Operating Practice

A few days ago I saw a few posts on the Summits on the Air (SOTA) Australian Yahoo group about “SOTA activators pile up process“.  I assume these comments were a spin off to last weekend’s SOTA Spring activation weekend.  Personally, I did note a few SOTA activators not listening for QRP and mobile portable, etc, and just working the big guns.  However the majority of activators are very good.

What was more noticeable over the weekend was that there was at times some poor operating practice by SOTA chasers and park hunters.  The good operators were fortunately by far in the main, but netherless the occasional poor operating practice by some was annoying.

Here are some of my thoughts.  I am not professing to be the world’s best operator.  Far from it.

A few stations have got into the habit of calling between overs.  In other words I am in contact with VK5AA and putting it back to them for their final over, and a cheeky station calls in between overs with their call sign.  Not wanting to wait for the QSO to finish and join the other paitently waiting chasers and hunters.  I have now decided to ignore those stations.  They are simply queue jumpers.  I was questioned by a senior ham over the weekend as to why I had not acknowledged him when he did exactly this.  So please, if you are reading this and are guilty of queue jumping, please cease this practice.  Please WAIT until the QSO is completely finished.

And there are still those out there, that come up on frequency, without asking if the frequency is in use, and take over a frequency.  This happened to me a few times over the weekend.  Clearly they couldn’t hear me.  I understand that.  But to come up on frequency without asking if the frequency is in use, is just rude.  And those operators were quickly told by the chasers and hunters that I was working.


As for activating, this is what I TRY to do:-

  • call for any SOTA/park activators first
  • THEN…..QRP stations
  • THEN…..portable or mobile stations
  • THEN…..DX
  • THEN…..stations who can hear me, but with difficulty
  • THEN…..anybody/everybody else (now the fun starts)

Now that doesn’t always work out in practice.  Because I often find that when I ask if a frequency is in use, there is already a large crowd waiting for me, and I invariably hear, ‘no the frequency is all yours Paul‘, and then it is ‘swing into action’ time.  However, I always break from the crowd, every 10 minutes or so and call for the S2S and park to park contacts, then QRP, then portable and mobile.  If you do, it is amazing who you get in the log.

When I activated Newland Head Conservation Park earlier in the year as part of the VK5 Parks anniversary weekend, I was operating right on the beachfront, with the Southern Ocean spray on my face.  When I returned home a day or two later, and was checking my emails, I read with interest that some of my mates in Europe had written that they could hear me on 40m ssb in Europe, but couldn’t get through the VK pile up.  What I learnt from this, is that you never know who is listening.  So call for DX, you might be surprised.  Certainly if you get onto 20m from a WWFF park, there won’t be any shortage of DX callers.

And when I mention above, ‘stations who can hear me, but with difficulty’, I am sure you have heard SOTA & park activators who drift in and out with the QSB.  It is incredibly frustrating as a chaser/hunter, when the signals of these stations come up out of the noise, but they are only listening for the big guns.  So if you are an activator, please try calling for these stations as well.  I am sure those chasers and hunters will be pleased if you do.

I also tell the callers to spread out their calls, rather than calling all at once, over the top of each other.  I jot down the calls I hear and acknowledge that I have received them, and then bring them in and work them in, in the order I hear them.  It seems to work well.

Suggestions for DX Pile-ups………… by Uncle DX

1. The DX station operators are in charge of any pile-up.

2. The DX station should make and adhere to their operating rules quietly and respectfully.

3. The DX station should use, when appropriate, call areas and areas of the world for better accuracy, rate and order.

4. The DX station should use split operation and spread stations out, keeping in mind others not in the pile-ups. A must.

5. The DX station should give their call sign at least every 10 minutes and maintain a pattern especially when ending a QSO.

6. The DX station should create a rhythm or timing which maintains a good rate and allows the pile-up to call at the right time.

7. The operators in the pile-up, if not sure of a QSO, should dupe and the DX operator continue not wasting time commenting.

8. The DX station should work those who will create the fastest rate, at least at first, then make an effort to work the weaker stations.

9. No one should lecture on the air.

10. Everyone should always require and give full calls.

11. Know and practice the gray line.

12. Know the equipment being operated such as the split button, audio levels, keying wave form, etc.

13. NEVER be a “KC Cop”….never.

14. Operators giving spots on a DX Cluster should insure their accuracy!

15. Keep away from personal, political, and religious comment any time on the air and/or the DX Cluster. Keep all comments in the true spirit of ham radio whereby ALL ARE EQUAL.

16. Don’t rush when giving your call when the DX station is standing by, especially on CW. Time will be lost trying to obtain ALL of the call sign.

17. Don’t call the DX station constantly. Get in the rhythm.

18. Let the last station complete his QSO.

19. Use only the power it takes and figure out what that is!

20. Figure out the DX operator’s operating practice for greater success.


Please refer to the DX Code of Conduct for some very good information…..


And finally, for a bit of a laugh…..




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