Spring 2009 Issue

Homing In

Ideas for Increasing Foxhunt Participation

By Joe Moell,* KØOV

Encouragement by Kevin Kelly, N6QAB, brought a good turnout to the University of New Mexico campus for the start of this mobile T-hunt in 1995. (All photos by Joe Moell, KØOV)

“You’re never alone when you’re in a ham shack.” Perhaps you remember those words by the late Roy Neal, K6DUE, in his narration of “The World of Amateur Radio,” a promotional film from the late 1970s. For DXers, ragchewers, and contesters, a ham radio station can provide human contact when nobody is around, no matter where you are on the globe.

However, what if your favorite ham radio activity is hidden-transmitter hunting? Just like the game of hide-and-seek, that’s not something you can easily do by yourself. How can you get others to join in the fun?

With a little luck, your family members may be interested in helping you test your RDF (radio direction finding) equipment by hiding a transmitter for you to find. That is what Nadia Scharlau and her husband Charles, NZØI, did in North Carolina as they trained for the 2006 ARDF World Championships in Bulgaria. “That summer, we would take a couple of transmitters to the park,” Nadia recalls. “He would hide one transmitter and I would hide the other one. As soon as I would find his, I would move it. He would do the same and we would repeat five or six times. By then we felt dead because of the heat.”

The next step for promotion is the local radio club. Two decades ago, Kevin Kelly, N6QAB, was an active mobile T-hunter in southern California, going on many of the All-Day Hunts (which often lasted all weekend) and taking videos with his vehicle-mounted “hunt cam.” Then his employer transferred him to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where there had not been any transmitter-hunting activity for years.
Kevin wasted no time. He began talking up the sport on the local repeaters and at the Albuquerque Amateur Radio Club meetings. Before long, there were regular mobile T-hunts in the Duke City. Then Kevin was transferred to the East Coast, where he began the promotion process again. Meanwhile, RDF contesting was becoming so popular in Albuquerque that the club agreed to organize the First USA ARDF Championships in 2001. AARC hosted again in 2005 and continues its regular mobile and on-foot events to this day.

Don’t hide your interest in transmitter hunting. Talk it up on the local repeaters. Write an article for the club newsletter.1 Offer to give a program or an RDF equipment show-and-tell at a club meeting. If you don’t think you can put together your own talk, consider the excellent DVD about ARDF by Gary Pearce, KN4AQ.2

Like the “Field of Dreams” philosophy, I believe that “If you hide it, they will come.” Schedule a beginner hunt and announce it at the beginning of your talk. That will make everyone pay better attention, realizing that they will need the information you’re presenting to do their best on the hunt. The more follow-up sessions you have, the greater the chance that “critical mass” will be reached. On the other hand, without any starter sessions, nothing can develop.

Lowering the Barriers to Entry

Some hams and potential hams may have an interest in RDF, but they need a little extra push. Perhaps they lack confidence that they can build their own RDF equipment or that they can master the techniques. With that in mind, Marvin Johnston, KE6HTS, and I have begun holding antenna building and testing clinics before each of our ARDF sessions in a park, which usually take place once a month.

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