‘Caveman-style’ hunts are a tough test
Hunting massive bullfrogs during the daytime is one of my favorite summertime activities. After shooting many frogs with my bowfishing rig, I wanted to take the experience to the next level: So this year I went after them caveman-style with my throwing spear.
And instead of harvesting more frogs than I can eat fresh, I tested out this spearing challenge with a goal of one quality hard-earned meal.
I grew up frogging at night like most people, but blinding a frog while it is defenseless no longer interests me much. But in this daytime duel, the frog has the advantage with its amazing camouflage, keen eyesight and quick reflexes. A bullfrog can look under water and up in the air above at the same time. They also seem to walk on water when they skip along the surface. When you startle a pack of several big bullfrogs and see them bouncing on top of the water’s surface, it’s quite the spectacle.
Frogs can typically be found in grassy areas and shady pond banks. I look for the eyes sticking out of the water, or the shape of a sitting frog on the bank. Spotting them is like seeing a figure hidden within an optical illusion. Sometimes I stare into a section of bank for several minutes before I find one. These creatures have an amazing ability to blend in and change colors to match their surroundings.
Many times the frog jumps before I see it, but the good news is the next day or hours later that frog is usually back in that same general spot. So I go slower on following passes to spot the frog first. However, these toads are no dummies and they learn quickly. They spook sooner on following trips to the same area. A large wild bullfrog is several years old, and can live to the age of 9.
Once a frog is spotted, I look even closer because usually they have several more buddies around as they tend to stack in packs. I can usually get to within 10 yards of the frogs before they jump and go hide, but lining up a clear path for a spear toss is very tough.
Most days I hike more than eight hours in the heat through the swamps and get lucky to spear a half-dozen big frogs, so this definitely isn’t the type of frogging to do for massive meat hauls. I let many medium-sized legal frogs go, and just focus on the biggest ones. (A frog needs to be 5 inches long from the muzzle to posterior end.)
I have two 5-foot fiberglass multi-piece spears with three-prong barbed tips. I bought them as a 7 foot, three-piece spear on Amazon, but I find by using just two sections it throws best out to 15 yards.
A wrapping of electrical tape helps give me a better grip using my index, middle finger and thumb on the thin spear, which weighs just over one pound. This video demonstrates the tactic along with the frogging action.
I tie a rope to the back end of one spear for easier retrieval from throws into soft muddy areas. I keep that spear with its three prongs widened out for better coverage. But I keep the other spear with the prongs more narrow for throws through brush, with no retrieval rope to get hung up.
Some frogs allow you to get close or re-toss the spear, thinking they are still hidden. Once a frog jumps, it is much tougher to stick. They can’t dodge a bowfishing arrow, but they can easily jump quicker when a spear is thrown. If a frog has already moved, I aim my throw a few inches ahead of where the frog is facing to anticipate the jump.
Sure, I have many misses every day. The spear often hits brush first. And sometimes my nylon rope messes up the throw. Even worse is making the perfect toss — only to have the frog jump milliseconds before the spear tip arrives.
But the biggest drawback to this sport is dealing with all the other critters. I step over countless snakes, and receive painful stings from wasps, yellow jackets and bees on just about every trip.
One day, I stepped on a black-headed bumblebee nest while one foot was stuck in soft muck. They stung me eight times and chased me for several yards. I was running away with no shoe, and one bee stung my heel through two pairs of socks. Another one stung my hand as I swatted it away. Another got stuck in my hair and kept stinging my head. They were even trying to attack my spear, bag and shoe that fell the ground as I ran off.
And every night I pull off attached ticks. Luckily the mosquitos aren’t too bad in the dry season, but they still are out there with biting flies and very painful wheel and stick bugs. Bloodsuckers and other water bugs never scare me, but they do find a way to get me. Plus the briars are constantly cutting up my legs along with honey locust thorns that go through the soles of my shoes and into my foot.
It’s basically as rough as rough gets as far as toughness goes to walk through the soft seemingly bottomless muck of these small ponds with thick growth along the edges. Oftentimes, there are alligators stuck in the hole with me. They bury themselves in the mud before I enter the water. So I never know if I’m stepping on a submerged log or the gator — until the hard object beneath my feet moves. However, when you are surrounded by baby gators swimming alongside you it’s a fun sight.
Areas with thick grass make spotting frogs nearly impossible as well, but I do have success flushing some big ones out of the grass.
Most days I go out thinking I won’t go tromping through the snake-ridden, knee high grassy banks, but as soon as I see one giant bullfrog dart off and disappear into a tangle of grass nothing stops me from going to try and flush him out of his hiding spot. However, my efforts often mean water moccasins jump out instead.
I use a thin mesh bug suit and old running shoes. (Boots are no good since I’m in mud and water over my waist for much of the day.)
I once had a close encounter with a bear inside 10 yards. I startled it as I was jogging with my spear to a frog pond through the woods. The bear just stopped and looked at me a while before walking off. Every trip I see turkeys, deer and hogs, which makes for good pre-hunting season scouting.
But nothing beats the summer heat like getting in the water. I’ve seen people fishing in the ponds while I’m walking in the chest-deep water with my spear or bowfishing rig. Those guys are usually speechless when I swim by them covered in mud, and wave with my backpack full of frogs and a spear in my hands.
Sure, I’m taking Benadryl and applying bug relief itch cream from head to toe on my drives home, but to spear-hunt a big bullfrog that stretches from my fingertips to my elbow is worth it all.