How to attract Chasers and Hunters

I was recently asked by an amateur who has been bitten by the ‘portable bug’ as to how they could ‘spot’ themselves for parks activity & thus attract callers.  And listening on air in the past couple of days, it has been evident that it has been a little bit of a struggle during a weekday for some ops to pick up the required number of 10 QSO’s for the WorldWide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.  I know that in the past there have been a few unsuccessful SOTA & Parks activations here in VK5.  Not many, but enough to perhaps discourage activators.

So I thought I would point out the various websites & spotting / alert facilities which should help you in filling up your logbook.  And I’ve also included a few tips I’ve found when operating QRP from a summit or a park myself.

I would welcome all of the other regular SOTA & Parks Activators / Chasers / Hunters to comment with their own tips & suggestions.

If you are a SOTA Chaser, or Parks Hunter, please do your best to advertise that the Activator is out there.  Don’t just work them and leave it at that.  If they are not already on there, place them on SOTAwatch, parksnpeaks, etc.  Your contribution as a Chaser / Hunter may help the Activator qualify a SOTA peak or a WWFF Park.  It may also help another keen Summit or Parks Chaser / Hunter, to add another summit / park under their belt.

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Summits on  the Air…..

The first point of call for SOTA is SOTAwatch2 of course.  Here you can view the ‘Latest Spots’ and ‘Upcoming Activations’.

As a Chaser, you can ‘spot’ an Activator.  Many keen SOTA Chasers keep a watchful eye on the SOTAwatch2 site.  And even if they are not near their computer, and viewing SOTAwatch, the introduction of various phone apps such as SOTAGoat and Rucksack radio will alert the keen Chaser to the ‘spot’.

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And of course you can post an intended activation as an activator.  For the vast majority of activators, SOTAWatch is used to very good effect.  Some activators find that adding an alert for a planned summit, places pressure on them regarding arrival time on the top of the summit.  But nowadays the vast majority of SOTA Chasers are well aware of the various anomalies that come in to play when reaching a summit on time.

http://www.sotawatch.org

There is also the SOTAwatch 2 reflector.

The SOTAwatch Reflector is an extension of the SOTAwatch facility.  Recently the SOTAwatch reflector has been put to very good use when advertising planned activations involving Europe – Australia contacts.

http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php

And there is the SOTA Australia Yahoo Group.

Many SOTA activators place their intended activations onto this site which has numerous members all around Australia.  If you place your intentions here, it is exposing your intended activation to a wider audience.

http://au.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/SOTA_Australia/info?tab=s

And why not also try the DX cluster.  Remember the ‘DX Code of Conduct’.  It is impolite to self spot (spot your own call sign) unless you are desperately trying to drum up activity on an open but quiet band.  But as a SOTA Chaser, why not spot the Activator you just worked, on the DX Cluster.  The bigger the audience the better !

http://www.dxwatch.com

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VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award…..

With the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award there are a number of different options open to you to ‘advertise’ your intended activation.  Sadly, at this time, there are no phone apps to alert you of activators being on a particular frequency in a South Australian National or Conservation park.  But this is being worked on.  To help you achieve success and lots of QSO’s in the log, try adding your intentions to the following sources.

There is the SANPCPA Yahoo Group.  This has members from all across Australia, and Activators are encouraged to place their intended activation/s on the Yahoo Group as a message.  Hunters have also placed messages on the group, announcing that they have just worked an Activator.  This is welcomed.

http://au.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/sanpcpa/info

Allen VK3HRA has developed a magnificent site called parksnpeaks.  On the parksnpeaks site you can view VK Spots and VK Alerts.  Registration to the site is free.  You can add either a Spot (new VK Spot – Current Activity) or An Alert (new VK Alert – Proposed Activity) for a VK5 Park, QRP operation, Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA), VK WWFF.  For a SOTA spot/alert it is recommended that SOAwatch be used.

http://www.parksnpeaks.org

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As mentioned above, consider using the DX Cluster.  If you hear an Activator out in a park, help him/her fill up their logbook, and place a spot on the DX cluster, so everyone around the world can see.

http://www.dxwatch.com

Why not consider setting up an SMS group on your mobile telephone.  I do this and use to to great effect.  It contains a list of amateurs I know that are keen Parks Hunters, who receive an SMS message each time I work a parks activator.

mobile-phone

Try sending out an e-mail to your mates in the local radio club or other interested amateurs to notify them of your intended activation.

Use the local repeater to your advantage.  Although repeater contacts are not allowed for SOTA, VK5 Parks Award, WWFF, etc, there is nothing stopping you jumping on the local repeater before an activation, and advising people that you are sitting in a park and looking for contacts.

WorldWide Flora & Fauna…..

The World Wide Flora & Fauna program (WWFF) does not have a spotting & alert facility like SOTAwatch.  But Activators are encouraged to place their intended activations on the WWFF Forum.

http://forum.wwff.co

The Australian (VKFF) branch of WWFF has a Yahoo Group.  Australian activators are encouraged to place any intended activations on the Yahoo Group.

http://au.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/wwffaustralia/info

Another option is the WWFF Facebook site.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/wwff44

And you can also follow WWFF on Twitter.

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As mentioned above, the parksnpeaks site has a facility to either spot or alert.  It is a great tool, so please use it.

http://www.parksnpeaks.org

And as mentioned above, consider utilising the vast audience at the DX cluster.

http://www.dxwatch.com

Some general portable operation / QRP tips…..

Below are just a few general tips to help you fill up your logbook.  It is by no means an exhaustive list.  But it contains a few things that I have found through trial & error.

The secret is in the antenna

We have all heard this, but it is true.  It has been said that antennas compose one third of your QRP station.  The other two thirds are your operating equipment and your operating skills.

Try different bands 

Propagation is not always kind on 40m for the longer hauls around VK, and certainly for DX if you are running QRP.  So if possible, try operating on a selection of bands.  This may not always be possible I know, due to restrictions with licences, and lack of appropriate antennas.  But the give the people further afield the chance to get in the action as well.  The vast majority of portable activity here in Australia seems to be on 40m SSB, which often excludes the guys & girls in Western Australia (VK6).

Place your intentions on as many forums as possible

The more people who know you are out there the better.  So post your intentions on as many forums as possible.

Consider the time of day / know when bands are open

Who is your targeted audience ?  There is no point going out at midday if you want to work Europeans on 20m long path.  So try to time your activations for those who you would like to get in the log.

Look at the solar figures / propagation conditions

Propagation conditions are extremely important with any QRP operation.  If the solar figures are lousy, then maybe consider putting off an activation until another day.

Operating skills / practice

This is just a suggested practice I try to adopt.  If you do call for DX, you might be surprised who comes back to you.

–  call for any SOTA/parks activators
–  call for QRP stations
–  call for portable or mobile stations
–  call for any DX
–  call for stations who can hear you, but with difficulty (there is nothing worse as a Chaser/Hunter listening to an activator who is weak, but then disappears down below the noise floor due to a change in the band.)
–  call for anybody else (now the fun starts).

2,500 SOTA Chaser points

A few days ago on 21st December, 2013, I reached another milestone in SOTA…my 2,500 points as a Chaser.

Thanks to Peter VK3PF, I crossed the 2,500 point threshold.  Peter was on an un-named summit , VK3/ VE-159, which is south of Tallangatta in north eastern Victoria.  And to my surprise I was even able to comfortably work Peter on 20m, which is not normally the case between VK3 – VK5 on that band.

Thanks to all the keen activators who have allowed me to reach this point.

I have posted Peter a certificate of appreciation…..

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European and UK activators

Last night (Monday 23rd December, 2013) I was on the 7.130 DX Net on 40m, and the goat bleated on my iPhone on the SOTA Goat app, to advise there was a SOTA activator out and about.  So I checked the phone and saw that it was Jana, DG5WU operating portable on Wildalpjoch, DL/ MF-075.  It was just starting to get dark outside, so things looked promising with the grayline.  I tuned to 20m and I could just barely hear Jana, but certainly not strong enough to work.  And there was a constant pile up.

So feeling a little dejected, my goat bleated again a few minutes later, and I saw a spot for Patricio EA2EX who was portable on Ilso, EA2/ BI-050 in the Vizcaya region of northern Spain, not far from the French border.  I tuned a few kc away from Jana, and there was Patricio.  Not all that strong, but audible all the way down here in South Australia.  So I eagerly picked up the mic, and I tried calling Patricio, but couldn’t make the grade through the European pile up.

But I kept listening and remained patient, and to his credit, Patricio called for outside Europe, and I was able to make contact with him.  Not flattering signal reports either way, but a contact nether less.  We were able to hear each other.  All the way from a mountain top in Spain to the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.  And all on Patricio’s 5 watts.

Patricio was using a Yaesu FT-817, 5 watts, and a ground plane antenna.

Patricio is ranked 9th in the EA2 Association as a SOTA activator.

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I then saw another spot for Col, F/MM0YCJ, on 20m, on F/ AB-204.  Hoping that I might get lucky again, I tuned to his operating frequency.  But that wasn’t to be the case.  Sadly I could not hear Col at all.  I could clearly hear the Chasers, but not Col.

I have now worked a total of  22 DX Activators in 14 different European SOTA Associations on SSB (20m & 10m).  I have my Bronze Mountain Hunter certificate (currently 9 different Associations with QSO’s with at least 2 different summits).  I have 11 Associations where my count is 1 summit. So I need just 1 more contact to qualify for Silver Mountain Hunter.

I am yet to make contact with a US activator.  I must polish up on my CW skills and give Morse a go and I would probably have more success !

As I have found out myself, as a SOTA Activator, it is possible to make good DX contacts all the way to Europe, the UK, & the USA, on QRP power.  It all depends on the conditions, your antenna, the Chaser’s antenna, good listening skills, good operator practise, the time of the day, and of course GOOD LUCK !

In closing, I just wanted to say thank you to those European & UK SOTA activators that take the time to have a listen out for us all the way down here in Australia.  It seems that more & more interest is growing in getting Europe – Australia SOTA contacts, thanks to the recent efforts of Andrew VK1NAM, Ed VK2JI, & others. Ian VK5CZ (the VK5 SOTA Assoc Manager) made contact with a station in Poland on 10m just a few nights ago.

So thanks for listening for us Aussies.  There is a core group of us SOTA enthusiasts down here that would be more than happy to get you in the log.