There are things in life that take you right back to your childhood. It can be the smell of chalk, the theme song of a Saturday morning animated series, or even the taste of a certain candy. It’s different for everyone and some people have many. However, the biggest thing that immediately takes me back to my childhood is the raspy croaking of a large summer bullfrog.
When I was about 10 years old, my brother, my cousins and I put on headlamps and armed ourselves with bee-bee guns, searchlights and my uncle’s old rusty giggle spear and then made our way to the swampy pond beyond the My grandfather’s house to hunt bullfrogs. We spent the whole night trudging through the dirt and wading chest-deep in the green water while trying to jab a spear into a croaking pair of glowing eyes. At sunrise we hiked back to my grandfather’s house, covered in mud and insect bites, to clean our catch of bullfrogs that grandfather cooked us for breakfast. He roasts the legs in a massive cast iron skillet and serves them to us with a side of biscuits and gravy, which we devour before passing out all afternoon, leaving us well rested for another gig session that evening.
It was great fun and one of my all time favorite childhood memories. But as I got older, I learned that not everyone had a childhood like mine. A lot of people have never experienced the pure, unadulterated fun of playing Frogs, and if you’re one of them I have to say you have no idea what you’re missing out on.
A History of Frog Eating
Long before we realized how slow and easy chickens were to catch, frogs were the white meat of choice for much of society. Historical records show that frogs were in almost every pantry as early as AD 100. The peoples of ancient southern China listed frog farming as livestock, and Aztec scrolls have also been found with hieroglyphs of people spearing and eating frogs. During the 16th In the 19th century, monks officially recognized frogs as fish so they could eat them on days when they were not allowed to eat red meat, and religiously ambitious farmers quickly followed suit. This made frog legs a delicacy to be eaten only on special occasions.
Eventually, as we humans became more “evolved,” a certain stigma began to form around eating frogs. Similar to carp, this had nothing to do with the quality or flavor of the animal’s flesh, but more to do with the environment in which the creatures were found. Frogs generally live in foam-covered, muddy, and generally unattractive bodies of water such as swamps, swamps, and weed-choked lakes and ponds, and are therefore considered unpleasant creatures. This, combined with the horrific squawking sound they make, has deterred generations of carnivores who found animals that lived in swamps much less appealing than animals that roamed clean and pristine meadows and mountains.
So eating frogs has fallen out of favor in many places around the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not done. Countries like Vietnam, Korea, Italy and of course France regularly put frog on the menu. In states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, primetime frog season is anticipated with the same anticipation as deer or duck season kicks off. Although you don’t have to live in those countries or states to get into some good frog gigging. Most states have open seasons for the hopping moorhens and very liberal borders. All it takes to stock your freezer with a mess of frogs this summer is a quick check of your local regulations, then making sure you’re prepared for a swamp hunt.
Equipment for gigging frogs
The equipment needed for frog gigging is simple. While you may get lucky during the day, frogs are more active at night, making them easier to find and catch. First and foremost on your equipment list should be a good headlamp and a powerful headlamp. Not only will these help you find your water quarry, but they will also prevent you from falling into a hole and breaking your leg, which will not only save you money on hospital bills, but in prime frog territory will also prevent you from one of them devoured the areas other more dangerous residents.
A frog gig is not absolutely necessary for a successful frog hunt. Many frog hunters prefer to use nets or even catch frogs by hand and store them alive in a basket or cooler. I prefer a gig though because it kills the frogs quickly and efficiently and saves me from having to finish off a dozen small live creatures later in the night. If that’s what you’re into, a quick hit to the head or an air pistol shot between the eyes will work just fine, but that was always a little too brutal for my liking. You can purchase a frog gig at almost any outdoor retail store, or even find them online.
Light and gig aside, it’s also a good idea to have a good pair of waders or hip boots for frog gigs. The little amphibians can be hard to find and lead you to some questionable places, allowing you to stay out there longer and be much more efficient at staying warm and dry all night.
Where and how to hunt frogs
While there are over 100 different frog species in North America, the animals’ small size means there’s only one species worth checking out if you’re looking for a meal – the bullfrog. These large amphibians are the largest true frogs in North America, often reaching sizes of 6″ to 8″ in length, with some specimens weighing up to a pound!
Bullfrogs are primarily nocturnal and have a native range that stretches from Newfoundland to northern Kansas. Additionally, bullfrogs have been introduced to western states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and even California. In many of these states, the big bullies are considered invasive, and many fish and game departments actually encourage people to hunt and eat them. This wide range is a nice touch if you’re looking to get into gigging frogs, as long as you know where to find them and how to hunt them down.
Bullfrogs inhabit warm-water marshes, lakes, ponds, and rivers and typically spend most of their days in the mud or hiding in thick weeds, waiting for nightfall so they can come out and feed. With the setting sun, bullfrogs begin to move in search of insects and small crustaceans to eat and find a mate. Their constant nocturnal surface activity and iconic booming croak make their locations a dead sign, making the night the perfect time to target bullfrogs with a gig.
Gigging frogs are very similar to bow fishing. It consists of stepping into frog-like looking water and listening for a croak, or scanning the surface of the water with a searchlight until you see your prey’s eyes glowing so you can approach. This can be done on foot or from a boat, but in either case you need to be stealthy. One splashy misstep or wrong speed of a boat engine and the frog disappears under the surface. Once the bullfrog is fully in the light and you’re within spear range, hit hard and fast. Aim the gig at the back of the frog’s head and ideally stick the gig right on the back of the neck. This will quickly finish off the frog so you can lift it out of the water and prepare it for the pan.
The other other white meat
Although the hind legs are the most desirable, there’s a lot more meat in a frog than you might think. Large bullfrogs can be cleaned whole, giving you not only the hind leg meat, but also the saddle and rib meat similar to a squirrel. Cleaning this way is a fairly simple process. Simply use a sharp knife to cut off the hind feet just above the joint, then make a small cut across the frog’s neck just behind its head. Using tongs, grasp the frog’s skin at the base of the cut, then pull the skin down past the legs, as if you were removing a pair of pants. Once that’s done, grab a pair of game shears and gut the frog and then cut off the front legs and head and you’re done.
There are many ways to cook frog. The flesh is light and very similar to a chicken wing with a slightly fishy edge. As such, you can substitute frog into almost any of your favorite wild bird or fish recipes. They can be grilled, baked, or fried, but my favorite way to cook frogs is to coat them in some flour with a little salt and pepper and sear them in a pan with some hot oil.
Frog gigging will always hold a special place in my heart because of the importance it has had in my life as a hunter. Bullfrogs were the first animals I hunted and the first game meat I brought home from the field to share with my family. It introduced me to an aspect of nature I hadn’t experienced before and opened the door to the world of hunting.
I can only hope that when I’m too old to hunt at some point and spend most of my time sitting out on the porch listening to the night, I’ll hear the distant croaking of a bullfrog and remember the long nights spent in splashing around in the dark with my family, a flashlight and a frog gig.