Amateur Radio Fox Hunt
|Partial group photo: Doug, VE7XAT; Jerry, KE7BVZ; Jamie, N7KCE; Lisa Lyon; Art, KF7GD; Marsha, KA7CSZ; Jean, AA7JK; Little Arthur, harmonic of KF7GD|
Perfect weather for our day. This was an on-foot hunt located in the Dungeness Recreation Area just North of Sequim, Wa. A mixture of open grasslands and wooded forests along the seacoast. It's the starting point for the day hike to the Dungeness Spit Lighthouse, a popular 10 mile round trip. In some regards it reminded me of hunts in coastal California since things are dry this time of year.
We had 15 attendees with about 8 active foxhunters. They were from Victoria, Seattle metro area, Shelton and local. All levels of experience were represented with operation limited to 2 meters.
The area is relatively small, covering about 700 acres so its hard to get lost. A map given to the participants is available here
||John, VE7GED retrieving one of the foxes|
The hunt ran for 2 1/2 hours, then we broke for lunch while telling stories about our experiences of the day. Lunch was provided by my XYL, Marsha, KA7CSZ and was much appreciated.
This was not a beginners hunt and wasn't billed as one but we did have a couple that could have benefited from more experience. I think there was a tendancy to go for the "hard" search before the "easier" was mastered. Perhaps, a fox located a short distance away from the start might be helpful to get folks "warmed up" so to speak.
Photo: Jerry's fox antenna looked so much like a blade of grass that I nearly stepped on it at a previous hunt.
|John, VE7GED with Jerry, KE7BVZ discussing his
handiwork on stealth antennas and small foxes
What made this hunt a little different was selecting the level of difficulty through the use of three transmitters hidden in different ways. The first was conventional in that it was hidden in the brush and operated in a normal way with a voice ID and about a 70% duty cycle on 146.545 Mhz. It was remotely controlled through the use of DTMF codes and operated on its own dedicated frequency from the rest. This was considered the "easy" fox.
The second, was on 146.565 Mhz, the common foxhunting frequency, along with the third transmitter! Number two was conventional in using MCW for ID and hidden very close to the nearby campground which participants were told would be the general location of #3. So, we have two transmitters very close to each other physically and on the same operating frequency, no less. This was a strategy to make the hunt a little harder for the more experienced. Those searching for #2 would have to sort out the interference from #3 and vice versa. Number 2 was hidden in the underbrush simular to #1 and was considered "intermediate" in difficulty only because it had interference from #3.
Number three was the fun one. I only told participants that it would be the "hardest" of the three and limited to the area of the campground which is shown as the yellow highlighter on the map. The reason for this imposed limitation is I wanted Jamie, N7KCE to be able to access it as he's restricted to a wheelchair.
You guessed it.... #3 was mobile and in the backpack of Lisa Lyon who is a friend of Marsha's but participants hadn't seen her at the pre-hunt briefing so they didn't know she was an aquaintance and incognito.
||Lisa Lyon with fox #3 in the backpack. Note toggle switch to the lower right of pack|
She played the role superbly,
walking around the campground, often with her daughter, to completely
confuse our hunters. She blended in as a typical sightseer.
able to control the transmitter by turning it off in the first part of
the hunt if someone got too close. Later, I asked her
to leave it "on" all the time even when the hunters got close.
This was my way of being sure that participants would find it in the
end and I wouldn't be accused of making it too hard. Apparently,
no one suspected what was going on for awhile because the interference
masked some of her m0vement. One hunter told me, "one moment it
was there and the next it was gone".
Both Lisa and hunters
had lots of laughs about these weirdos chasing her around
the campground with crazy looking contraptions in hand.
Jamie said he chased her around the restroom once or twice. The
visual on that one will be a memorable moment and caused great
laughter. I think some of the campers thought
they had let the "guests" out of the ward? I told the
campground host what we were doing so that may have squelched
a call to
the sheriff or state hospital.
Much fun when you can laugh at what you're doing.
||Doug, KE7ISZ, a budding foxhunter from Shelton. Probably raised a few eyebrows with that setup|
|| Jean, AA7JK and her husband, Don, KC7OQE
In conclusion, all seemed to have a great time and agreed that we need to keep foxhunting alive in the NW and Vancouver Island. It was fun to see the die-hard hunters again and talk about future plans. Throughout this coming year, hunts will be scheduled in Victoria, Seattle, Port Angeles and who knows where else? I hear the gears turning towards, "how can I make the next hunt a little different?"
One thing I learned this time is to keep transmitters well separated in frequency unless they're intended to operate on a common frequency. The "easy" fox was only 20 Khz lower and overpowered the front ends of some of the equipment being used.
| Art, KF7GD and little Arthur IV
Prepared by: Neil Robin, WA7NBF