Par on Illinois bullfrogs gives a feast fit for the king of Calaveras County

A night of frogging for bullfrogs results in a feast fit for the king of Calaveras County; plus the Stray Cast.

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An I-see-you moment with a bullfrog.

An I-see-you moment with a bullfrog.

Dale Bowman

When three bullfrogs in a mesh bag started thrashing around in the ice in the cooler, I reached back to check on them, and my hand felt the damp body of one.

‘‘We’ve got a problem,’’ I told Jeff Norris.

He stopped the golf cart so we could check the thrashing frogs. Somehow, they had opened the mesh bag; only one was inside. Norris caught one in the cart. We never found the third.

Norris has permission to hunt frogs at night along the streams and water hazards at a golf course with the use of a golf cart. Through the years, after meeting him as a goose-hunting guide, I’ve done many things with him, including frogging.

When we went frogging three years ago, we did better hand-catching them on the banks than by dangling a homemade fly from a broken fishing pole in front of them on the water.

The technique is simple. Spot a crouched bullfrog on the bank and freeze it with a light. We used small black flashlights. Sneak close straight on toward the head. When you’re within range, quickly swoop down with your hand spread wide, like a gaping paw.

I caught five in a row before one jumped as I swooped. I was tempted to mutter, ‘‘Calaveras County.’’

To keep count of frogs caught, Norris uses a colored bead system, similar to how charter captains count fish.

For frogs too close to the water to get a good angle on, we used a fishing net.

When Norris’ first netting attempt resulted in a frog leaping out through a hole in the net, I busted up and helpfully remarked, ‘‘You would not believe how fun that was to watch from here.’’

When I missed on a netting attempt — the frog jumped sideways and I tried to make a flying tackle on it, like a safety diving at a wide receiver — Norris cracked, ‘‘At least I didn’t do no dance.’’

Sprinklers sprayed the greens late, occasionally surprising us.

It was time.

We kept seven, releasing a number of small ones. We also had five we missed or they escaped our efforts.

The daily bag limit is eight and the possession limit 16. Illinois’ bullfrog (only) season runs June 15 to Oct. 15. A fishing license is required. According to regulations, ‘‘Bullfrogs may be taken by hook and line, gig, pitchfork, spear, bow and arrow, hand or landing net.’’

Cleaning frogs is a ‘‘pull-the-pants-off’’ technique. Woods2Table has a simple how-to video on YouTube.

On Saturday evening, I patted the cleaned legs dry, dusted them with flour, then coated them with an egg wash and bread crumbs with Italian seasoning before deep-frying them golden brown. I paired them with a dry Chardonnay. Our youngest son and I dispatched them quickly. My wife, daughter and mother-in-law wanted no part of them.

They’re not for everyone.

Breaded frog legs served with home-grown parsley, tomatoes and a pepper, and paired with a dry Chardonnay. Credit: Dale Bowman 

Breaded frog legs served with home-grown parsley, tomatoes and a pepper, and paired with a dry Chardonnay.

Dale Bowman

Wild things

Finally had my first monarch butterflies of the year at a small prairie restoration, one seeded with Pheasants Forever’s pollinator mix. . . . The weekend storms reinforced how bad mourning doves are at building nests. Good thing they nest multiple times annually.

Stray cast

White Sox fans know that sucking sound made when pulling your foot out after a misstep on the edge of a swamp.

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