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:
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!