Kansas Teen Wins National Duck Stamp Contest

A Kansas teen has won the prestigious 2021 National Junior Duck Stamp Contest, marking the first time a Kansan has won since the contest began in 1993.

According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism 18-year-old Margaret McMullen of Wichita entered an acrylic painting of a drake and hen hooded merganser pair to take the top honor.

The National Junior Duck Stamp Contest, sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), was created as a way to educate youth on the importance of the nation’s waterfowl and wetlands. The junior contest is open to youth in kindergarten through the 12th grade. This year, nearly 9,000 entries from all 50 states and two U.S. territories were submitted.

McMullen, a home-schooled high school senior, will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship for her winning entry. Collector’s stamps featuring her winning image will go on sale on June 25 with proceeds going to programs that promote wetland conservation.

Prior to being entered in the national contest, McMullen first had to win at the state level. This was the third consecutive year she won the Kansas contest, defeating 105 other entries. Up to 400 youth have entered the Kansas contest in recent years; Lori Jones, USFWS liaison for the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, said COVID-related issues kept some schools from sending in entries this year.

McMullen is a self-taught artist and began entering the contest when she was in the fourth grade. She said it’s been a slow, but steady progression to where she ranks now as one of America’s top wildlife artists.

“I’ve been drawing since I was about 3. It just has always kind of been there in me,” McMullen said. “I started out drawing with pencils, then went up to colored pencils. The last few years I’ve been getting into painting. I’ve always been a perfectionist with my work and want to make it as realistic as possible. I found paint gave me the best detail possible.”

McMullen has never seen a live hooded merganser on the waters near her home, so she studied photographs to obtain the intricate details necessary for her entry. She’s not sure how much time she invested in the 9- by 12-inch entry, other than “it took a long time.”

McMullen is currently unsure of her future career plans but she is interested in learning more about photography. No doubt, wildlife may end up being some of her favorite subjects to photograph.

“She has always said she’d like to live in the country and be closer to nature,” said Liz McMullen, Margaret’s mother. “She’s always been an animal lover. We’re trying to figure out what God wants her to do with her life. It will probably involve animals.”

For more on the USFWS’s junior duck stamp contest, and to view McMullen’s winning entry, visit www.fws.gov/birds/education/junior-duck-stamp-conservation-program.php.

For more on Kansas waterfowl, and wetland conversation, visit ksoutdoors.com.