Different Tactics Make For A More Successful Contest Operation

If you’ve read an earlier blog I posted: San Antonio Hams » Blog Archive » Little Contests For “Little Guns” , I mentioned about studying both the distance away from your anticipated contacts and propagation characteristics. When I worked both the New Mexico QSO Party and the Louisiana QSO Party, I determined my best course of action was to stay on the lower bands, concentrating on 40 meters until way after sunset when I switched to collect a few Qs on 80 meters and then back to 40.

However, this philosophy would not work with the Idaho QSO Party which I intended to compete in. Again, I’d be a low power, single op in this endeavor and being so far away from the state I wanted to work, I’d written off being awarded top operator from out of the state of Idaho. Being so far away from Idaho, I needed to rethink how I’d operate. Attempting to use propagation on my side, and in the time the contest would be starting, I decided that my best bet would be to start out on 15 meters which is always a good bet when working stations 1000+ miles away. My back up band would, of course, be 20 meters.

When the contest began, I camped out on a frequency in the 15 meter band and started calling “CQ Idaho stations only”. My hunch played out as if by magic stations from Idaho came back to my call and I happily logged them. The 15 meter band at 1900Z had little background noise and, so it seemed, little in the way of on going QSOs but for the Idaho stations coming back to me. Conditions did seem to vary and when they did I would drop down and camp out on 20 meters, give the same call and bag more stations.

The end result of my using propagation as an advantage and not as an enemy, my raw score for the Idaho QSO Party was over 12 TIMES the total score as posted in last year’s results from the top single op, low power from Texas. No special equipment other than my voice keyer. No high power (I used 100 watts). No fancy antenna (I used a loop antenna). All it took was a little investigation into band choice.

My next contest will be the CQ WW WPX Contest, which requires a much different approach to both operating and propagation.

Bob W2IK

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