Posts Tagged ‘Fox hunts’

I got to be the Flea on the Hound last night

Last evening's QRP Fox hunt was of the 80 Meter flavor. Our esteemed Foxes were Brian K0DTJ in California and Dave N1IX in New Hampshire. "Conventional Wisdom" told me that I'd probably have a good shot at working Dave in NH, but probably not so much for Brian in CA.

This time, Conventional Wisdom did not disappoint.

I worked Dave pretty quickly. According to my log, I nabbed him at 0203 UTC. And as I suspected, Brian was nowhere to be heard. Actually, Brian and his pack of Hounds were nowhere to be heard, except for an occasional "Woof" and "Arf" from a Hound here and there.

I ended up spending the evening listening to Dave handle his pileup. It was a treat as N1IX is an accomplished Amateur Radio Op, to say the least. He handled all calls rapidly and without error. He also QRS'ed (slowed his code speed for those of you not familiar with the Q Code) from time to time when it was warranted. Dave is a member of the A-1 Operators Club, which is no surprise, and his inclusion is well deserved.

Towards the end of the hunt, Dave had fewer and fewer Hounds baying at him, and as a result, he was calling "CQ FOX" quite a lot.  QUITE a lot.  And, at the same time, his signal strength to me was actually increasing.

So at 0311 UTC, I decided to do something that I've never done before.  I dialed the KX3's power output down to the flea power neighborhood - 100 milliWatts (that's 1/10th of 1 Watt for those of you, who like me, sometimes scratch your head when it comes to scientific notation), and gave Dave another call.  In the past, I've only called a Fox a second time if I wasn't positive about being in the log, and I've certainly have never done it QRPp.

Thanks to Dave's excellent ears and superb station, I made it into "Official" log at 0311 at 100 milliWatts of power. According to QRZ, Dave lives 233 miles from me as the proverbial crow flies. So that means the QSO was accomplished last night as a rate of  2330 Miles per Watt.

Not too shabby, and you just GOTTA love this QRP stuff!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

I got to be the Flea on the Hound last night

Last evening's QRP Fox hunt was of the 80 Meter flavor. Our esteemed Foxes were Brian K0DTJ in California and Dave N1IX in New Hampshire. "Conventional Wisdom" told me that I'd probably have a good shot at working Dave in NH, but probably not so much for Brian in CA.

This time, Conventional Wisdom did not disappoint.

I worked Dave pretty quickly. According to my log, I nabbed him at 0203 UTC. And as I suspected, Brian was nowhere to be heard. Actually, Brian and his pack of Hounds were nowhere to be heard, except for an occasional "Woof" and "Arf" from a Hound here and there.

I ended up spending the evening listening to Dave handle his pileup. It was a treat as N1IX is an accomplished Amateur Radio Op, to say the least. He handled all calls rapidly and without error. He also QRS'ed (slowed his code speed for those of you not familiar with the Q Code) from time to time when it was warranted. Dave is a member of the A-1 Operators Club, which is no surprise, and his inclusion is well deserved.

Towards the end of the hunt, Dave had fewer and fewer Hounds baying at him, and as a result, he was calling "CQ FOX" quite a lot.  QUITE a lot.  And, at the same time, his signal strength to me was actually increasing.

So at 0311 UTC, I decided to do something that I've never done before.  I dialed the KX3's power output down to the flea power neighborhood - 100 milliWatts (that's 1/10th of 1 Watt for those of you, who like me, sometimes scratch your head when it comes to scientific notation), and gave Dave another call.  In the past, I've only called a Fox a second time if I wasn't positive about being in the log, and I've certainly have never done it QRPp.

Thanks to Dave's excellent ears and superb station, I made it into "Official" log at 0311 at 100 milliWatts of power. According to QRZ, Dave lives 233 miles from me as the proverbial crow flies. So that means the QSO was accomplished last night as a rate of  2330 Miles per Watt.

Not too shabby, and you just GOTTA love this QRP stuff!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Pile up rant

Last night's 80 Meter QRP Fox hunt was interesting and frustrating, all at the same time.  I have written about the Fox hunts here many, many times - but for newbies, or those unfamiliar with the process, the procedure is germane to rest of this post.

The 80 Meter Fox hunting ground takes place on spectrum real estate centering on the QRP Watering Hole of 3.560 MHz. The 80 Meter woods is 10 kHz on each side of that, from 3.550 MHz to 3.570 MHz. One Fox "hides" in the upper half and the other in the lower. You find the Fox calling "CQ FOX", send the required exchange back and forth, and you earn a pelt if successful.

Last night, the two Foxes, Earl N8SS and Dale WC7S decided to do something a bit different. Earl planted himself 1 kHz below 3.560 MHz, while Dale planted himself 1 kHz above the Watering Hole. Both worked split - Earl down and Dale up.

Sounds like good, clean fun, eh?  In theory, yes - very good. In practice, good - but not very good. And the difficulty that ensued was not the fault of Earl or Dale. Once again, it was due to the Hounds (AKA, the pile up) not listening.

I caught Earl two minutes into the Hunt at 3.559 MHz. I heard him (key words) call "CQ FOX" and then "DN". That raised my eyebrows a bit, as I wasn't expecting that.  But I quickly adjusted VFO B and nabbed him on my third call. At this point, all was peachy keen.  Then, going up to the high end of the 80 Acre Woods, I heard Dale's pack of Hounds - not very far away at all.  From the location of the Hounds and figuring on a "standard split" of 1 kHz, I figured out that Dale was probably sitting around 3.561 MHz. I tuned over there and indeed, there he was - very weak, around 119 ESP levels.

What made things even more difficult were the Hounds chasing Earl, who weren't listening and were trying to work him by calling "up". And they overwhelmed Dale's weak signal completely. And there lies my complaint.  If you can't hear the Fox well enough to determine that he's calling "DN" then what are you doing, calling him at all?

Listen - don't make assumptions!

It got to the point where Dale must have realized something not good was going on, as he moved up a little bit farther. That was nice, but there were other problems to deal with, on that end. I had the KX3 in Dual Watch mode and finally had to turn it off, because some of the shenanigans going on there were pretty bad too.  I heard one Hound who blindly sent his call - I kid you not - 10 times in a row without so much as taking a breath! 10 times - really ?!?  I think that Dale was able to work two Hounds in the time it took this one guy to send his call that many times. Wow! And obviously, if you are sending your call that many times, then you are not listening - and that's the most important thing you can do in a pile up.

Paul WW2PT is one of the bloggers I list in my blogroll. He has a very good post that contains an interview with the K1N Team, post-Navassa.  Go over there and read his post. What you read there will make your eyes wide as saucers.  But because this is so important, I am going to take the opportunity re-post the K1N Team's assessment on why many in a pile up are not successful.  I wish the Hounds in last night's hunt had read this. The main issues they saw were:

  1. Not listening to the DX operator
  2. LISTEN to and LEARN the rate and rhythm of the operator
  3. LISTEN to WHERE the operator is listening and his PATTERN of moving his VFO, know where he will listen next!
  4. Learn to use your radio (split/simplex, etc)
  5. Do NOT jump to and call on the frequency of the last station worked. The DX station will NOT hear you because the din is total unintelligible chaos.   Move UP or DOWN from that frequency, as we on our end were continuously tuning up or down after each Q, so if one jumps onto the last-worked frequency, we will not hear you, even if you were the only one there, as we have tuned off.
  6. TURN OFF ALL SPEECH PROCESSORS AND COMPRESSION! Do NOT overdrive ALC.   There is a night and day difference in listening to NA/AS and EU pileups.   The horrible distortion makes it impossible to copy many, if not most EU callsigns.   There were MANY loud stations that we did not work, simply because we could NOT understand their terribly distorted callsign.   Have you ever listened to yourself in a pileup?   We gave many stations a “19” signal report.   Very loud, but extremely unintelligible!   You want to have INTELLIGIBILITY, not distortion!
  7. Give your callsign ONCE and ONLY ONCE!   DO NOT KEEP CALLING! We would tune on by those who did not stop calling.   We are looking for RATE and getting stations into the log.   You should be, too!!!
  8. If the DX station comes back with your callsign, DO NOT REPEAT YOUR CALLSIGN, AS WE ALREADY KNOW IT or we would not have answered you.   Many stations (in all modes) would repeat their callsign two, three and even four times!   We only want to hear “5NN” or “59” from you.   Anything else is a total waste of time and CHEATS others out of a chance to get into the log.   Only repeat your callsign if it needs correction, and then let us know it is a correction.   Anything else is cheating others out of a contact, as our propagation windows and time on the island are limited and we need to maximize the opportunity for everyone.   SPEED.
  9. Take some time to listen to the next DXpedition working NA and listen to the rate and rhythm of the operator.   It is fast, quick and efficient, and more people get into the log! Then listen to him work EU.   The wise operator will catch on quickly to what it takes to get into the log!
  10. SPREAD OUT!   Our highest rates (for any continent) were working the edges of the pileup where there was less QRM and weak stations were much easier to work than loud stations in the middle of the pileup.   If we say, “Listening 200 – 210,” 70% of the pileup sits exactly on 200 in an unintelligible din, 25% of the pileup sits on 210 and is almost as bad.   5% of the pileup will be spread out somewhere between 201 and 209, making them very quickly put into the log.   S P R E A D   O U T ! ! ! !
  11. LOUD is NOT better!   MORE AUDIO/COMPRESSION is NOT better!   Finding the spot to be HEARD is the MOST important thing you can do to get into the log. My biggest thrill (and I’m sure on both ends) is finding the lone weak station and getting him into the log quickly.
  12. LISTEN to the DX operator INSTRUCTIONS!   As we would constantly tune our VFO, if we find a clear spot, we would often say, “33” (meaning for YOU to transmit on 14033, 28433, etc) and a few would listen and get into the log very quickly.   You cannot hear these hints if you keep calling calling calling calling………   Many times I would say, “listening 200-210” and after a while would say, “listening 240-250”.   Often 30-45 minutes, even and HOUR later, I would find MANY still calling on the original “200-210”…..of course, they would never show up in our log, as I was not listening there.   LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and LISTEN SOME MORE.   The less you transmit, the better chance you have of getting into the log.
  13. LISTEN
  14. If you don’t want to get into the DX log, just ignore the above suggestions.
The best advice IS "listen, listen, listen and listen some more". Avoid the temptation to jump in blindly and work shot gun style. In the end, you will work more DX - and Foxes, if you listen. And, by becoming a better operator, you will not only be more successful, you will earn the admiration and esteem of your fellow operators. No one wants to earn the label of "LID".

End of rant.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Some common sense, please!

After working the QRP Fox Hunt last night, and over time working a bunch of DX and a lot of the W1AW Centennial WAS stations, and other pile up causing stations - I really have to wonder what goes on in the minds of some people.  It seems like when there's some kind of quarry to be had, whether it be a QRP Fox, a DX station, or a W1AW/XX station - common sense goes right out the window and sheer insanity takes its place.

Take for instance last night.  I was trying to work Steve WX2S on 40 Meters who lives about 18 miles from me.  Ground wave was strong enough that he was about a 229/339.  The advantage was that not only could I hear him, but I could also hear the stations that were calling him.  I ended up not working him, but even so, it was a unique opportunity to observe.

Steve was working split from the beginning and he was handling the pile up deftly.  But I was left shaking my head, because so many times - all through the hunt, people continued throwing out their calls while Steve was engaging another station! I sat there, kind of dumbfounded. There was Steve, sending out "559 NJ STEVE 5W" to whomever, and all the while there were stations sending out their calls, over and over and over, without so much as taking a breath!

So here's the deal......if you can't hear the quarry well enough to realize he answered someone other than yourself - then why the heck do you continue to throw your call sign out there in the first place? Obviously, if by some miracle, he actually came back to you - would you be able to hear that well enough to realize it and complete the exchange? Something tells me ........no.


Part of pile up discipline (on the part of the chasers) is to realize when you have a legitimate shot. But in any case, whether the quarry is 229 or 599 on your end, don't you think it would be a lot wiser to send your call maybe twice at most and then take a break to actually listen?

Listening. That seems to be a dirty word in the minds of a lot of folks.

Look, I know we all make mistakes and I've made my fair share, too.  No one is perfect, and I can understand forgetting to turn the "split" function on or some other such thing.  But deliberately sending your call over and over and over in the vain hope of somehow scatter-gunning the target is really just inexcusable, and rude and inconsiderate of your fellow Hams.

As always, this is just my humble opinion. Your mileage may vary.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Review session

The last class of our Technician License course was held last night. We had what I guess you could call a review session.  Drew W2OU provided me with two practice exams, which I printed out and distributed to the class members.  We treated last night as the actual exam session. So not only did they get practice, but they also now know what to expect for next week.

After each exam was completed, we went over the tests together as a group.  It appears that on both exams, no one got more than six answers incorrect.  Since a passing grade allows for nine incorrect answers, it would appear that we are looking at a bunch of new Amateur Radio ops as of next Tuesday night.


To break things up a bit, we showed an Amateur Radio video in between the two exams. In all, I thought last night's session was exceptional. Our class members have proven to be eager, bright, inquisitive, and open to what we have been presenting to them.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with them, as well as with my two fellow instructors, Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU.  These two are amazing Amateur Radio ops and have an amazing amount of experience behind them.  The fact that Marv K2VHW is a retired broadcast engineer from WABC with a couple of Emmy Awards under his belt doesn't hurt, either!

I am looking forward to next week, and I just sent the group a final e-mail, detailing what to bring next week and basically telling how proud of them that we are. It's great to be able to help increase the ranks of Amateur Radio.  I also reminded them to relax. This is supposed to be fun, and besides, in the scheme of things, it's not like we're looking to cure cancer or end world hnger.

Oh, and by the way, I did work John K4BAI in Georgia, one of the 40 Meter Foxes last night.  I tried to work Kevin W9CF in Arizona, but I think the good props between NJ and AZ were over by the time I got home and wolfed down dinner. I see from his Fox log that Kevin worked some NJ stations, but that was while I was still in class.  By the time I was trying to work him, he was 229 - 339 at best and I just couldn't make myself be heard. There is nothing more frustrating than calling a station who is sending a CQ in the clear, only to have them resume calling CQ after you send your call!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Priorities

Tonight is the beginning of the 2014/2015 QRP Fox Hunt Season. Yay!


I may not be there for a huge part of it. Boo!

But as always, there is a bright side, so this is not a "pity party". As the Hunt starts tonight, I  will be with Marv K2VHW and Drew W2OU as we hold "Review Night" for our Technician License Class students.  Next Tuesday is the Big Night and after that, I should be able to participate in the Hunts until January. Beginning in January, we will be starting another Technician License Class for the Clark, NJ Office of Emergency Management, who has CERT members wanting to earn their tickets. Ergo, no Fox duty for me this year - there's just too many slots that I would not be able to fill. I will have to be content with being a Hound, with limited hunting time, at that.

So the bright side is ushering new Hams into the fold.  Even if a majority of the Clark CERT members become "emergency communicators" only, there is always a chance that the hobby will grab on hold to some of these individuals and they will come to enjoy Amateur Radio for Amateur Radio's sake. And that is what we old veteran Hams live for.

That's another reason why, during these classes, we try as hard as we can to impress upon the students the MANY facets of Amateur Radio, whether it be DXing, rag chewing, CW, kit building, restoring antique radios, digital communications, satellites, VHF/UHF, contesting ........ whatever. The list is almost endless and there's sure to be something of interest for just about everyone.

Now for tonight.  The QRP Fox Hunts run from 9:00 to 10:30 PM EST (local time). I should get home around 9:30 or 9:45 PM.  Assuming I take the time to wolf down (pun intended) something for dinner, that will leave me roughly 30 - 45 minutes to grab a scent, and find and work two Foxes.  Think I can do it? Wish me luck (and propagation!).

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!



What a blockhead!

I totally screwed up big time in the QRP Fox hunt tonight. After corresponding with Don NK6A, I agreed to be the lower Fox. So what did I do? I set up in the upper half.

And I didn’t realize it even when someone notified me that we were both in the same half – I went up even higher!

Rookie mistake – totally my fault. My apologies to anyone I messed up.

I am going to go find a hole to crawl into, I feel like a moron.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


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