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Where'd them ducks come from? It's never been just antlers and horns.

A RECENT CONVERSATION with this magazine's editor got me to thinking about duck stamps. I was sure few hunters knew about how they came to be. Big game hunters where actually behind this waterfowl and wetlands restoration revenue program, which seems a bit odd until you know the whole story. History credits B&C members for the legislation's passage.

This campaign started back in 1904, when B&C member Pennsylvania Congressman George Shiras III began an eleven-year crusade to place migratory birds under federal jurisdiction. The varying laws between the states, Canada and Mexico where ineffective for wildlife that migrated across manmade lines. Backed by the support of the club, and further pushed along by its members John Bird Burnham, William T. Hornady, George Bird Grinnell and Madison Grant, a bill was passed through Congress and signed by President Taft in 1918. The McLean-Weeks Migratory Bird Act went into effect, outlawing spring gunning and granted the Secretary of Agriculture the power to set hunting seasons.

With standardized laws in place to protect what was left of a dwindling waterfowl population, up next was good science and funding for recovery. To that end, American Wild Fowlers was formed in 1927 by B&C members, a group whose mission was to support the new concept of game refuges and help the Bureau of Biological Survey scientifically assess the problems of waterfowl. After five years of funding studies, the reigns were turned over to another group in 1937 known as More Game Birds in America Foundation later reorganized as Ducks Unlimited.

Real funding for the cause came three years earlier in 1934 with the passing of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. Connecticut Senator Frederic C. Walcott, a B&C member, established a Senate Special Committee on the Conservation of Wildlife Resources, successfully steering the duck stamp bill through this committee and Congress. The very first stamp was released in 1934. The artist--Nobel Prize-winning political cartoonist, and B&C member--Jay N. "Ding" Darling.

So, next time you roll out of bed at 4 A.M. and head to the marsh with Blackie, the "duck machine," you can thank a group of farsighted, big game hunters for the wonderful sight of skies full of birds.

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Title Annotation:B&C Notebook
Author:Balfourd, Keith
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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