I had the distinct pleasure to be one of the first two "foxes" in the 80 Meter QRP Foxhunt on Monday evening. I was a bit anxious about it; as my skills are nowhere near the rest of the Foxes. These guys are the "cream of the crop" for the most part; and when I get the opportunity to be a Fox, I feel like a Single-A ballplayer being bumped up to the Big Leagues!
However, 0200 UTC came rolling along; and it was time to take key in hand and begin the hunt. I put out the first "CQ FOX DE W2LJ" exactly on time, to be greeted by a flood wall of QRPers sending me their callsigns in unison!
Remaining as calm as I could, I managed to pick off the calls one by one to send the required exchange. Before I had even realized it, I had settled into a nice rhythm and was working stations regularly at a pace of one and sometimes two per minute. Conditions for the Hunt were nice on 80 Meters for the first 45 minutes of the 90 minute period. I needed few fills; and everyone seemed to be behaving themselves. I was working "split" where I was transmitting on 3.565 MHz and was listening for replies on 3.566 MHz - "up 1" as it is called.
Then at 0245 UTC something suddenly changed. For some reason unbeknownst to me; the noise floor on the band rose dramatically. It was if someone had flicked a noise switch "on" somewhere!
The pack of baying hounds (the QRPers trying to work me) suddenly vanished. I was now calling CQ more often and there was an increasing time lag between incoming calls. I went from operating split to operating simplex. This would make the task of the hounds somewhat easier; as they would not need to hunt for a listening frequency. My QSL rate went way down in the second half of the hunt; but I still ended up working a good number of stations. When all was said and done; I believe I worked 47 or 48 stations - just under the 50 which I has set as a goal for myself.
I have found that working the QRP Sprints, as I have done regularly for the past few years, really helps to prepare you for Fox duty. It's really not much different than finding a good frequency and "running it" during a contest. Lots of operating, especially in cruddy conditions, really helps, too. If your ears are accustomed to digging out calls; then being a Fox is nothing new.
In the end, it was a very enjoyable experience. I would recommend it heartily to those of you in the QRP community who have been thinking about volunteering; but have been sitting on the fence about it. Look, if I can do it - anyone can! My station is nothing super special and I rarely place in the Top Three of any of the QRP Sprints I enter. But I do know what is fun; and it's fun being a Fox. I'm glad that I get another crack at it later this season!
73 de Larry W2LJ