COLUMBIA — “The best part of it (frogging) is harassing your buddy for his misses. My buddy didn’t have any,” Steve Hudson said. “He’s the best partner I’ve ever had.”
Hudson, 38, and his sidekick Stevie Hudson, 12, have been frog hunting, or frogging, together as father and son for two years.
“He’s the fourth generation Boone County,” Hudson said, referring to his son and their family tradition of frogging.
Frog hunting season started Thursday in Missouri, and this summer is Stevie’s second season frogging. The two had their first outing this season at a Columbia pond at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s a tradition between father and son, and I’m just passing it down,” Hudson said. He has taught his son everything he knows about frogging.
The pond they chose that night was not far south of town by U.S. 63. It was a clear night and the sky was dusted with stars. At one point there was even a shooting star.
The two entered the pond right where they parked. Hudson removed his Crocs and stepped into the lukewarm pond, and his son kept his shoes on. Dressed casually, in just shorts and a T-shirt, the two treaded through the moss by the shallow banks.
“See him there?” Hudson said quietly as he and Stevie were mid-thigh deep in the pond, sneaking up to a frog right at its face.
“Oh, that’s a good one!” Stevie replied with excitement, carefully trying not to disrupt the calm of the water.
“Shh!” Hudson said, trying to quiet down his son as the two waded through the mossy pond, a third of the size of a football field. They moved toward an oblivious bullfrog whose head was poking just above the water. The croaking of small tree frogs was a central sound that night.
Instead of approaching the frog from land, the two hunt from the water. The boy extended the gig, a multi-pronged spear, forward, slow and steady, and with a quick jab, he had the frog pinned underwater.
“Nice job, Stevie. You got 'em.” Hudson said as he retrieved the frog from the gig under the water. The frog was the size of a brick.
His years of frogging experience had led Hudson to many tips to find the perfect frogging locations.
“That’s the key to any froggin’ spot, if it’s got crawdads, you’re gonna have big frogs,” he said.
Hudson tries, however, not to go to the same pond twice each season.
“Frogs move every time it rains to move to a better spot to get more crawdads,” he said.
Each time Hudson catches a frog, he examines its stomach to see what it has been eating.
“In the bellies I’ve seen dozens of crawdads, some of which look to be bigger than the frog’s mouth,” he said.
Hudson has also seen baby turtles, as big as an inch and a half across, small fish and other frogs in frogs’ stomachs.
“You name it, they eat it,” he said.
In addition to using a gig to catch frogs, Hudson attempted to use his hands to grab the frogs. He trawled through the placid pond with his eyes on a bullfrog with its head above the water. With a swift movement, he captured the frog without any physical injury to the frog.
“Oh, my goodness, he is full of crawdads. He’s got two in there, look at the size of that,” Hudson said, running his fingers over the thin skin of the belly. “You can feel the pincers in there on the side.”
He then cuts open the stomach of the frog and pulls out the crawdad, comparing the sight to “the birth of a baby.”
“He’s still alive,” he said, referring to the crawdad. “I’m going to let him go back.”
Hudson tosses the moving 4-inch crawdad back into the pond.
“See, you think of us as hunters, we’re actually saving wildlife,” he said, joking. “These crawdads are very hardy. That’s why they’ve been around forever.”
He then cut the frog’s back legs off with a pocket knife. The sound was like popping knuckles followed by the removal of a rubber glove. Like he always does, he shoved the legs into the pocket of his cargo shorts.
The Hudsons caught their limit of 16 frogs that night in less than two hours.
Frog legs are No. 2 in Hudson’s top five favorite foods, rising high above chicken, beef and other meats. At the top of his list is morel mushrooms.
He tries to go out frogging as much as he can throughout the season, averaging four nights a week, to make sure his supply is stocked.
“They’ve gotta last for the entire year. Come October 30, you’re done. You can’t frog anymore,” Hudson said.
Hudson is not the only member of his family who enjoys eating frog legs. Stevie and his daughter, Mya Hudson, 6, are just as big of fans. For his daughter's fifth birthday, she asked for frog legs for dinner.
“He (Hudson) was so proud,” Trisa Hudson, his wife, said.
When cooking the frog legs, Hudson uses his own recipe, a combination of Louisiana Fish Fry seasoning, eggs, milk, buttery Ritz crackers and butter-flavored Crisco.
“As they say on 'Tommy Boy,' you can actually hear yourself getting fatter as you eat it,” Hudson said with a laugh.
The next evening, Hudson was in his element cooking frog legs for a crowd of friends from Christian Chapel.
“It’s always good when we cook it,” Stevie said, as he stood beside his father assisting him in the cooking process.
The night before Hudson cooked the frogs, he soaked them in salt water.
"They were jumping in the sink last night," he said, describing the reaction of the salt water when it came in contact with the tendons.
Hudson even demonstrated how the frog legs would "jump" in salt water or in the frying pan at the dinner party. He tugged at the tendon in between the thigh of the frog's leg causing it to start kicking.
There were many first-time frog leg eaters among the crowd. Some were excited to try them and others, not as much. Among the first-timers was Michaela Mieners, 10.
“It’s weird at first,” Michaela said. “It’s gushy but tastes like chicken.”
Hudson said that his mother is still the best at making fried frog legs.
“If my dad is around, there will be no leftovers,” he said, jokingly.
The same frogging rules apply for Hudson and his son today that were passed down from Hudson’s grandfather.
“If you missed twice, you lost the gig,” Hudson said, quoting his father, Rick..
"But nobody minds if you have the gig as long as you are gigging frogs," Hudson said.