US Stamps

New federal law makes electronic U.S. federal duck stamps a reality

Jun 18, 2024, 9 AM
The United States $25 Northern Pintail hunting permit stamp to be issued June 28 is the first federal duck stamp that will have an electronic version as a result of the Duck Stamp Modernization Act passed in fall 2023.

By Allen Abel, Washington Correspondent

The Duck Stamp Modernization Act passed by Congress in fall 2023 will be implemented a year ahead of schedule, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced in late May.

Electronic federal hunting permit stamps (duck stamps) for smartphones will be available beginning July 1, with their validity extending until June 30, 2025. Physical duck stamps will be mailed to all licensed hunters at the end of the waterfowl season.

The new legislation, which was signed into law by President Joseph Biden on Dec. 19, 2023, allows an individual to carry only his or her electronic duck stamp (E-stamp) certification for inspection throughout the entire waterfowl hunting season rather than for the previous maximum of 45 days after purchase of the stamp. The legislation requires that all purchasers of an E-stamp also receive a physical stamp.

“We are excited that the Fish and Wildlife Service has put this into practice so quickly,” Kellis Moss, managing director of federal affairs for Ducks Unlimited, told Linn’s Stamp News in a telephone interview. “Our hope is that it will make it easier for waterfowlers to be legal for the season. We had heard stories from hunters whose stamp got lost in the mail or who for whatever reason did not get their paper stamps.”

“We wanted to hold on to the actual stamp because there are so many collectors who really love the actual stamp,” Moss said.

Under the new law, some purchasers may wait as long as nine months to receive their physical stamp. Physical duck stamps valid for the 2024-25 hunting season will be mailed on March 10, 2025, the Fish and Wildlife Service said. The cost of an E-stamp will be $29: $25 for the stamp plus $4 for the federal processing and convenience fee.

“We know how special these stamps are and understand that stamp collectors, conservationists, hunters, and others may still prefer to have an actual physical paper stamp,” Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams was quoted as saying in an article posted on the service’s website.

“We have worked hard to ensure everyone will have the option to purchase their stamp through their method of choice — from a consignee, our primary distributor Amplex, the online U.S. Postal Store, as well as through the national wildlife refuges and U.S. Post Offices that carry the stamps,” Williams said.

The 2024-25 federal duck stamp will go on sale June 28. It will portray an image of a northern pintail.

[Editor’s note: For more details about the forthcoming $25 Northern Pintail federal duck stamp, see the story in the July 1 issue of Linn’s.]

“The Duck Stamp Modernization Act makes great sense for the hunter,” Rita Dumaine of Sam Houston Philatelics in Houston, Texas, told Linn’s by email. “It will be difficult to beat the convenience, and the program has been working successfully in multiple states for 16 years.”

“However, some of the romantic legacy of buying your duck stamp has certainly been lost,” Dumaine said. “Among older hunters, who are also duck stamp collectors, you often hear fond tales of buying their first stamp. Going to the post office with their dad, marveling at the artwork. I don’t see this same attraction with an electronic screen.”

“The fact that a stamp will still be mailed to the hunter is a positive, but if they are not sent until after the season, it will become a moot point for most,” Dumaine said. “There is a possibility that some new collectors will be created with a mint stamp in their hand. Modern duck stamp licenses are already extremely difficult to locate, and I can see that becoming an even greater problem, as well as a scarcity of used duck stamps.”

“It’s a convenience for people who just want to get an E-stamp and go out and hunt,” said Gene Clater of Allen Township, Pa., an executive of the National Duck Stamp Collectors Society, in a telephone interview with Linn’s. “Anything we can do to drive more sales of duck stamps is good. But the main concern I have is the fact that they’re not going to issue the real stamp until the following March.”

“You’re going to see a direct impact on the philatelic world if people are not going to be putting the stamp on their license and signing it,” Clater said. “It makes no sense to me to have to wait nine months for the physical stamp. I don’t see any practical reason why that was placed in the act.”

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