King Buck (1948-1962), a handsome black Labrador, was a gifted athlete. As a National Duck Retriever champion, he completed an unprecedented 63 series in the National Championship Stake, and in 1952 and 1953 he was the National Retriever Field Trial Club champ. This string of successes was not to be duplicated by any other dog for nearly forty years.
Buck’s beginning was not an auspicious one for a future champion. Born in 1948 in Storm Lake, Iowa, one of a litter of eight, Buck was sold for $50 to a fellow named Robert Howard of Omaha. The puppy soon caught distemper and nearly died. By the time he was a year and a half old, he had fully recovered and Howard, who was also a dog trainer, started using him for field hunting. Another Omahan, Byron Grunwald, was impressed by Buck’s ability and paid Howard $500 for the dog.
Soon after that sale, Buck caught the eye of another trainer and manager; Nilo Kennels paid Grunwald more than $5,000 for Buck, and Buck continued his training under John Olin, the trainer associated with Nilo. The men at Nilo weren’t disappointed in their investment. In 1951 Buck completed 10 of 11 series of the National Championship Stake, and that was the first of his many wins. (Buck probably wasn’t disappointed either. Though the kennel manager disapproved, Olin started letting Buck stay with him in his hotel room, and Buck soon graduated from a bed on the floor to sleeping in Olin’s bed. They were buddies.)
Honored on a Conservation Stamp
Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, begun in 1934 and commonly known as “Duck Stamps,” are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Postal Service for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The stamps are not postage stamps; they are stamps issued annually to update federal licenses for hunting migratory waterfowl.
Besides serving as a hunting license, the federal government has turned the Duck Stamp program into a conservation tool. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In 1959 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selected Buck to be honored on their duck stamp. In selecting Buck, the Service pointed out that the use of retrievers greatly helps reduce the loss of downed ducks. (This is the only time the stamp has ever featured anything other than some type of water fowl.) The watercolor for Buck’s stamp was painted by Maynard Reece (1920- ), a famous wildlife artist.
Since 1934, the sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $750 million, which has been used to help purchase or lease over 5.3 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the United States.
A current year’s Federal Duck Stamp also serves as an entrance pass for National Wildlife Refuges where admission is normally charged. Duck Stamps and the products that bear duck stamp images are also popular collector items.