By Scott Sudkamp, photographs by David Stonner | May 23, 2016
From Missouri Conservationist: June 2016

Whether you’re an archery deer hunter looking to sharpen your skills for the upcoming season or a skilled frogger looking for a new technique, bowfrogging is worth a try.

The key to shooting success is practice. You can fling thousands of arrows at a target in your yard, but that routine can get old. Nothing hones shooting skills like real hunting, and bowfrogging is ideal for polishing your shooting form and instincts. You’ll also enjoy an evening spent in Missouri’s great outdoors and the chance to savor golden, crispy frog legs.

Getting Started

You do not need a lot of equipment to start bowfrogging, but there are many accessories available to customize your bow and improve your experience.

Most bowfroggers prefer a bow with a low draw weight, no more than 35 pounds. The shots will be close, so a heavy draw isn’t necessary. Longbows, recurves, and compounds will all get the job done, so the type of bow comes down to personal preference. Old recurve bows, often found at bargain prices, make great setups for a night of hunting.

Matt Ormsby, a Department naturalist in St. Charles, is an experienced bowfrogger.

His frogging setup is a compound bow outfitted with a bowfishing reel and barbed fiberglass arrow. This system allows him to retrieve his arrows with ease and greatly reduces the chance of arrow loss. The fiberglass shaft handles rocks easily without bending or breaking, and with the barbed tip, he rarely loses a well-hit frog. Many bowfroggers use standard aluminum or carbon hunting arrows with good results, but when hunting ponds with lots of rocks, consider avoiding aluminum shafts as these often end up bent and unusable.

Arrow tip selection is largely a matter of personal choice, as each has its advantages and drawbacks. Pointed field tips offer the best arrow flight and excellent penetration. They can pin the frog to the bank, so lost frogs are rare. Blunt or bludgeon tips can stun or kill the frog, and their flat tip is less likely to penetrate the bank on misses, making the arrow easier to pull out and less likely to hit a rock below the surface.

Tips and Tricks

Aspiring bowfroggers will need a good light, too. Options include spotlights, headlamps, or stabilizer-mounted lights that shine wherever the bow is aimed. Always carry extra batteries. You can also outfit your arrows with lighted nocks to make them easier to find and retrieve after the shot.

Because bowfrogging takes place midsummer, a mesh head net and bug spray  should be considered to keep mosquitoes and other flying insects out of your face. Other optional gear that can make the sport more enjoyable include waders, a lighted fiber optic bow sight, and a sack or fish basket for harvested frogs.

Even a large bullfrog is a small target, so if you hope to harvest a mess of frog legs with archery tackle, you should warm up before heading to the water. Shot distance is typically 5–30 feet, so practice your shots at those distances. Whiffle-style golf balls make great targets. Once you’re proficient at hitting a golf ball-sized target from various distances, you’re ready for a night of fun with the real thing.

When and Where To Go

Chad Lewis of West Plains is an avid frog hunter who spends many a midsummer’s night prowling the edges of ponds for bullfrogs. He’s found he has the most success on nights with little or no moonlight.

“Moonlit nights make the frogs more jumpy and harder to hunt,” said Lewis. “When they know it’s easier for predators to see them,

they’re a lot tougher to hunt and they’re less likely to hold still as you approach them.” Lewis wears dark colored clothes to help blend into the dark sky as he stalks the shoreline.

Philip Cooper of Laddonia, another seasoned bowfrogger, agrees that clear, dark nights are best. He’s also found that cool, rainy nights usually offer poor hunting, as do high-water conditions. During high water, frogs are more hidden among the vegetation, rather than exposed on the mud banks.

Ponds tend to be favorite spots for many bowfroggers. Ormsby tries to have at least four to five different ponds that he can rotate to avoid burning out a good spot. Both Ormsby and Lewis have found that ponds with few or no fish tend to offer better frogging potential, since tadpoles and young frogs are susceptible to predation. Lewis is careful to limit his harvest to no more than one or two frogs per pond, per trip to ensure plenty are left as breeding stock and to provide opportunity on future trips.

Missouri offers plenty of good places to bowfrog, both on private and public land. In addition to the tens of thousands of private ponds that offer bowfrogging opportunities across Missouri, hunters can also hunt Department lands. Most conservation areas have at least a few ponds, many of them fishless.

Even better, the Department managesthousands of acres of wetlands across the state, and most of these provide habitat ideal for growing and supporting healthy frog numbers. For a list of conservation areas near you, go to

By the time frog season opens in Missouri, the days are hot and muggy. While frogs can be stalked and hunted during the daytime, most froggers opt to pursue their prey after dark, offering the chance to be outdoors when conditions are more pleasant. It’s a great time to get out and discover nature — and find a few frogs — in the Show-Me State.

Also In This Issue

Grassy Pond Natural Area
What would it cost to replace the free stuff nature gives us every day?
River Cleanup volunteers pose with a car bumper and bags of trash they picked up from the river
Missouri River Relief ’s battle to reclaim the river.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler