First of all, a plate of fried frog legs is the best-tasting dish known to man. Anyone who disagrees with that is simply out of touch with reality or from the Northeast. I know of at least one contingent of Ohio froggers who grill their game. While it’s tempting to dismiss this as marginally acceptable, I will admit that I’ve never eaten a grilled frog, so I’ll keep my mouth shut, for now.
Secondly, few pursuits can equal frog hunting in romantic appeal. I’ve seen the sport bring smiles, and maybe even a few twinkles of the eye, to more than one happy couple. Since high school, an after-dark frogging expedition on an 85-degree evening has been my double-date activity of choice. There’s much more substance involved than sitting through yet another chick flick, and the final expense tally will likely be cheaper. More on this later.
The methods for collecting the American bullfrog, vary slightly by region, often due to varying game laws in different states. Except for a few rogue riflemen, most all of it is done at night with the aid of a powerful light. Experienced froggers can shine a light around a pond bank or swamp and spot various eyes from one area. From there they can determine which eyes belong to big, eating-sized frogs; which eyes belong to little frogs; and which eyes belong to various other sundry critters, like alligators. After careful consideration, a frogging route is determined and turns are taken at each frog. With any luck, a grocery sack full of frog legs (up to the legal limit, varying by state) will be the spoils for the evening.
Some grab frogs by hand. Gigging them via a three-pronged spear on the end of a long pole is easier and a little more common in many areas. I’ve also used spring-loaded “snap gigs,” which snap shut on contact with the frog. An ultralight fishing rod-and-reel with a bluegill hook and small piece of red cloth dangled in front of a frog’s nose will entice a strike most of the time, and it’s a fun way to do things. When gathering meat is the sole priority, a good .22 rifle or pistol, loaded with hollow points for shooting across a pond and “rat shot” for point-blank shots, is tough to beat for simple effectiveness. I will say, however, guns work much better if you’re wading or in a boat and can shoot the frog head-on. Otherwise the dead frog is often knocked away from the bank and into the water and finding it can be difficult. A good hit is required as well. Anything that doesn’t hit the frog in the brain or spine is apt to be a wasted bullet (or shot load).
When hunting from the bank, one trick I learned, particularly when using rat shot, is not to aim for the frog’s head (which is more mouth and nose than anything). Instead, aim for the sharp, bony bend right in the center of the back. Done correctly, this shot seems to be a little more forgiving and anchors them every time. Hunting frogs with a firearm, particularly at night, isn’t legal in every state. As always, knowing the regulations is the responsibility of the person participating.
A good light is the most important tool for frogging. Powerful flashlights work well, but headlamps are even better, as they let you keep your hands free. Spot the frogs from a distance with a light, and then keep the beam off of them until you or a partner begins the final stalk. From there, keep the beam directly on the frog’s eyes. A shadow cast from a hand or gig handle carelessly pulled through the light’s beam will spook a big frog, and is justification for a stern, midnight lecture.
PREPPING FOR THE PAN
Once acquired, cleaning frogs for the pan is a simple endeavor with the right tools. I like a pair of game shears, a sharp pocketknife and blunt-ended fish-skinning pliers. I snip the hind legs off the frog just above the hip, so they stay together, and make an inch-long cut on the thigh of each leg. It’s then a simple matter to grab the skin with the pliers and pull it free. Some people like to snip the feet off, but there is a tiny bite of meat on the foot. Plus, when I was a kid, watching those feet kick and jump in the skillet was just part of living in the country. If you must snip the feet off, go ahead; mine are staying.
The practice of frog hunting as couples’ therapy should not be overlooked. To date, my wife, Michelle, and I, have been on a half-dozen double dates centered around frog hunting. The sport has many factors going for it. It takes place late at night, in the dead of summer, so it’s plenty warm, but no so hot as to be miserable. There are all sorts of critters that make weird noises at night, and at the risk of sounding sexist, they sometimes scare the ladies, creating a perfect opportunity for guys to hide the fact that the noises scare them as well and take charge of the situation.
It’s important to understand that a man who takes a woman frog hunting is serious about things. It’s akin to meeting parents, or discussing investment of several months’ wages on a tiny rock and ring that will ultimately serve no truly useful purpose.
The potential is there in a frog hunt for things to go wrong, so the relationship needs to be a solid one. Lots of things bite in the swamp, but if both members come through the experience with favorable attitudes, things just may work out. If the evening ends in bitterness, perhaps some reflection and re-examination of the situation is in order.
One of my good buddies and former college roommate, Ryan McCafferty, is a great example of what frogging can do for a happy couple. Ryan proposed to his girlfriend, Jenny, while on a frog-hunting trip at Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky several years ago.
“I’d had the ring about a week, but I just needed a romantic setting—like a ditch and a frog hole,” Ryan said with a chuckle. As the sun was setting over a swampy pocket in Kentucky Lake, Ryan knelt on one knee, wearing hip boots, and popped the magic question. Jenny said yes.
“He proposed, and then we went hunting and killed three or four frogs,” she said. “They were wiggling around in his Jeep on the ride home. We fried them up and ate them around midnight. That was my first time eating frog legs.”
Jenny didn’t have a hunting and fishing background before meeting Ryan in college, but she’s a veteran now. She regards frog hunting as a wise pick for a date. “It’s just a good opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” she said. “You can walk, talk and you don’t have to worry about sitting still. It’s also something you can do as a group. It makes a great double date! You can build a fire up on the bank or whatever you want to do.”
So there you have it. Plenty of good reasons to try frog hunting if you’ve never been, or go more often if your gig is getting a little rusty. The sport can be as wild or calm as you choose—from the depths of a cypress swamp to the mowed banks of a golf-course pond. Just remember to bring a good light, plenty of batteries, a friend (even a significant one), and a healthy appetite for post-hunt, golden-fried goodness.
FRIED FROG LEGS
What you’ll need to eat:
2 to 2 1/2 pounds small frog legs
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs – separated
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for deep frying
Wash frog legs thoroughly. Place in a large bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice and cover with crushed ice. Refrigerate 1 to 3 hours. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolks, and 2 teaspoons oil. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into milk and egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle frog legs with salt and pepper; dip each in milk-egg mixture, then dredge in flour. Heat vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or skillet to 375°. Fry frog legs until golden brown. When you remove the frog legs transfer to paper towels to drain. Serves 4 to 6.
FROG LEG SAUCE PIQUANT
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp butter
1 large onion diced
1 celery stalk diced
1 small bell pepper chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 can tomato paste 6 oz
1 can whole tomatoes
16 ounces of beer or chicken stock
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp Tabasco pepper sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 pounds frog meat (15 to 20 legs) or 8 to 10 carcass
salt cayenne pepper
In a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine the oil and 2 tablespoon of flour to make a roux. Stir constantly until the roux is a light to medium brown about 15 minutes.
Stir in the butter and add the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic and sauté' for 5 minutes or until soft.
Add the tomato paste and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, chicken broth, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. Cover and simmer over low for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile dust the frog legs or carcass with the remaining 2 tablespoon flour seasoned with a small amount of salt and cayenne pepper. Coat a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray or a small amount of oil, add the frog meat and sauté' until lightly brown about 3 minutes on each side. Add the eggs to the sauce and simmer for an additional 15 minutes if frog legs and 30 if using carcass meat. Serve over rice.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2009.