Tools for birders and wildlife viewing

Birding and wildlife watching are among the most popular outdoor pursuits. They are hobbies that offer something to participants of all ages and can be accomplished at locations close to home.

“The key to success as a birder or wildlife viewer is having the right tools,” said Margie Klein, Wildlife Education coordinator for NDOW. “Birdwatchers and wildlife watchers are finding out that a binocular, a field guide and a camera are essential to a fulfilling viewing experience.”

Quality binoculars may be the most important piece of equipment to any animal watcher. High quality binoculars with good magnification are available in lightweight, compact sizes. Another must is the binocular harness. This item fits around a person’s shoulders instead of being slung around the neck and holds the binocular comfortably against one’s chest until they are used.

If viewing wildlife is just a sideline to another activity, and you do not have much room for extra gear, a slim line monocular is another option. The monocular is about three inches long and can easily slip into a fly-fishing vest.

The first thing to do when adjusting a binocular to your sight is to move the barrels together or apart so that your eyes are lined up with them and you only see one image. Next, try to focus on a fixed object and with the right eye closed, move the center focus wheel until the image is sharp. Then close the left eye and while looking with the right eye move the adjustment ring (usually on the right barrel) until the image is in focus again. After the initial adjustment, use the center focus wheel to zoom in on subjects near or far. Remove or roll down rubber eye caps on the lenses if you wear glasses. Keep the binocular clean and covered when not in use.

Finally, remember to bring other important tools when you leave on your excursion.

“Field guides are invaluable to identify the birds and animals that you see. Field notebooks and cameras will help you remember the experience,” Klein said.


Cast nets for Lake Mead shad

Anglers fishing for striped bass at Lake Mead use a variety of baits from top-water lures to cut anchovies or sardines, but those who can catch them use threadfin shad. These small, silvery fish are the lake’s natural forage fish and are therefore an excellent choice for striper bait. After all, it only makes sense to use what the fish are eating.

“Using live shad goes along with the match-the-hatch philosophy of most fly fishermen. When stripers are keying in on shad, why not give them want the want? But remember, live shad may only be used in Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and the Colorado River within Clark County,” said Doug Nielsen, conservation education division supervisor for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

The hard part about using live shad for bait is catching them in the first place. To catch these quick little fish, anglers can use a variety of legal techniques, but the most common approach is to use a cast net. With a little practice, anglers can become very adept at throwing these nets. The best time to catch shad with a cast net is when they are “cruising the shallows.”

Cast nets are available in many sizes, but only those with a radius of three feet or less are legal in Nevada. That means it can measure no more than three feet from the horn to the lead line on the perimeter of the net. The horn on the cast net is the center ring and the lead line is the rope edge to which weights are tied. While it is illegal to use cast nets with a radius larger than three feet, it is not against the law for retailers to sell them. That means anglers need to double check the details on product packaging before making their purchase.

Another consideration when purchasing a cast net is the size of holes in the mesh used in making the net. Anglers who want to catch bait in a variety of sizes should go with 3/8-inch or smaller mesh. When pursuing larger bait, half-inch mesh is a good choice because it allows smaller fish to swim through. It’s also a good idea to have an extra net just in case something happens to the first.


Hunters should take notice of race

The Bureau of Land Management has issued a permit for an off-road race that could impact hunting activity in five hunt units in Southern Nevada. There will be no official road closure associated with this race; however, hunters should be aware of increased human and vehicular activity in usually remote areas of units 223, 231, 241, 242 and 271. The Best in the Desert race, which will stretch for about 300 miles through parts of central and southern Lincoln County, is scheduled for Sept. 26.

The race will begin at Alamo and finish at Maynard Lake, just south of the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge along U.S. Highway 93.

A reconnaissance ride of the entire race course will be Saturday and Sept. 13, but speeds will not exceed 35 miles per hour. The start and finish line will most likely host the majority of spectators, but hunters should anticipate an increase in activity all along the racecourse. Anyone planning to hunt in the affected units who would like more information should contact Chris Linehan, outdoor recreation planner in the Bureau of Land Management Caliente Field Office, (775) 726-8126.

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