Throughout the fall months, “Have you got your elk yet?” is the standard greeting whenever two hunters meet anywhere from Wyoming’s easternmost mountain ranges west to the Pacific. To the east of that demarcation point all the way to the Atlantic, you can add half a month of summer and half a month of winter to either end of fall and ask, “Have you got your deer yet?” for an equally surefire conversation starter.
But have you ever been asked, “Have you got your bullfrogs yet?” I didn’t think so, and for that matter, neither have I. But be that as it may, not only are bullfrogs Missouri’s state amphibian, but the green long jumpers are the only critters in the state that are subject to both fishing and hunting regulations.
If ever there was a statement that begged for further explanation, that last one was it. Although some of the following methods are far more practical than others, anyone with a valid fishing permit or proof of exemption from such permit may capture bullfrogs by hand, hand net, atlatl, gig, bow, trotline, throwline, limbline, bankline, jugline, snagging, snaring, grabbing or pole and line. Holders of small game hunting permits or proof of exemption can take bullfrogs by means of a .22 or smaller rimfire rifle or pistol, pellet gun, bow, crossbow, atlatl, hand or hand net.
The season runs from sunset on June 30 through October 31. The daily limit is eight bullfrogs or green frogs in the aggregate, regardless of the method or methods used. The season is open 24/7 after June 30, so bullfroggers working the night shift will be happy to know that artificial lights may be used.
Some people prefer boats, some prefer walking the bank and some put on an old pair of shoes and wade a gig’s-length offshore. It’s not specifically covered in the Wildlife Code, but between sunset and sunrise, bare-legged waders are legally permitted to scream whenever a water snake more than four feet long slithers between their legs.
When my son was barely a teenager — he’s 45 now — we spent opening night of several bullfrog seasons — kids grow up too fast — at a friend’s 12-acre pond. Armed with .22 rifles and flashlights, we separated and walked the banks in opposite directions, looking for jumbo frogs. The first one to get his limit got to sit down and wait for the other one to keep walking around the pond until we were back together. Far more often than not, the “loser” of our little game had to walk about a third of the way around the pond with his rifle on his shoulder, because he, too, had a limit. On the few occasions the main pond didn’t produce two limits, we knew of a smaller pond nearby where we could finish out.
Most years we were the only people who had permission to hunt that pond, and we could only go twice, because the owner liked to have plenty of frogs left to listen to in the evening. We’d pick up a few more frogs on our own ponds, but frog hunting was so popular that most ponds were pretty well picked over by the second week of the season.
Based on the number of bullfrogs I’m hearing and seeing this late in July, interest in getting muddy and bug-bit must be on the wane. There is, of course, another reason why it’s far from too late to a productive bullfrog fishing or hunting trip. I paid a daytime visit to one of my most consistently reliable frog ponds a week or so ago, and I could hear frogs long before I could see water.
Alas, water was all I could see. The pond was so high it had backed into the brush and briars that should have been several feet above the water line by July. Those noisy frogs better not get too smug. If/when it quits raining and the water level drops, I’ll be back.
That pond is on public land, and so are hundreds of other potential bullfrog bonanzas and, the truth be told, an equal number of bullfrog busts. The only way to find out which are which is to check them out.
Although I’ve shot a lot of bullfrogs in the daytime, I don’t dispute that it’s usually easier to capture bullfrogs after dark. That said, there’s no doubt but that it’s easier to scout in the daytime. My usual method is to walk around the edge of the pond fairly rapidly, noting how many big frogs I spook into the water. If I get started early enough in the morning, I can check several of a given Conservation Area’s ponds before it gets too hot.
I go armed with a fishing rod. You never know when you might get attacked by a bass — or even a bullfrog.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]