lt img=Duck.jpg]

Robert Beall won the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest with the portrait above. Beall, the Washington Post tells us, is a farmer, fish taxidermist and wildlife artist from Maryland — and after 27 years of trying, he’s finally won the only art competition sponsored by the U.S. government. 

The government prints 3.1 million duck stamps a year. You can’t mail a letter with a duck stamp. You need a stamp to hunt ducks, and stamps are collected by birders, hunters and philatelists. The government has been printing duck stamps since 1934 and the program has raised more than $750 million, enough to purchase 6 million acres of wildlife habitat.

Beall painted a wigeon. He first entered the competition in 1982 and in 1983, he came in second — losing to a pair of wigeons. The Fish and Wildlife Service selects five waterfowl a year for the contest. This year the Service picked the wood duck, the gadwall, the cinnamon teal, the blue winged teal and the wigeon. Beall thought the wood ducks would drive the judge snow blind and that the teals were “niche ducks.” So he painted a wigeon, and won. “Now I’ll always be referred to as a Federal Duck Stamp winner,” said Bealle. “It may not mean a lot to most people, but to me it means a hell of a lot.”