Kicking off summer with a pile of frogs from the unlikeliest of places
There is no scoring system for bullfrogs, and maybe that’s for the best. A good frog hunter can identify a "trophy" from across a 2-acre pond, just by looking at the size of and spacing between his eyes in the beam of a flashlight. It’s a skill learned only from experience.
That experience will further teach you that once you’ve gotten close enough to really see a mature frog, you realize it’s something of a disturbing creature: big as a half-slab of ribs and bound in muscle and green skin and black eyes. Were your buddy to say, “Grab him!” you might hesitate. This is, after all, an amphibian that could eat a half-grown hamster.
The best bullfrog hunt I’ve ever had happened on a humid southern night, 25 years ago. My buddy Dan and I left from his grandmother’s trailer just after sunset, lethally prepared for what was to come. I carried an old gig fastened on the end of a broom handle. It was missing two tines, but the three it did have left had been filed and honed carefully.
But Dan was packing the artillery: a spring-loaded contraption on the end of a collapsible aluminum pole that he called a “snap gig.” Had you anchored those jaws to the ground, they might’ve sufficed as a foot-hold bear trap. Dan had to stand on one jaw to cock it, and just to prove it’d work as designed, he jabbed it against an oak sapling. It snapped shut violently, and required the both of us to pry the thing loose. Dan seemed pleased. “Put that against a frog, and you’ve got him,” he said. “My pawpaw said so.”
The Dog Pond
After a long, mostly silent march, we stepped off the gravel road and into the trees. Even without lights, the deep barrummphs of amorous male frogs would’ve led us right to the pond.
Dan’s aunt owned it. She bred Rottweilers for a living; during the day, a low-flying plane would set a yard full of them to howling. An individual dog the size of a Rottweiler produces enough large piles of waste in a year’s time that its disposal has to be considered, just in the general day-to-day ownership of the animal. A Rottweiler dealership, so to speak, needs a place all its own, purely to get rid of poop.
“This is my aunt’s turd pond,” Dan whispered to me. “You wait till you see the frogs in here.”
Dan wasn’t lying. He turned on the light and there before us were bullfrogs sitting almost shoulder to shoulder. They’d grown large in the pond, which seemed void of tadpole-eating fish. We started out walking the bank, but we spooked five frogs for every one killed. Soon, we were daring one another to just wade into the water. Partly, we felt it provided a tactical advantage. Mostly, we were 12-year-old boys who’d found a turd pond full of frogs deep in the woods, and that there’s any question now that we’d have ended up wading in it then seems silly.
We walked home in the dark a couple hours later, tennis shoes squishing and us both soaked from the armpits down. But our operation had been successful. We carried two grocery sacks full of frog legs with us.
I don’t know who killed the biggest frog or the most of them. I do know that when we added our piles of legs together and Dan’s grandmother fried them up for breakfast, it seemed like we couldn’t eat enough of them to find the plate underneath. Bullfrog hunting was just perfect like that, way back then. Not much about it has changed today.
Gear for Booner Bullfrogs
If a bullfrog got big enough, he’d kill and eat you. Pound for pound, I don’t know if there is a tougher, more voracious critter. Still, frog hunting doesn’t require much for gear, and that’s half the beauty of it. You can use a flashlight and grab them with your hands if you’re particularly thrifty. You can gig them, which is what most people do (including with a snap gig, if you can still find such a thing for sale). Or you can shoot them.
Some frog hunters scoff at using firearms, but rimfires are right at home on frog water, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. On ponds with dense, overgrown banks in particular, there can be no other practical way to get frogs than by shooting them.
I’ve burned many a round through this little autoloader in Wyoming prairie dog towns. It’s fun to shoot and accurate, too. It has everything a frog hunter could want, including an open peep sight, Picatinny rail for optics, synthetic stock, and threaded barrel for a suppressor (check legalities on hunting with those in your state, but my buddy Ryan has a suppressor on his frog gun, and it’s the ticket for not spooking every frog around). When wading or hunting from a boat, shoot frogs head-on, just under the chin, to knock them up onto the bank.
In some areas, firing hollowpoints into the darkness is not a good idea. And bullets can knock frogs into the water — unrecoverable — when shot from behind. For that reason, many frog hunters like “rat shot.” It’s pretty anemic stuff from a .22 Long Rifle on an outsized frog, but if you own a .22 Magnum, a load of snake shot for that round has nearly twice the No. 12 pellets, at the same velocity, and costs only a few dollars more for a box of 20. It’s a much better option.
It helps to have a dry bag along for carrying your phone, extra flashlight and batteries, bug spray, ammo, and the like. This waterproof backpack from Gecko Brands is perfect, since it weighs barely half a pound and has a rear zipper access. Here’s a trick, too: tie on a glow stick (just like you’d get at the county fair) so you can find the pack again if the frogging gets real good and you have to set it down. Camo works especially well in the dark.