beauty in having a real, physical stamp. It makes people ask questions about what they’re for and learn about the whole program.”
He continues, “The conservation aspect is one of the best things about this contest. It’s not just winning it. To be involved with the program is awesome. The federal duck stamp—it’s one of those rare things that everyone is behind it. There’s no politicizing it or taking sides. It’s good for everybody.”
And since the duck stamp was introduced in 1934 with President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, the program has raised over one billion dollars for bird conservation and preserved over five million acres of wetlands. It’s no understatement to say that the program is essential to the conservation of bird species and especially waterfowl species.
The first federal duck stamp from 1934.
When Joe was initially considering which of the eligible birds to paint for the 2022 competition--the mottled duck, the American wigeon, the tundra swan, the American green-winged teal, and Barrow's goldeneye--he was drawn to both the tundra swan and the wigeon. He designed around 8 compositions—wigeons and tundra swans in different positions and scenery. He then took the compositions to his friends and family for their advice; their overwhelming favorite was the one of the tundra swans flying in unison.
He set to focusing on the three tundra swans flying overhead, looking at around fifty photos for references. He may like the wings on one bird, the body of another, and the head of another, he says. He’ll use continue to Frankenstein, using different references then for the scenery, the weeds, the clouds. He says, "You always hope, maybe you'll get the perfect photo and you can just use that. But that never happens. Painting is a valuable thing."
Joe continues, “With a swan, a white bird, you can really create a mood and an atmosphere working with the light and the shadows. It’s easy to make it look harmonious.”
To further his point, Joe says “a wood duck is one of the more difficult birds to capture. Their colors—it often doesn’t look real on paper. They’re this stunning bird and it’s a challenge to capture the vibrancy without making them look a bit clown-ish, even.”
Though Joe insists on the difficulty of the wood duck, he’s actually won the federal duck stamp competition with a wood duck painting. In fact, he’s won for a spectacled eider, a black scoter, a pintail, a wood duck, a trumpeter swan, and now a tundra swan.
Joe Hautman's painting of a wood duck, featured on the 2012-2013 federal duck stamp.
Though his brothers and he have a friendly competition over federal duck stamp wins, their advice and support has ultimately proved invaluable to Joe. He says, “to have somebody that close who is doing the same kind of work that you’re doing is satisfying and valuable. To be able to critique each other’s work—because you’re their brother they’re not afraid to tell you it looks terrible.”
He continues, “But, yeah, I couldn’t let Jim get away with having the most wins.”
We at Mossy Oak look forward to collecting and using the 2023-2024 stamp that will feature Joe’s artwork; we’ve already got Jim’s in the wallet for this year.
To read more about the Hautman’s “Duck Dynasty,” read “Jim Hautman Wins Federal Duck Stamp Competition a Record 6th Time” and visit their site, www.hautman.com.
Mossy Oak launched our inaugural wild turkey stamp program in spring 2022. All proceeds of the stamp will go directly towards turkey conservation. To learn more, visit here.