Sunday, December 25, 2011

County Hunting in 2012, Means Digging Into My Past

6 Meter Grids Worked & Confirmed as KE8RO
I was recently gifted a membership to MARAC by my long time friend and CW Elmer Ed, K8QWY. I have been interested in county hunting for a few years but DX'ing and contesting to increase my DXCC totals has always been at the top of my priority list. I consider myself a DXer by trade and the rest is icing on the ham radio cake! With the additional gifting by K8QWY of the MARAC Logger, I have decided to start populating the database with what I have confirmed to date. Once I get all of my "on hand" QSL cards entered, this will give me a foundation to build on as I strive to achieve the Worked All Counties Award by CQ Magazine, and more.

Anyhow, in digging into my collection of QSL cards, I found some of my old award tracking records. At the time, I was using LogPlus to track my contacts and awards. To this day, I think LogPlus was the best logging program I have ever used. As mentioned in previous posts, the owner decided to throw in the towel on the program and never look back. With that said, I still maintained some hard copy records of my accomplishments and I still have my old version operational for look-ups. The photo above shows the grids I had worked / confirmed on 6 meters. Living in EN81om, it was a great location for UHF/VHF not to mention HF DX'ing! I achieved VUCC on 6 Meters prior to departing Ohio, and I was very close with 2 Meters and 432!

2 Meter Grids Worked & Confirmed as KE8RO
The map to the right shows my 2 Meter contacts. I was running a 13B2 at approximately 60 feet or so and I did manage to have a bit of help (when I needed it) from a Mirage 300 watt amplifier. Living on the shore of Lake Erie made for some great inversion related QSO's. I also enjoyed auroral QSO's as well and when there was aurora, you would always find me on 2 meters with my antenna pointed north. I would be listening for that distinct tone stripped sound of AU CW. I had lots of fun working the various UHF/VHF contests which not only added to my grid count, but yielded some great beam spinning fun! My rotor got a work out as I would hear grids in all directions.

432 Meter Grids Worked & Confirmed as KE8RO
My 432 set up was a 17 element antenna just above my 2 meter antenna. 432 was a bit harder but I did have an amplifier which allowed me to push about 100 watts on that band. My 432 grids are shown to the left and I think this was one of my most favorite bands. I did not have as much QRN (Noise) on this band as I had on the other two, so my weak signal receiving ability was a bit better. I'm looking forward to the day that I can once again start collecting grid squares on 2 Meters and 432. When I arrived in Alaska, I sold off all of my UHF/VHF gear with the exception of my feedlines. I did not see a need to keep it and I figured by the time I got back on those bands, the radios would be a bit better than what I had so what an excuse for new.

So, what do you ask does all this have to do with county hunting? Well, since I don't have these bands keeping me busy, I guess I have some extra time to devote to chasing those I need. I am on the hunt for all of my stateside QSL cards that show counties and I am starting with all that I have confirmed with my 8'land callsign. Once I get those entered, I will then dig into my massive collection of stateside QSL's that I've collected since I began operating up here in Alaska. Since I had 307 countries confirmed by the ARRL prior to departing Ohio, I plan on organizing those QSL cards in a photo album after scanning them. Both great winter time projects.

My DXCC needed List from Ohio
And in speaking of DXCC, I am not chasing countries like I had before as it's so darn expensive just to get a foreign QSL card. I'm a fan of LOTW and I am trying to get as many as possible via electronic means first. When I decide to apply, I will then chase down those I need with hard copy QSL's. I don't expect to ever get as close to the Honor Roll as I was in Ohio. Those remaining on my needed list from Ohio are shown on the right. Even with my 9 years of activity here, I have only just under 180 countries confirmed via LOTW to date. Having moved to Alaska from Ohio, I had to wipe the slate clean and start all over again.

So, my desire to begin 2012 with a new challenge, that of chasing new counties, led me into my stash of QSL cards which led me down the path of memory lane. I have kept every QSL card I have ever received over the years from each and every valid contact. I'm hoping that once the dust clears and I get all of my on hand stateside QSL cards into the database, I will have put a nice dent in the number of counties I need to chase.  I will be a bit more attentive in the state QSO Parties in 2012 for sure. I have been lucky enough to receive some very nice certificates and a plaque from county hunters for helping them with the 4th Judicial District here in Alaska. I'm hoping to be able to do the same someday. But for now, I will be thumbing through old QSL cards from days gone by and looking forward to all those in my future.

The other great side effect of chasing countries all these years is the awesome stamp collection I have! I'm hoping my kids will someday find them as interesting as I do. Like many hams, my hope was to have them interesting in ham radio but sadly, their cell phones are the only communication devices they are interested in. I'm not losing hope though. Since becoming a grandparent, I have a new audience I can focus on in the coming years.


  1. Hi Phil, thanks for your nice post. It gives an insight of your activities in the past. 307 DXCC that will take years to equal that from Alaska. It has been a long time that I was collecting DXCC on 2m/70cm, actually I was more into working the birds. By the way the strange effect of cell phones on children as young as they are, I notice that when my daughter gets her hands on mine. But she like to push the buttons on the radio as well. Good luck chasing counties in 2012 and of course I hope a lot of nice DX(CC). 73, Bas

  2. Phil,

    Good morning from the shackadelic on the beach and hope today is relaxing before our New Year's work week.

    Excellent presentation, I enjoyed your visualizations at VHF/UHF, noting as you climbed in frequency the density of contacts versus distance diminished.

    Currently, I have worked/confirmed 693 grids and confirmed 490 of them between LoTW plus traditional QSL cards. My first goal is 1000 grids on high frequency. Likewise, Dave, K2DSL has an excellent utility at his site for grid locations, click on his tools tab.

    73, DRR

  3. Bas, thank you so very much my friend! Yea, I really enjoyed the hunt for that new one and if I had stayed in Ohio, I would probably be knocking the door on that BIG award I suppose. But, I have my certificate up here with the 300 sticker on it so I can proudly display that on the wall. So close but yet so far, LOL.

    I sure hope 2012 brings YOU lots of great DX as well. Looking forward to all night 10 meter openings here! Let's hope we can make a QSO on 10! 73!

  4. Scot,

    Wow, nice start on those grids! There was just something about those high bands that I really enjoyed. Not sure where our next QTH will be but I can assure you, there will be some kind of 2 meter and 432 antenna there (with any luck). I miss working the satellites, too. Dave does have a great site. I was always envious of those up in the NE as they could work Europe on 6 meters. Again, not sure where our next assignment will be but the beauty of ham radio is, it will always follow! 73 my friend and looking forward to catching you on 10! 73 -Phil