Gur-ump, Gur-ump, Gur-ump; a big bullfrog bellows out his call from across the swampy pond. Derek Butler turns the silent, electric trolling motor to our right and the small jon boat starts sliding towards shore.
About 50 yards from where we expect the bullfrog to be, I fire up the five million candlepower spotlight. A couple of quick back-and-forth scans across a small stretch of cattails reveals two glowing eyes. They look like white marbles sticking out just above the water.
Derek turns the power down on the motor and we ever so slowly approach the frog. I hold the spotlight in my left hand and pick up a gig with my right. Shinning the bright light in the frog’s eyes keeps him statue still. I thrust the gig on its 12-foot handle at the target and find my mark. I set down the light and pull the big frog off the prongs and toss him in a basket that is starting to fill up.
We make the rounds along the shoreline of this moss-covered pond twice. When we pull out of the water at 2:00 a.m., my cousin and I have 8 jumbo bullfrogs. It’s a good haul for the size of the water we are on. We don’t want to exhaust the resource, which can be done easily by overharvesting.
It takes us about a half-hour to clean the frogs. We wash and rinse the legs, then place them in a bowl of salt water to brine over night. The next afternoon, we pull the legs out and pat them dry. Then dip them in beaten eggs and toss them in Andy’s batter. We heat peanut oil in a cast iron fry pot to 350 degrees, drop the legs in and let them sizzle for 10 minutes. What comes out is perfection.
Frog legs are one of nature’s delicacies. They don’t taste like chicken. They taste like frogs. The white meat is sweet and succulent. I suppose they are not for everyone, but I look forward to a mess of fresh, well-cooked frogs as much as any steak you could put in front of me.
Missouri has a long season for bullfrogs and green frogs. It runs from June 30 through October 31. The daily bag limit for game frogs is 8 (in aggregate). The possession limit for game frogs is 16.
According to the Wildlife Code of Missouri you can take frogs by hand, hand net, atlatl, gig, bow, trotline, throw line, limb line, bank line, jug line, snagging, snaring, grabbing or pole and line with a fishing permit. Frogs may be harvested using a .22-caliber or smaller rimfire rifle or pistol, pellet gun, atlatl, bow, crossbow, or by hand or hand net with a small game hunting permit.
Missouri is teeming with incredible places to chase frogs. Farm ponds, reservoirs, big rivers, small creeks and swamps are some of the best destinations. I was standing on a bluff above Mingo Swamp recently, and I don’t think I have ever heard more frogs in my life. No matter where you go in Missouri, there is surely a frogging hot spot nearby.