The black, oozy, mire that called itself the bottom of the pond allowed me to take the step I desired, but it held onto the boot and my foot took the step alone! The boots were full chest waders strapped across my shoulders so I was never going to step completely free of them, but now my foot had pulled out of the “foot” part of the boot and I was left standing in two feet of mucky pond water trying to push my foot back down into the boot which by now had twisted around under me. My balance is horrible anyway, so there I stood in the pitch darkness, guided only by the two flashlight beams of me and my frog hunting partner Jared Austin, trying to “right my ship” before I toppled headfirst into the deep. Mission accomplished, I briefly sat down on the bank to get things adjusted, then off we went again.
“Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow begins “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” My frog hunting stories should always begin “Listen my readers whilst I blog ‘bout the midnight perils of hunting frogs.” For me, the number one inconvenience in nighttime frog hunting is the mucky bottom of most ponds, combined with submerged sticks and tree limbs that can’t be seen. I can spray for the skeeters’, there is no limit to the size of flashlight I can buy to light-up the night around me, but there is no “app” on my phone to turn a mucky pond bottom to sand and rid it of hidden tree limbs.
Our first stop was a pond on city property just outside Inman; that’s where the wardrobe malfunction with my boot occurred. We slogged slowly around the odd-shaped pond, sometimes in the water, sometimes on the bank to skirt tree limbs and brush, and were rewarded with 5 dandy bullfrogs for our efforts. And aside from the boot mishap and a couple other stumbles that got me a little wet, all went well.
There are numerous legal means for catching frogs; I chose to carry a “gig,” a three-tined spear resembling a mini-pitchfork mounted on a long cane pole and Jared chose to catch his by hand when possible. A bright flashlight beam shone in their eyes temporarily stuns them allowing a hunter to snag them by whatever means. All captured frogs went into a big mesh bag I carried over my shoulder. When we reached the truck again they went into a cooler of ice.
When we left there it was already 11 PM, so although I had permission to hunt in a number of ponds, we stopped next at the property that was quickest and easiest to access. We drove off the blacktop and through a grass waterway to a fence that surrounded the pasture containing two ponds and a small slough that partially connected them. The first pond lay just across the fence, and the stale steamy night air was filled with the deep rhythmic bellows of bull frogs. We were still several feet up on the bank when Jared whispered “Steve, stop and look in front of you!” I stopped and my eyes followed his flashlight beam to the ground and there in the grass just ahead of me sat a mesmerized bull frog the size of a large grapefruit. I guess I blurted out “Oh my,” because that became the joke of the night. From then on, every time we spotted a monster frog one of us would utter “Oh my!” The place must be a literal incubator for bullfrogs, because for every harvest-sized frog we took, there were dozens of smaller replacements. As we shone our flashlights across each pond, the waters sparkled with the eyes of young frogs. After making a pass around each pond, the mesh bag over my shoulder was heavy with our harvest; the clock said after 1 AM and we had a “nice mess” of frogs to clean so we headed for our shop where I had sharp knives and clean water waiting.
Thinking the ice in the cooler would have these cold blooded amphibians calm and drowsy, I popped open the top to take a picture or two, and immediately frogs went everywhere. After corralling them all we set to work, and after an hour 21 frogs had been cleaned and dressed, their sweet meaty legs now ready for the skillet. I marinated them overnight in buttermilk, battered them in a 50/50 mixture of seasoned flour and corn meal and fried them until they were just golden brown. Like any other wild game, cooking them too long will make them tough. We had friends over who had never tasted frog legs before, and they were a hit, although I also had burgers prepared from a 50/50 combination of venison and antelope burger just in case.
I’m so thankful and always in awe of God’s Creation and for the fact He allows us to manage it and harvest from it for our use. One of Joyce’s questions for God is “Why on earth were their mosquitoes on the ark?” Maybe they were there to feed the frogs on board; I just wish the frogs had eaten them all! Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]