By Gary Koehler
If records are indeed made to be broken, Ducks Unlimited magazine readers have taken that adage to heart. For the fourth consecutive year, the number of entries in our photo contest rose to new heights. This year's count surpassed 900, including nearly equal numbers in the waterfowl, retrievers, and waterfowl hunting categories. Combined, these images made for an intriguing collage framing just about all things common to duckdom. They serve to preserve special moments occurring in special places—all treasures in their own right.
To view an extensive collection of honorable mentions in our photo contest, visit ducks.org/photocontest2013.
Best Overall Winner
Chris Knight's job requires him to travel regularly all over northern California. He has made it a point to visit some of the state's most revered duck hunting venues, including Butte Sink and Suisun Marsh, among others. "I get up really early, hunt with a camera for a few hours, and then go to work," Knight says. "I've always been partial to waterfowl, and my job puts me in the middle of great duck country."
Knight photographed this pintail courtship flight in late December on the Llano Seco Unit of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge near Chico. "I spend a lot of time out there. It's one of my favorite spots," Knight says. "You never know what you are going to get. Just like hunting, you have to be in the right place at the right time."
This remarkable shot was taken from an observation platform. "I like photographing birds in flight," Knight says. "At that particular spot, pintail courtship flights will swing right by you. There are at least a few thousand birds on that pond on any given day."
Best Overall Runner-Up