*Sensitive Content - Viewer Discretion is Advised - TW: Hunting*

Hunters begin the "Frog Season" by making the first "gig" at the stroke of the midnight hour, right at the start of the DNR frog gigging window. The "giggers" start scouting ponds and lakes for frogs to hunt a couple hours before midnight, where they look at the frogs' sizes and their location in and around the ponds. The gig involves all participants collaborating in scouting the frogs and then taking turns hunting. A gig - a multi-pronged spear - is used to impale frogs at the edge of the ponds from the top, a process that requires practice and skills, given the agility of the frogs in and around water.

Hunting frogs with gigs of all sorts to cook and consume the legs of the anurans is a widespread tradition practiced by some communities in the United States. While hunting seems to be an act of violence, anthropologists have argued that hunting often reflects some sort of sociality and reciprocity between human persons and the non-human persons that they hunt. The reciprocal relationship of giggers with the frogs that they hunt and eat is a perceived act of violence could forma similar relatedness. There is a global amphibian crisis with a huge threat of mass extinction looming around frogs, and understanding how frogs and humans relate can help us navigate through it. 
With the community of giggers and their interaction with the anurans, I ask what is the sociality like? What does this tell us about the global amphibian crisis, at large? This multispecies ethnography project in Indiana aims to answer these questions and communicate the findings using participant observation, ecological studies and photography as my methods.
Fieldwork is currently ongoing through support from the Purdue University Anthropology Department.

CHECK OUT THE PHOTO-ESSAY FROM THIS STUDY ON SAPIENS: https://www.sapiens.org/culture/frog-gigging/


Background // Grounded Theory:

There are communities in the United States that engage in a multi-generational practice of Frog Gigging. Frog Gigging is the act of hunting frogs with gigs – multi pronged spear-like tools. In the town of Corydon in southern Indiana, a few enthusiasts dedicatedly participate in this activity for a few months each year. Within this community, gigging is a non-commercial and purely recreational activity associated with generational traditions, nostalgia and a complex sociality and relatedness – the myriad ways in which the potential and outcome of life always unfolds in relation to that of another (Schneider 1984, Carsten 2000) - with the frogs and other animals that they hunt.

A gigger with a BullFrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) that he just hunted with his gig.

​​​​​​​Many hunting peoples conceive of hunting as a process of reciprocal exchange between hunters and other-than-human persons, and anthropologists have tended to view such accounts as purely symbolic or metaphorical (Nadasdy 2007). In the last couple decades, however, the exploration of multispecies worlds has emerged as a niche discipline within anthropology, where these often-complex entanglements between human and non-human actors give us insight into a multi-specific, collaborative nature of being of biodiversity and evolution. Multispecies ethnographic works by Anna Tsing (2015), Radhika Govindrajan (2018), Chie Sakakibara (2020) and Brad Weiss (2016), among others, demonstrate that non-human species are arguably as much part of the human experience as their human counterparts. Interspecies entanglements that once seemed the stuff of fables are now material for serious discussion among biologists and ecologists, who show how life requires the interplay of many kinds of beings (Tsing 2015). The mountaineer John Muir quoted, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Multispecies sociality constitutes a similar relatedness, where humans and non-humans are hitched to each other in their interactions.

Field Site & Interlocutors:
Corydon is a small town of just over three thousand people in the south of Indiana in Harrison County, bordering Kentucky. Briefly from 1813 to 1816, the town served as the Capital of the Indiana territory. The town is surrounded by the O’Bannon Woods State Park, within the Harrison-Crawford state forest. The Harrison-Crawford State Forest serves as the primary field site for this study. It is about 24,000 acres of rugged hardwood forest. The state forest serves as the primary field location for this study.
Wyatt Dayvault is a twenty-four-year-old gigger. He works at the O’Bannon woods state forest, and is an expert at controlled wildfires. He travels all around the country as an employee of the DNR, to states like Montana and Idaho to conduct controlled wildfires in the forests there. I got in touch with Wyatt through a chain of contacts. In my first time reading about him from a source, he was described as a dedicated frog gigger. That word immediately caught my attention. As I would learn in my time spent with him, it was an apt description. Wyatt grew up in Corydon and loves the place, especially the forests nearby. Besides brief stints for travel, which he said is something he really wishes to do a lot of in his life, he never expressed a desire to move out of Corydon.


Giggers after a Gigging session at the Cold Friday pond in Harrison-Crawford State Forest.

Frog gigging here is a multi-generational family tradition. Wyatt first went out gigging with his grandfather as a young boy of six, and now it is a meaningful part of his life. Talking to Gerald and Lois, Wyatt’s grandparents, was one of my favorite parts about my fieldwork. As Wyatt and I pulled over to their house in a pickup truck, Gerald was out in the verandah outside the entrance to their house doing some carpentry. His work with wood was art; pleasing for me to watch and enjoyable for him to do. I was introduced as “the student from Purdue here to study gigging,” and their already warm demeanor towards me turned warmer with the mention of gigging. Gerald had introduced a bunch of people to gigging through his life, and a new prospective in form of a nineteen-year-old student seemed to make him really happy. Lois also expressed excitement about what we were about to spend the next few days doing. After hearing that I’m from India, she mentioned that her daughter visits India quite often for work – just another testimony of our globalized world and of the different attachments with Corydon within the family.

Giggers use a variety of equipment and tools to hunt the frogs. These include high power lights, gigs, collection baskets, pistols and small boats. Boats are used to hunt larger frogs in the centre of the ponds. Usually in a pair, giggers paddle the boat and sometimes wade in the water alongside to reach the centre. The person sitting at the back pilots the boat while the person sitting in the front directs and makes the gig. Wading and boating for gigging displays a sense of spatial awareness and attachments to place, which, here, is the pond. Once hunted, a pond is left alone for a couple years to revive.

Research Presented:

Research Talk presented at Purdue University, April 2022.

*recording courtesy Puneeth Boni*

Public Communication Poster from the research.

Presenting the poster at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) Annual Conference at Salt Lake City, March 2022.

Gallery:
O’bannon Woods State Forest, Corydon, IN
O’bannon Woods State Forest, Corydon, IN
Walmart sporting section: Where you get your fishing licence (required for frog gigigng) from.
Walmart sporting section: Where you get your fishing licence (required for frog gigigng) from.
Gigs and the collection basket used to hunt and store the frogs.
Gigs and the collection basket used to hunt and store the frogs.
A frog-gigging license.
A frog-gigging license.
Giggers scout the ponds for ideal frogs to hunt.
Giggers scout the ponds for ideal frogs to hunt.
Hunters catching frogs bare handed before the start of the season to exercise their skills.
Hunters catching frogs bare handed before the start of the season to exercise their skills.
A bullfrog just hunted by a gig (a multi-pronged spear) during a hunt.
A bullfrog just hunted by a gig (a multi-pronged spear) during a hunt.
A bullfrog being transferred to a collection basket.
A bullfrog being transferred to a collection basket.
Frogs collected in the collection basket, which is an important tool for gigging.
Frogs collected in the collection basket, which is an important tool for gigging.
Giggers pose with large frogs that they collected during the gig.
Giggers pose with large frogs that they collected during the gig.
Wyatt leads a boat into the pond. He will wade along the boat for a while before hopping into it.
Wyatt leads a boat into the pond. He will wade along the boat for a while before hopping into it.
Wyatt locates a frog in water from his boat.
Wyatt locates a frog in water from his boat.
Hunters venture out into Cold Friday Pond to hunt the bigger frogs in the middle of the pond on a two person boat. The person sitting behind pilots the boat and the person forward directs and makes the hunt.
Hunters venture out into Cold Friday Pond to hunt the bigger frogs in the middle of the pond on a two person boat. The person sitting behind pilots the boat and the person forward directs and makes the hunt.
Giggers pose with large frogs that they collected during the gig.
Giggers pose with large frogs that they collected during the gig.
Hunted frogs placed on a wooden board for counting, with a hunter’s knife that will be used for processing.
Hunted frogs placed on a wooden board for counting, with a hunter’s knife that will be used for processing.
Giggers preparing for the processing and butchering of the meat, while the bodies of the dead frogs lie in the foreground.
Giggers preparing for the processing and butchering of the meat, while the bodies of the dead frogs lie in the foreground.
Hunters begin processing the hunted frogs for the meat of their legs.
Hunters begin processing the hunted frogs for the meat of their legs.
The final product of the gig, frog legs.
The final product of the gig, frog legs.
Acknowledgements:

References:
Carsten, J. (Ed.). (2000). Cultures of relatedness: New approaches to the study of kinship. Cambridge University Press. 
Govindrajan, R. (2018). Animal Intimacies. University of Chicago Press.
Nadasdy, P. (2007). The gift in the animal: the ontology of hunting and human–animal sociality. American ethnologist, 34(1), 25-43.
Sakakibara, C. (2020). Whale Snow: Iñupiat, Climate Change, and Multispecies Resilience in Arctic Alaska. University of Arizona Press.
Schneider, D. M. (1984). A Critique of the Study of Kinship. University of Michigan Press.
Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton University Press.
Weiss, B. (2016). Real pigs: Shifting values in the field of local pork. Duke University Press.

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PWL ANTHROPOLOGY IRB-2021-440

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