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Tuning Radar For Finding Birds

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Old 05-07-2015, 02:44 AM
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Arrow Tuning Radar For Finding Birds

Radar Tuning For The Birds


I often see on the Hull Truth many users are purchasing radar and there are many reasons why. Some are planning on using it for weather, some for collision avoidance, and others as another tool in the toolbox for searching out birds while fishing.

I currently own boats with both closed and open arrays located on the hard tops. I am intentionally making this how to guide non-vendor specific. This is an aid to those who would like to set up the radar for finding birds.

I also would like to note that there are many ways, techniques, and approaches for setting up the radar. This is the way we do it and what works well for my crew and me. If you have a better way great, keep doing what you are doing.

Step 1 – Location:

When we are planning a trip to the Bahamas to locate yellow fin tuna we already have a general location where we are going to fish. We determine this location by zooming in on the chart and looking for contour, previous trips / catches, other anglers, and other sources. So we will leave the dock and head to that general area. Along the way if we see birds working then we would almost always stop. At that point we found the birds without even tuning. We would then employ our normal fishing techniques to see if there are tuna in the area and or other species of fish that we are targeting. Note: When I am speaking of birds working I mean a pack of birds crashing the surface going for bait that is being pushed up by fish below. I am not speaking of a few single birds flying along in a line just cruising.

Step 2 – Settings:

Range: Once we have reached or general location and we have not stopped or seen birds in the area we would then begin to tune the radar. As a general rule the fist thing we do is set the radar range to the midway point. This is my personal preference as my focus is to locate birds within a 4 to 5 mile range. I know others will disagree but I don’t worry about birds that are 20 miles out as I feel that is not worth the fuel burn and time. The reason I say mid range or about 5 miles is because it is too far to see birds with your naked eye, it is worth the fuel burn if you pick up the spread, change location, and then they have moved or disappeared.

To run or not run of course is your call.

Gain: The gain is the next step on the tuning protocol. Increase the gain until you see a lot of noise or specs on the screen. It should almost be covered with a blanket of specs. Leave it set this way as it set for maximum sensitivity at this point.

AC / Sea or AC Rain: You at first will have the temptation to turn up these setting to drop out the noise and give you a clean screen. Do not do this. The screen should covered with a bunch of specs.

Reading Radar: At first you will look at the radar you think to yourself how will I ever see birds within all of these specs? I would say it is like a doctor reading an X Ray. The doctor reads it and shows you where the broken bone is and after that you can identify broken bones pretty easy. Birds will not appear like birds. They will be moving red specs on the screen that are appearing and disappearing within a small area. If they are moving in a line then they are flying, don’t bother moving. Flocks of birds look like dense, recurring noise within centralized area. This is an indication that they are feeding and you may consider making the move.

This is what you will be looking for when you don’t have a visual cue as to where the birds are feeding.

Practice: Often when we are in the Bahamas I find myself running the boat when the crew is free diving for fish. I use this idol time wisely. If I see a pack of birds feeding I will take the time to tune the radar and fine tune to see them the very best I can. This confirms that the machine is doing what I have just described above. It takes a little practice but after doing the set up it will become second nature.

I hope this guide helps other member here at THT better utilize the radar to find the birds. As stated from the start others may do it different this is just the way we like to do it aboard “Plan B”.
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Last edited by InternationalMarineMike; 07-10-2015 at 01:50 AM.
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Old 05-15-2015, 03:16 PM
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Good read.
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Old 05-16-2015, 02:53 AM
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Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it. It works. The post is defined not only to properly tune the radar but to develop a strategy of when it is beneficial and cost efficient to relocate when you use instrumentation as a tool. I really believe you have to practice with thees units in know conditions, make choices based on many factors; radar activity is just one of them.

Mike
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Old 06-15-2015, 01:44 PM
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Mike , thanks so much for the info it is very helpful to those of us new to or thinking of getting radar . My question is what is your opinion on dome versus open array specifically for finding birds ? I know by reading the forums that open array is preferred, but the cost is so much more , will the dome units work also for birds ? Thanks again for the info and help .
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Old 06-16-2015, 05:30 AM
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You are welcome. If you are serious about fishing for tuna as an example then go with an open array. If this is something you are doing only on occession you can get by with a dome. If you are looking at a poem I would be looking at the Garmin XHD, not the HD. There is a huge difference. I am using the 18XHD in the Florida Keys and we are able too tune it to see birds. In Boynton Beach on my Contender we have an open array Simrad unit and we have tuned it to see just one bird while fishing for Tuna in the Bahamas. There is a price difference for sure an everyone has a budget. Buy what you can because in the end as mentioned it is just a tool.

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Old 06-18-2015, 03:27 PM
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Thanks for the info...
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:27 PM
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Thanks Mike for posting the information. I've been searching for some help on my open array and your the first person to post information that I've found. Again thanks.
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Old 01-28-2016, 08:03 AM
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Awesome information! I have the 24 XHD (just installed and haven't even tested yet) and was wondering if it would show birds, now I know. Another huge advantage of THT and the amazing amount of knowledge, experience, and willingness to help.

Thank you Mike!
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Old 02-09-2016, 08:17 PM
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MD,

No worries, I am glad you enjoyed the information. Yes you will be able to see words for sure on the 24XHD radar. I have the 18XHD on my smaller boat in the keys and we find words without any problem.

Remember practice makes perfect, you will me a master before long.

Mike
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Old 03-13-2016, 10:39 AM
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Screen shots ?
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Old 04-05-2017, 08:59 PM
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This is an older post, but here is what birds look like on my garmin 12kw radar with 3ft open array. They are so easy to find out to 8 miles and you don't have to use the bird setting or blank out part of your screen. I marked a single balloon about 8 miles out - not too happy when I found it lol....
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Old 04-05-2017, 09:08 PM
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Very nice. Thank you for sharing.

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Old 10-07-2018, 01:03 PM
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Default More settings

Another adjustment under most radar advanced settings is the target fiter. This should be set to zero as not to filter out small targets like distant frigates or small groups of sooty terns on slammer fins.
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Old 10-10-2018, 05:11 PM
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Default Best bird radar for 31 contender

Hard to get s straight answer on this subject. I want to find the best radar I can fit on my cc for finding birds. I'm not worried about navigation just spotting birds. I am leaning to the Garmin 4ft 12kw open, any thoughts? Any help here would be VERY much appreciated.

Thank you in advance for the help
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Old 10-10-2018, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by BWS View Post
Hard to get s straight answer on this subject. I want to find the best radar I can fit on my cc for finding birds. I'm not worried about navigation just spotting birds. I am leaning to the Garmin 4ft 12kw open, any thoughts? Any help here would be VERY much appreciated.

Thank you in advance for the help
good choice.its what I have and find birds easily👍🏼
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