Posts Tagged ‘Fox hunts’

Feeling “Fox-ish”

Tonight is my turn to serve as one of the two Foxes in the 20 Meter QRP Fox hunt.  If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about – they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

No, no, no, no – not quite, but let me give you the lowdown, if you’re not quite familiar with the concept of QRP Fox hunting, and want to give it a shot. For the “official” rules, please check out:
Tonight, Don NK6A and I, W2LJ will serve as the two Foxes. We will both be hiding in the 20 Meter woods, somewhere between 14.050 and 14.070 MHz.  One of us will be the “lower Fox” hiding between 14.050 and 14.060 MHz. The other will be the “upper Fox” hiding between 14.060 and  14.070 MHz.
Your job, as one of the Hounds, is to find us and work us – both.  Don and I will both be working split, that is, transmitting on one frequency and listening on another.  Just like W1AW/XX and DXpeditions and rare DX do. Once you find us, you have to figure out where we’re listening. Once you think you have the spot – and ONLY then, I might add, you will throw out your call sign. Please! Only once or twice – not over and over until the cows come home! The QRP Fox hunts are a great place for learning and practicing pile up discipline.You know ….. the DX Code of Conduct.
The Fox will announce the call sign he has heard and will send his exchange to that station like in this example – let’s say I pick out AB9CA’s call from the pack of Hounds. I will send:
I am saying that I have heard you, AB9CA, your RST is 559, and that I am in NJ and my name is Larry and that I am transmitting using 5 Watts.  Once AB9CA hears my half of the exchange, he will come back with something on the order of:
He’s telling me that my RST is also 559, that his name is Dave, that his QTH is AL and that he’s also transmitting using 5 Watts.  ONLY when I acknowledge him with a “TU” and then send a “QRZ?” asking for the next station, is the exchange completed.  If he does not hear my “TU”, then he either has to listen for my fill request(s), or try again later as the exchange was not completed.  Only when both Fox and Hound receive their exchanges, is there a valid QSO. This is known as “grabbing a pelt” amongst us Fox hunters. If you work only one Fox, you have a “One-fer”, work both and you have a coveted “Two-fer”. And believe me, due to band conditions, there will be times you will walk away with a “One-fer” and will be quite happy with it!
That being said, you really do have to try and work both Foxes in a 90 minute period, from 0100 – 0230 UTC. Here on the East coast, that’s from 9:00 to 10:30 PM.  If you’re located in the middle of the country, you probably stand a good shot, as I am in NJ and Don is in CA.  East coast stations may not be able to hear me, especially if the band is long.  West coast stations may not hear Don.  BUT ….. the theory has been known to go out the window compared to reality – so who knows?  Even though it shouldn’t happen, I just might be able to hear up and down the East coast as well as the rest of the US and Canada. It’s happened before! And don’t give up just because you might not hear either one or both Foxes. Band conditions have known to change at the last minute. I can personally tell you that there have been times that I have not heard a Fox for 80 of the 90 minutes of the hunt, only to have him pop his little fuzzy head out of the woods for the last 10 minutes. If I had QRT’ed early, I would have been out of luck. There have been a time or two where I was the last Hound in the hunt to grab a pelt. Persistence can pay off here – big time.
Foxes tend to send Morse at a speed around 20 WPM.  But please don’t feel intimated by that.  If you are comfortable sending and copying at 15 WPM, 12 WPM or even 5 WPM – please call me anyway!  I will slow down for you.
Why should you join in on the QRP Fox hunts?  First off, they are fun! Lots of fun. Secondly, participating will increase your skill sets (buzz word alert!). You’ll find your Morse Code speed increasing and maybe more importantly, your skill in dealing with pile ups will increase dramatically.  I have been participating in the QRP Fox hunts since my call sign was N2ELW – and after a hiatus, have been participating as both a Hound and a Fox continuously since 2003.  My ability to work DXpeditions, special events, scarce DX has increased by light years.  The success I have in DX chasing as a QRPer, I owe directly to the training ground of the QRP Fox hunts.
 Ahhh! The sweet smell of QRP DX!
So don’t be intimidated by the pileup or the code speed. Jump in and give it a go. The fun you will have and the sense of accomplishment from “grabbing a pelt” or two is worth the effort you’ll put in.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

A couple of things

1) Worked a few more DX stations today during lunch. The bands were decent again.Had QSOs with TI8/AA1M in Costa Rica, LZ2HR in Bulgaria and F6ALQ in France.  The QSO with Bernard in Soissons, France was a bit more than just your typical “599 TU” DX QSO. We actually conversed a bit! Wow …. Amateur Radio is actually well suited for conversation, don’t ya know?!?  Next few days look like rain, so I probably won’t take the gear with me to work tomorrow.

2) Got skunked in the 80 Meter Fox Hunt tonight. I almost worked Ray K9XE in Illinois as he had three out of the four characters of my call sign several times.  But he stated more than a few times throughout the hunt that he had S9 noise on his end. Oh well, he tried and I tried – no fault in that.

3) The date and time are set for the 2014 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt – Sunday, August 10th. You can check either, or the Skeeter Hunt page of this blog.  The exchange is a bit different this year. Instead of RST, I decided to go with the op’s first name instead. Just trying to be a little different this year. Oh, and Skeeter numbers will be given out starting on June 21st, the First Day of Summer – so please, don’t try to sweet talk a number out of me before then, OK?

Oh, and I had a Skeeter professionally drawn for this year’s logo. Here he is:

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

80 Meter fun and disappointment

Last night was my last stint as a Fox in the QRP Fox hunts for the 2013/2014 season. I served as the 80 Meter Fox last night, and I was chomping at the bit, all ready to have a fantastic night handing out pelts. I’ve been having very good success nabbing the 80 Meter Foxes this season as a Hound, so I was expecting reciprocity last night as Fox. When I turned the radio on at about 0045 UTC and heard a very low noise floor, I was happy. I was also a bit surprised as we’re now officially in Spring and I was expecting it to be way noisier. I should have know something would be “off”.

I started right on the mark and was off to a running start, but then about 0120 UTC, it seemed like the bottom of the band fell out. I went from a decent pileup to calling CQ over and over. Switching between the vertical and the wire seemed to not make much of a difference. I was surprised that the QSB was so deep and sharp. My buddy, Bob W3BBO joined the fray last night, and using him as an example – when he called me, the W3 was a good and honest 579 – the BBO was ESP!

And so it went for the last hour – calling CQ over and over with takers here and there. A very short mini pileup at about 0150 UTC for a few minutes and back to calling CQ. In all, I handed out 41 pelts. While I had a ton of fun, it was also a huge disappointment to me as I had set a personal goal of handing out 60. After the hunt, I took a look at my spots on RBN. I was heard by skimmers up and down the East coast and out as far as Illinois. My best DX for the night was working Dale WC7S in Wyoming and Tim KR0U in Colorado.

Afterwards, I was reading e-mails on the Q-FOX reflector, where most of the Hounds were reporting very high noise levels on 80 Meters last night. I guess that added to the misery for the night. My fellow Fox, Jim KG0PP handed out only two more pelts than I did, so it’s obvious that he had to face the same obstacles in Colorado that I faced in New Jersey.

It’s funny how perspective can change. Last month, when I was serving as 40 Meter Fox and band conditions were excellent, it seemed that 90 minutes for the hunt was nowhere long enough. Last night, with lousy band conditions, that same 90 minutes was interminable.

Ending the season as a Fox on a low note was not what I had in mind, but as the Brooklyn Dodger fans used to say – “Wait ’til next year!”

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

Between a rock and a hard place

That’s where I found myself tonight, as one of the two Foxes in the 40 Meter QRP Fox Hunt. As a Fox, you try to find a relatively clear frequency, where you can work the Hounds rather easily. And that’s precisely what I thought I did tonight. I found a frequency, called “QRL?”, and hearing no response in the negative, I began working Hounds. For the first few minutes, things were going great. Then I found myself giving the Fox exchange to stations who weren’t coming back to me.

After that sinking-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach “uh oh” feeling quickly passed by, I snuck a peak at the Cluster, to realize that I was being encroached by one of the W1AW/X pileups! A lot of those stations had no interest in me, and probably couldn’t even hear me, for that matter.

So I quickly QSYed to calmer waters and decided to operate simplex instead of split. Even though there was a lot of QRM and the band was treating me to a lot of QSB, a very quick after-the-event count shows that I handed out close to 60 pelts.

A post-hunt e-mail from Todd N9NE informed me that I had managed to position myself right in between W1AW/8 and W1AW/4. I’m glad I didn’t know that! Some things you’re better off not knowing, and I think that is one of them.

My ears hurt a little bit from trying to pull out some weaker call signs from among the loud QRM, but I am pretty satisfied by my effort. I wanted to work at least 60 stations going in, and I made that a goal for myself. Looks like I just made it.

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

Snow bound – not quite.

Yesterday was a day spent working from home – as much as I could via my company issued laptop. We received about 14 inches of snow.

I am back at the office today and am looking forward to the upcoming three day weekend.  There’s lots of Amateur Radio stuff to look forward to.

1) This weekend is the big ARRL CW DX contest.

2) This weekend is the monthly Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event

3) This is the weekend my KXPA100 gets built and put online.

I am NOT looking forward to another 2-4″ of snow tomorrow, along with the necessary snow removal chores. BUT Spring is closer than farther away at this point, so you have to keep your eyes on the prize.

I did manage to get on the air last night for the 80 Meter QRP Fox Hunt and bagged both Foxes – Dave N1IX in NH and Rick NK9G in WI.  I was able to get on between bouts of thundersnow.  Yes, that’s right – thundersnow.  As the big Nor’Easter rotated around, the rain that had started falling changed back to snow as the low pressure system started siphoning cold air.  The warmer/colder air mix started a little battle which generated a few instances of lightning and thunder during a snow event.  Not common, but not the rarest, either.

I do have to admit that I was spoiled rotten by the last few years of drier, milder Winters that we have been experiencing. This year, we have made up for that in spades, and I am more ready for Spring than I have been in a while!

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

2 Foxes in the bag

OK, so I couldn’t get into FT5ZM’s log … but I did snare both Foxes in the 40 Meter Fox hunt tonight. So I guess not all is lost. The fact is that both Paul K4FB and Kevin W9CF have fantastic ears, and I owe my call in their logs to that fact.

I used my new Begali Simplex Mono as my CW sending weapon of choice. It took a lot of trial and error over the last few days to get it set up the way I wanted. But now that I have it set up to my liking, I have to say that, “Yes, Begali keys ARE what they are cracked up to be.”

The key is silky smooth with a minimum of movement. It feels as close to using a touch paddle as you can get without actually using one. I can send at about 25 to 28 WPM effortlessly, even though I prefer my cruising altitude of about 23 WPM. The paddle’s sexy good looks don’t hurt, either. I would not hesitate recommending a Begali to anyone.

And to think, I bought the econo model. I can only imagine how the luxury version drives!

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

First QSO with the Begali

was with Hiram who was operating W1AW/4 in Georgia. Actually, it was with John Laney K4BAI, who was using the ARRL Centennial W1AW/4 call in tonight’s 40 Meter QRP Foxhunt. Instead of sending “John” as his name, he was sending Hiram. It was fun to work “The Old Man”, kinda sorta.

The Begali is a sweet piece, and I still have to play with the adjustments some. But where I have it right now, it’s pretty silky smooth. It’s definitely heavy enough to stay put in one place without walking. Once I finally get it where I want it, it will be the primary key.

One thing that surprised me though. They supply a three conductor cable with two male stereo plugs. You have to lop one end off, strip and bare the wires, and solder them in place. Not that soldering is a big deal, but for some reason, I thought the key would come pre-cabled.

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

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