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Jumping at a chance to frog hunt

Larry Woody • May 11, 2017 at 10:30 AM

When Lebanon’s Tim White invited me to go on a recent frog hunt I jumped at the chance. I was hopping with excitement.

Tim is a veteran biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the author of a feature about frog hunting in the current issue of Tennessee Wildlife Magazine.

I wrote a newspaper column about Tim’s excellent article, and how it brought back memories of my frog-hunting days as a kid. I mentioned that I had not gone frog hunting in over a half-century.

Tim sent me an email inviting me to break that drought.

We were joined on our hunt by Tim’s friend Michael Bobel, manager of the Old Hickory Wildlife Management Area, and Michael’s 11-year-old son Caleb, one of the brightest youngsters I’ve met in a long time.

It was a magical night to be outdoors, with a pale half-moon shimmering high above, and fireflies flickering in the dark. However, I wasn’t sure the frogs would cooperate. Recent heavy rains had raised the water level in the ponds we planned to hunt, and the night was a tad nippy with temperatures in the low 60s.

As we approached the first pond, my concerns ceased. The deep bass boom of big bullfrogs echoed from the marshy banks. It sounded like we had stumbled onto a bullfrog convention. And the hundreds of frogs we heard represented only half of them – only the males make the booming, harrumphing calls.

Back when I hunted frogs with my boyhood buddies our gear was simple: a carbide lamp and a three-pronged gig on a cane pole. We waded in shorts and old tennis shoes.

This time Tim equipped me with chest waders and an electric light mounted on my cap. His metal gig is mounted on a plastic expandable painting pole. The gig is wicked-looking: four barbed prongs with an un-barbed fourth prong in the middle.

Tim sharpens the points of the prongs before each hunt. When he gigs a frog, it stays gigged. Well, usually. Sometimes a big bullfrog can still kick free. Tim’s technique involves keeping the gigged frog pinned down until he removes it from the prongs.

The frog is quickly dispatched and placed on a stringer run through its lower lip, like stringing a fish.

You get a workout when you go frog hunting. The chest waders are hot and bulky, and the heavy boots become mired in the underwater muck with each step. You have to negotiate around submerged logs and brush, all the while trying to hold down the splashing – waves can spook the frogs.

You sweep your light along the reedy banks looking for the reflective shine of a frog’s eyes. When you spot one, you keep it fixed in the light as you ease within striking distance – a few inches from prongs to frog. I nailed the first five I tried, got cocky, and missed my next two. Michael and Caleb had about equal success with their swings and misses. I think Tim batted .1000.

We took only the biggest bullfrogs and left the smaller ones. Around 11 p.m., leg-weary and sweat-soaked, we decided to call it a night. We had 34 frogs on the stringer. (The limit is 20 per person.)

We divided them up and the next night I had mine for supper. I’d forgotten how delicious fried frog legs are. The only thing more enjoyable than hunting them is eating them.

I’ve already dropped a hint for another hunt.

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