A painting of a ruffed grouse has been chosen by a panel of judges as the winning entry in the 2019-2020 California Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest. The painting was created by Jeffrey Klinefelter of Etna Green, Ind.
Sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the annual contest determined the official design for this year’s California Upland Game Bird Stamp. Klinefelter also captured the top spots in the 2018-19 and 2017-18 Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contests, as well as the 2009-10 California Duck Stamp Contest.
Artists submitted an original depiction of ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus). These medium-bodied forest dwellers are the only member of the genus Bonasa, and have a range extending across North America. In California, they inhabit riparian and conifer forests in the northwestern portion of the state. Ruffed grouse have intricately barred or variegated plumage in shades of brown and gray, depending on environmental variables, with a conspicuous neck “ruff” and dark tail banding which they use to attract mates. Their most notable courtship ritual, however, is their “drum display” – a low-frequency booming sound created by beating their wings against their bodies.
Contest entries were judged recently by a panel of experts selected for their knowledge in the fields of ornithology, conservation, art and printing. Designs were judged on originality, artistic composition, anatomical accuracy, and suitability for reproduction as a stamp and print.
The judges praised the composition and fine detail of the painting, specifically noting the accuracy of the feathers. They cited the excellent coloration with “good barring on the belly and speckle on the back” that blends nicely with the autumnal aspen forest in the background. The panel also appreciated the in-flight depiction which allowed a full display of the grouse’s intricate plumage, something Klinefelter found challenging yet rewarding.
“Ruffed grouse are agile fliers and I thought painting them in flight would make a good picture,” he said. “The plumage blends well with the background – they have cryptic coloration.” He went on to say that while he has only seen ruffed grouse in captivity, he enjoyed imagining them in their native California habitat.
Broderick Crawford of Clayton, Ga., placed second. Mark Thone of Shakopee, Minn., placed third. Buck Spencer of Junction City, Ore. received honorable mention.
An upland game bird validation is required for hunting migratory and resident upland game birds in California. The validation replaces the stamp through CDFW’s Automated License Data System, but the stamp is still produced and available to hunters upon request. Monies generated from upland game bird validation sales are dedicated solely to upland game bird-related conservation projects, hunting opportunities, and outreach and education. CDFW annually sells about 170,000 upland game bird validations and distributes approximately 17,000 stamps.
Any individual who purchases an upland game bird validation may request their free collectable stamp by visiting wildlife.ca.gov/licensing/collector-stamps. An order form is also available on the website for collectors who do not purchase a hunting license or upland game bird validation, or for hunters who wish to purchase additional collectible stamps.