A Tradition of Excellence

Carrying on his mother’s legacy and finding fame alongside his brothers, Bob Hautman earns his first DU Artist of the Year win


© Bob Hautman


For fans of wildlife art, there are few names as prominent as Hautman. Jim, Bob, and Joe Hautman are among the most talented wildlife artists alive today—and they just happen to be brothers. This year, Ducks Unlimited is honored to recognize Bob Hautman as its 2020 Artist of the Year.

DU Artist of the Year Bob Hautman at home in his studio in Delano, Minnesota.

“When my brothers and I were growing up, our mom was a professional artist and our dad was passionate about hunting and the outdoors,” Hautman says. “We lived near a nature area and were always in the woods. We’d come home and my mom would have her art supplies out, so we all just kind of fell into it.”

In the mid-1980s, Bob and Joe were earning money painting houses, but they wanted to branch out and be more creative. They found themselves inspired by their mother, Elaine, once again. “Our mom painted ducks on driftwood and people always wanted to buy them, so we thought we should try that,” Hautman recalls. “I was in my 20s when we started ‘birds on boards.’ They were a hit at art fairs, but I never thought at the time that I was going to be a professional artist.”

However, just a few years later, in 1988, Hautman’s future changed forever when he won the state duck stamp competition in his home state of Minnesota. Less than a decade after that, he won his first Federal Duck Stamp Contest with his painting of a Canada goose. Hautman has won the federal contest two more times since. His latest win in 2018–19 marked the third consecutive federal duck stamp to be painted by the Hautman brothers.

Waterfowl have long been Hautman’s favorite subjects to paint. “I’ve always enjoyed ducks and duck hunting, since my dad started taking me down to the park to watch the ducks when I was young,” he says. “I take a lot of photos and then sketch out my ideas. On average I’ll use 50 to 250 different photos to inspire a single painting. I’ll take a bill I like from one, feet from another, a wing from another . . . Every time I start something new, I see the beauty in each duck. My table will be full of photos while I’m working on a painting.”

The 2020 DU Artist of the Year print, First Wave, was inspired by two different experiences Hautman had with waterfowl—a field hunt in Saskatchewan and a day taking photos on the Minnesota River. “I’d never seen anything quite like the mallards coming in during that hunt in Canada,” he recalls. “I combined that experience with the powerful images of the birds coming in over the river to create First Wave.”

Hautman lives and works on his farm in Delano, Minnesota, where his art studio overlooks wetlands he has been restoring for the past 20 years. He says that conservation is at the heart of his work. “I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute to conservation through artwork,” Hautman says. “There are so many people who put hundreds of hours into working on conservation projects. For me to be able to do something I love and help raise funds to get the job done is a great feeling.” 


A Good Day By Bob Hautman

Artist of the Year Bob Hautman credits his artistic success to his father, who passed on a love of the outdoors and a commitment to conservation, and his mother, an accomplished painter. In A Good Day, Hautman beautifully captures a proud yellow Lab after a perfect day of hunting. The cork decoys featured in the image were carved in the 1940s by the artist’s father.

Windswept Bay—Canvasbacks and Bluebills By David Maass

David Maass has been named Ducks Unlimited’s Artist of the Year more times than any other artist. Windswept Bay showcases canvas-backs and bluebills making their descent. Maass is a self-taught wildlife illustrator who was raised in a family with longstanding hunting traditions.

Perched By Jared DuCote

Texas painter Jared DuCote highlights the natural beauty of a wood duck on a limb in Perched. This is DuCote’s first appearance in the DU National Art Package. He and his father share a love of art, which led them to paint custom fishing lures together.

Big Ten By Bruce Miller

This is Bruce Miller’s tenth image in the DU National Art Package. Big Ten captures the majesty of a whitetail buck in its natural surroundings. As a native Minnesotan, Miller chose the title Big Ten not only in reference to the buck’s trophy rack but also to the athletic conference of the same name.


The Ducks Unlimited 2020 Shotgun of the Year is the Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus. This 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun features a 3 1/2" chamber, 28" polished blued barrel with five interchangeable choke tubes, a silver receiver, and a DU-exclusive oil-finished walnut stock. A gold inlaid waterfowl scene completes this elegant firearm. A special DU serial number and gun lock are included.

The 2020 Rifle of the Year is the Weatherby Vanguard First Lite. Chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, this bolt-action rifle features a Monte Carlo stock, fluted barrel, and removable muzzle brake. The First Lite camo stock is complemented by an understated Flat Dark Earth Cerakote barrel. A mounted and bore-sighted Leupold VX Freedom 3-9x40 scope, DU logo on the floor plate, and gun lock complete this high-quality rifle package.

The 2020 Handgun of the Year is the Beretta M9A3. This 9mm semiautomatic pistol has a 5" threaded barrel and custom green and black G10 composite grips. The slide features the DU logo. The Handgun of the Year package also includes a custom DU hard case and a gun lock.