If the ducks don’t come to Brad Romero, Brad Romero goes to the ducks.

The 27-year-old all-around outdoorsman from New Iberia did just that, like he has done the past five or so years, the week before Christmas. Romero was joined on his latest trip by his buddy, Kermit McDonald III of New Iberia, leaving Dec. 16 and coming back Dec. 22.

As he has since the mid-2010s, Romero headed to the area where Oklahoma and Kansas meet in the Midwest. And why not? As so many duck hunters around here have discovered this season for the umpteenth time, the ducks just aren’t down here like they should be.

With two travel days marking the bookends of the trip in which a half-dozen other local waterfowlers met up with them, and four days of duck hunting (they spent a day scouting the region with binoculars) on public lands, sloughs and lakes, the outcome would have many duck hunters salivating. The first day was good. The last few days were better.

It sure beat duck hunting in southwest Louisiana, where a state waterfowl biologist recently reported duck numbers at the second-lowest level since 2004. Still, the Midwestern trip was less rewarding than it was the first time Romero went in 2016-17.

“It wasn’t really that great like it normally was. We usually go at the end of January. We went a little earlier this year because there ain’t no ducks in Louisiana. It just wasn’t all that great,” Romero said Tuesday morning.

Oh, Romero and McDonald did have what he billed “Nothing like a little greenhead beat down,” as he posted Dec. 22 on Facebook. The accompanying post-duck hunt photos, top heavy with male mallards in all their colorful green glory, of those last few days in the country’s heartland are a sight for sore eyes back home.

Romero gave up on duck hunting in and around the Atchafalaya Basin after two hunts in November. He and some duck hunting buddies killed 24 teal opening day Nov. 13 in the West Zone while hunting in one pond at the mouth of the Wax Lake Outlet.

He went two days later and didn’t see a duck to shoot at.

“It’s horrible. It’s ridiculous. I hunted that Monday after the opener and didn’t fire a shot. I can’t even find wood ducks,” he said, noting while deer hunting the past few months he traversed some prime backwoods areas he frequents every season in the Atchafalaya Basin. Ducks were no-shows.

“They’ve got ducks east around Venice and west around Cameron,” he said, noting there seem to be precious few or none in between.

Jason Olszak, Louisiana’s waterfowl program manager for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, conducted his third aerial waterfowl population estimate Dec. 13-15 before the second split opened Dec. 18. After flying the transect lines and counting groups of ducks there were an estimated 1.4 million ducks in Louisiana, an 8 percent increase over November but 800,000 less than the December 2020 estimate of 2.2 million. The latest estimate was the lowest count recorded in December.

That’s why Romero moved his Midwestern duck hunt from January to just before Christmas. He and his buddies lined up an Airbnb and he contacted rural residents he has contacted in the past in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

“I know people up there who kind of help me out. They let me know when the ducks are down,” he said.

Romero took his gear and Benelli Super Black Eagle III, then enjoyed hunting ducks, beaucoup ducks, with friends who are as much dyed in the wool duck hunters as he has been since his boyhood days.

He builds and sells custom boat duck blinds for Pro-Drive and Gator Tail-powered boats, one of which he uses himself, and also repairs boats and outboard motors. When he isn’t at his shop he’s hunting deer or ducks or fishing for bass or sac-a-lait. A lot.

The first day of his first-ever duck hunting trip to that part of the Midwest was unforgettable.

“I can tell you, we went about five years ago. We shot 24 mallards and four pintails the first day we pulled up,” he said.

Romero and McDonald returned to his home away from home after the first day’s trip a couple weeks ago with nine grays and two greenheads. They might have done even better the second day but when they arrived at their duck hunting destination — a cove along a shallow lake — three boats already were there along with approximately 80 mallards.

On the third day the duck hunters killed greenheads, spoonbills and a couple of teal. They slept in the next morning, got up and got out their binoculars to scout other areas.

Romero found a greenhead gold mine. Two, to be exact, as they located mallards in two sloughs.

How thick were the ducks the fifth and sixth days?

‘We just found the sloughs, creeks, where they had 200-300 of them. Zero calling the last two days. We didn’t use decoys,” he said, noting the mallards would see ripples on the water, cup and come in hard for a landing.

“It was weird. They’d come right in,” he said, recalling one instance in which three greenheads came right at his face and he gunned down two of them.

They avoided shooting hens both mornings. The duck hunts would start at 7 a.m. The shotguns stopped roaring at 7:30, limits in the bag.

It was an old-fashioned greenhead beat down.

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