I've posted about this before; but maybe it's a good time to bring this subject up for the newer QRPers out there who want to get their share of DX.
You may have heard rumors that working DX as a QRPer is dang near impossible; or a Herculean task at the very best. That's a rumor spread by those who don't know any better. I will admit, though, that working DX as a QRPer during the valleys of the sunspot cycle IS more difficult than when Ol' Sol is sporting a lot of freckles. But it can be done, you just have to be smart about it.
1) Use the best antenna you've got at your disposal, whatever it is.
2) Know when to cast your net. And that's what this post is all about. This coming weekend will be a VERY good time to cast your net.
The CQ WorldWide DX (CW portion) Contest is this weekend. Even if you're not a contester; or dislike contesting in general - this is still a great way to boost your countries worked total. When the sunspot cycle is at its peak - stations have been known to complete DXCC in one weekend! Don't expect that this weekend - even though NASA has confirmed that we are now on the upward leg of Cycle 25, it will be a few years before conditions become primo again. But that doesn't mean you can't have fun and work a lot of countries right now.
The exchange is easy, RST and your CQ Zone. That's it - no hellishly long exchange or serial numbers to have to remember.
Know when to jump in with QRP. This is the key to success. My advice is that unless your code speed is very good - and I'm talking 25 WPM or faster - you might want to avoid jumping in until Saturday evening at the earliest. If you jump in at the sound of the starting gun, you're going to be hearing a lot of buzz saw sounds, and you'll probably be sitting at your bench with ????? floating all around your head.
The beginning hours of the contest is the province of the Big Boys and the Contest Pros. Yes, you'll find stations to work and copy, but make things easy for yourself. Get to harvesting when conditions are in your favor.
So when are conditions in your favor? Experience tells me late Saturday night into Sunday - ESPECIALLY on Sunday. The previously mentioned Big Boys and Contest Pros have had ample time to work each other and now they become sharks. From the second half of the contest until the end, they're so hungry for new contacts (in order to bump up their QSO total) that they will take time to listen for less than 599 signals, and less than buzz saw code speeds.
This is when you go hunting. Twiddle the dial a lot and listen for signals that you're comfortable copying and make your move. Don't try to send any faster than your comfortable with. You'll only mess up the exchange and will probably get asked for numerous repeats. Just send steady, copy-able code - the smoothest you can, and you'll be just fine. And even though you may not have a 599++++++ signal at the receiving end, you'll get you share of DX.
The main thing is, have fun and enjoy yourself, and watch your DXCC tally grow in the process.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!