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Minnesota brothers, wildlife artists win Duck Stamp 'trifecta'

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Three Minnesota brothers, the deans of wildlife stamp painting, made history Saturday by taking the top three spots in this year's prestigious Federal Duck Stamp art contest.

Joseph Hautman of Plymouth won the contest with an acrylic painting of a pair of trumpeter swans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced. This is the fifth time Hautman has won the contest, making him one of only two artists to have his art appear on five duck stamps.

His two brothers completed the trifecta: Robert Hautman of Delano took second place and James Hautman of Chaska took third. Both of them entered acrylic paintings of mallard ducks.

The Hautman family is a dynasty of sorts - combined, the three brothers have won the Duck Stamp contest 11 times, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. But this is first time they’ve swept the three top spots in the competition, which is considered to be the ultimate prize in wildlife art, the Associated Press notes.

"I congratulate Joseph Hautman on his win and the entire Hautman family on their artistic talent,” said Jerome Ford, the FWS assistant director for migratory birds. “This is not just any piece of art, but one whose impact will be felt for generations to come. Duck Stamps have helped to protect more than six-and-a-half million acres of waterfowl habitat in our National Wildlife Refuge System; now that is a lasting legacy.”

Although the contest winners don't receive a cash prize, they benefit from the prestige that comes along with the contest. And the artists often earn money by selling prints of their paintings, as well as home decor items that feature their designs, according to the Associated Press. (You can take a look at the Hautman brothers' artwork here.)

You may also remember the Hautmans' wildlife art was a small subplot in the movie "Fargo." In the film, Marge Gunderson's husband, Norm, is an artist who entered the Duck Stamp contest but was beat out by a Hautman - no first name given, the New York Times explains.

The reference wasn't accidental: The Hautmans grew up in the same neighborhood as filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.

Joseph Hautman's winning painting will be made into the 2016-2017 Federal Duck Stamp which will go on sale in June 2016. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older need to purchase the $25 stamp, and many conservationists, stamp collectors and others buy the stamps to support conservation efforts.

According to the FWS, duck stamp purchases raise about $25 million each year, and almost all the proceeds go toward buying and preserving migratory bird habitat.

The duck stamp competition featured 157 entries, and 10 of them made it into the final round of judging. The artists were required to portray one of the species eligible for this year's competition: the blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, gadwall, mallard and trumpeter swan. (You can see all of the entries here.)

You can find out more about buying federal duck stamps on the Fish and Wildlife Service website.

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