The eyes have it

Its face is green with black splotches. Two bulging eyes sit above an area where there is no nose. A flat smile stretches the width of its head and never changes.

It is the type of face one would think only a mother could love.

But for hundreds of sportsmen, the bullfrog is a source of love each spring and summer.

Frog hunting, or frog gigging, as it is most commonly called in the South, is a tradition passed down through the ages. Its origins are believed to have come from Louisiana, where Cajun culture used wild creatures such as frogs and crawfish as a food source.

It has subsisted for other reasons.

"I guess you might call it a demented love," said Phillip Posey of Maumelle, Ark., an avid frog hunter who occasionally spends a night looking for frogs in wet areas in the state.

"It sounds crazy to like wading in knee-deep water, or paddling through a froggy-looking area surrounded by snakes and assorted other creatures looking for a bullfrog. And all the while getting eaten alive by swarms of mosquitoes.

"It may not sound like fun. But there's something about it that makes you want to love it."

Frog hunting has a distinct following, although its essence is far less glamorous than duck or quail hunting. Stories on the sport will not be found in sports magazines. There are no professionals. And there is no market to get more people involved to sell frog-hunting paraphernalia.

But there is a perverse excitement that comes with finding bullfrogs. The sport is practiced at night, and frog habitat can mean harsh conditions. Night falls hard in those places, with a bevy of activity from critters that most humans spend most of their existence trying to avoid.

Boats are shoved off muddy banks, and every noise is looked at with a worrisome eye at the possibility of a snake dropping from branches.

"Anywhere there's frogs, there's bound to be snakes and mosquitoes," said Jeryl Jones of Humnoke, Ark.

Gigs, with pronged spears or jaws that snap shut, are fashioned on the end of long poles to pick off frogs as they sit on the bank. In places where banks are cleaner, bare hands are often used to grab the frogs.

The only constant piece of equipment is a light, which not only guides hunters, but finds frogs and holds them in the darkness until a gig or hand can be placed on them.

The light is essential, but at the same time it brings flying and biting insects.

"Every frog hunter goes about catching frogs differently," Jones said. "There really is no best way, just whatever works and can be done easily."

Jones, who lives in the heart of fish-farming country in east Arkansas, knows the fastest and easiest way to catch numbers of bullfrogs is to hunt on the clean banks of a farm's fish pond. Fish farms offer a vast amount of habitat for frogs. Because frogs can have an impact on harvest from those ponds, there are no limits or restrictions.

But there are also abundant populations along bayous and creeks in that portion of the state. In other areas, small ponds and even large lakes, can harbor populations of bullfrogs.

Frog hunters get to their prey by paddling in small Jon boats in the middle of a swamp, or with bass boats on a large lake. Some like wading, walking the edges of the pond. Others, especially those who hunt the clean levees of fish farms, will drive a vehicle.

Most frog hunters are drawn to it because it fits so well as a summertime pursuit.

In the summer, bullfrog activity increases when evening comes. Throughout swamps, bayous, ponds and other wet areas, bullfrogs begin a chorus of calls that rise and swell and then die away until it is started again with a few voices beginning the melody all over again.

"It's like music," Posey said. "And to the frog hunter, it's exciting. It's like hearing a turkey gobble to a turkey hunter. The frog gives itself away, and you've just got to go and see if you can catch a limit."

And it doesn't matter where or when. Although Posey has noticed there are patterns to catching frogs, "you really don't pay attention to the weather, if you get a chance to go you take what you can get."

Weather and moon phases affect movements, he said. Full moon nights seem better for calling.

"Or it might be that a full moon just makes it seem more eerie and noticeable," Posey said.

On windy nights, frogs are more easily found on banks that are out of the breeze. Rain also increases activity.

"I've seen nights during a rain when frogs are all over the place," Posey said. "You can drive the highways around swampy areas or rice fields and catch a limit of frogs right on the road."

Frog hunting is practiced on golf course ponds, large reservoirs, rivers and swamps. Anywhere the bass sound of an adult bullfrog can be heard, a frog hunter is likely to show up.

Most of the time it is dark pools of water filled with aquatic vegetation that double as hatcheries for mosquitoes and snakes. They are necessary obstacles, but that's where hunters seeking frogs need to be.

The attraction comes in the form of two legs, often considered a delicacy in some restaurants.

"Fried frog legs will make a grown man do just about anything," Posey said.