The Midnight Perils of Hunting Frogs

Exploring Kansas Outdoors

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Welcome to bullfrog season in Kansas. Now I’m not much of a team sports player, but frog huntin’ when we were kids back in Ohio came terribly close to being a team sport. Half the fun of our frog hunts was just being there with our buddies, and the anticipation of what would go wrong. Whenever we went on any kind of foray after dark, the vehicle ended up broken down, stuck in the snow or mud or in the ditch, so the more passengers in the car to help extract us from our predicament the better. Our transportation needs were simple; four wheels, two seats and something that already smelled as badly as we would when the night was over, which was easily accomplished because that perfectly described the old beaters we all drove.

Near our home in central Ohio was a farm with two ponds, one on each side of the main highway that passed our homestead. One memorable frog hunt took place at these ponds late on a hot steamy Ohio night. I’ve always questioned the landowner’s sanity for allowing us there unsupervised; I figure he hoped we’d all drown and never bother him again.

Anyway, Ralph (my rabbit hunting partner) and his brother Mike, Terry and myself, all piled into Terry’s old beater of a car, intent upon harvesting a “mess” of tasty frog legs from these ponds. Terry’s ride was chosen because it easily met the above transportation criteria, plus the radio worked. We had found the best “froggin” attire to be old jeans, and worn-out sneakers, which we wore all the time anyway. Hip boots or waders sound good, but inevitably you’d end up horizontal in the pond before the night was done, and once waders fill with water, it’s like wearing a fifty-gallon barrel around each leg. (Yes, I know this from experience) There are several legal ways to harvest frogs. We chose “gigs;” small pitchfork shaped spears used on the ends of long bamboo poles. These work quite well on frogs, but in the dark, you soon learned to keep a good distance between you and the guy behind you, as an errant “gig” to the butt made the evening go by really slowly! A bright flashlight was shone at the frog’s eyes, blinding them long enough to be speared with the gig. Armed with frog gigs, flashlights and gunnysacks to hold our catch, and clad in ragged jeans and worn-out sneakers, we must have looked like characters from the movie “Huck Finn meets the Grim Reaper.”

The night was soon filled with the deep throbbing “harum” sounds of bullfrogs. As I remember, we split up to conquer the two ponds faster. We slogged slowly along the banks as quietly as possible, each step threatening to suck us deeper into the oozy muck that smelled like rotten eggs. (I was always suspicious that it wasn’t really the mud that smelled.) We stalked along, knee deep in the water, until the glistening skin or gleaming beady eyes of a frog appeared in the beam of the flashlight. The trick was to slowly lower the spear as close to the frog as possible before striking, and hold the light in his eyes to keep it “dazzled,” all the while using Jedi mind games to persuade the frog to give itself up. While this anchored the frog so we could retrieve it, it usually didn’t kill it, so we soon had bags full of squirming amphibians trying to swim away from the frying pan.

We got lots of frogs that night, and decided to clean them at my place on the way home. We had a big circular driveway with a security light on a tall pole in the middle. An empty hay wagon pulled under the light made the perfect butchering table, and we were soon at it. As gunnysacks were emptied, squirming frogs went everywhere and we boisterously went to work. We removed the legs, then skinned them much like skinning a catfish, leaving the big flipper feet attached. They fry up white, sweet and tender, and NO, they do not taste just like chicken!

Half the fun of a frog hunt, besides the obvious frog leg lunch is watching the legs as they fry. In the hot grease, the thick meaty pieces quiver and tremble as if they were still alive, much to the chagrin of anyone trying frog legs for the first time. I remember one particular frog leg feast attended by one of my buddy’s girlfriends who had never tasted frog legs before, and was very apprehensive about ever doing so, let alone with us. I was frying, and when she was out of the room, I found one especially big set of legs and propped them up on the edge of the skillet with the legs crossed, just as if they had climbed out of the skillet and were resting there. I don’t know who was madder at me, her at the sight of them or my buddy because I had done it!

These days I hardly ever hunt frogs anymore. Maybe because it’s not as much fun as it used to be slogging around in some farm pond after dark. Maybe it’s because no one else will go with me because they all feel the same as I do about slogging around in some farm pond after dark. Whatever the reason, I still get to enjoy an occasional mess of frog legs, and they still taste as sweet and tender as they did 50 years ago… Continue to Explore Kansas outdoors.

Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]

 

 

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