While duck hunters are among the most earnest in effort and commitment to their sport, they have little to show in terms of trophies: no impressive antlers to hang on the wall, citations to signify an outstanding catch after a day on the water. But, if you want to make a waterfowler proud, ask him about his duck bands.

“The band program is done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Lanny Freeman of Stedman.  It’s a program that was started to get data on what kind of flightpath the birds are using. They band them in the summer on their breeding grounds and later on their winter grounds. 

“It’s an idea they came up with hoping that it would incentivize people to give them that feedback information, and it turned into something cool for the hunters. It’s a big deal. It’s rare. — something you don’t see a whole lot. It turned into our trophy, if you will.”

Often strung about the lanyard that carries a hunter’s calls, duck bands carry a certain symbol of status for the wearer among his brethren.

“Guides who hunt for a living will be covered up with them,” Freeman said. “If you see a guy with a lot of bands, you’re like, Oh man, that’s the duck-hunting king.’”

In order to be banded, ducks are detained by means of a trap or net and fitted with the size-appropriate aluminum band that carries a unique 8 or 9-digit identification number as well as the telephone number and website for reporting.  Older bands have a mailing address available for reporting. 

Reporting a banded bird earns the individual a certificate detailing where and when the duck was banded, as well as the age, species, and sex. Reward bands are redeemable for a monetary value.