I thought I would share our weekend at SERG Australian Fox Hunting Championship 2017. Team Moose (aka VK5ZBR) had 4 members:
- Mike VK5AGI – driver, ARDF
- Adrian VK5ZBR – DF & ARDF
- Kerry (XYL) – navigator & ARDF
- Alayna (harmonic) – ARDF, navigator and playground critic
Kerry now with last year’s hunts under her belt is the navigator. This year, a child seat was also fitted to the team Moose car, with Alayna a full time member this year!
There were two other VK5 teams also participating:
- VK5TV Bevan and his wife and
- VK5FAB (Ken and Paul Burns with extended family).
The FAB team this year was competing in all hunts.
This year we were not sure how we would go with one navigator as its quite adifficult task. Kerry would be dealing with paper maps, Ozi Explorer and GoogleMap Pro for the first time.
I also decided to try the SDR play on my new 12inch Chuwi tablet, this was a carry on from last years 10in tablet. The SDR was only used for detecting the fox when we were in close proximity. I had no antenna on the SDR so the signal had to be extremely strong. Again the SDR is not very useful for direction finding because of the processing delays. It’s great to identify the signal your listening to though.
I again used my Icom R10 and trusty ammo box home brew DFing radio I built in 1994.
This event was the 10 Leg ARDF in Marist Park (crater), very hilly and great to hide foxes. Our team split up into 2 groups, Mike then Kerry, Alayna and I the other. I was teaching Alayna and Kerry ARDF. We had two hoursto complete the hunt. We did the hunt at a pace Alayna could do. Surprisingly we got as many foxes as I did last year on my own.
The 4 leg CW FM transmitters on the same frequency with CW ID’s in any order. They come up at 30sec intervals. We learnt our lesson last year and Mike made two timer boxes with 4 colour LED’s on it. We would know each fox by its
colour. This hunt is in the Caroline Forrest near Hells hole. We finished all the legs just on time. The last leg being the yellow colour took us nearly 1hr. It was located very high and clear giving a massive signal that always appeared to be closer than we thought. Yes we got bogged once on the blue leg but we recovered in 5min with a shovel.
This was the famous Wayne Kilpatrick Night Hunt (5 Legs) this will be Alayna’s first night hunt. She was a bit scared of the forest at night. This hunt is fun and can break you or your car (both which has happened in past years). Just to finish the night is a success. This year we saw plenty of kangaroos, and even a wombat. No UFO’s this year, however.
Leg 1 the 2m fox was surprisingly easy, Kerry had a bit of an orientation problem for the first 5 minutes but got her bearings after that. Remember she’s using a topographic map and driving a PC with Oziexplorer and Google maps pro. We actually drove straight to the fox, which was just over the border in Victoria, with only one way in.
Next was Leg 2. Oh damn, we can’t hear the signal! We switch to SSB and I can just make out something and head in the general direction. Lots of radio chatter about the fox not transmitting. After quite a few km the signal went from in the noise to s9 plus.
The fox announced his coax was faulty, NO JOKE! Lucky we were heading in theright direction. Thank you again R10 in SSB mode!
Leg 3 we could hear with no problem but when we got closer we had issues withmany reflections. I was becoming a bit concerned so began to get-out the car with the sniffer antenna to get bearings. This took a lot longer but it all made sense when we found the fox hidden in a bush. The railway line was next to him and re-radiating his signal. I hate railway lines!! Having found Leg 3 it was on to
Leg 4. This is a nasty 6m band hunt! I had fixed up the loop days before and re-calibrated it. I was amazed how well it was working again. I could work out the direction with in 10deg. The trick that worked was stopping in line with the road and taking bearings. Kerry would plot this on the paper map and we drove nearly right up to the fox. The time was 9.30pm and I thought wow were doing very well with one leg to go. Alayna, however, checked out for the night so Mum lost her helper.
Leg 5 10m. One of the most difficult bands to hunt on in a pine forest! Why, oh why didn’t I check the loop before we left!! We could here the piccolo signal and I was having issues determining the direction. This loop has a better peak in one direction, and it didn’t feel right! So we did some driving to determine which way wascorrect. Kerry plotted my directions and we ended up in Piccaninnie PondsConservation Park near the beach. Kerry said how far do you think it is, I said far.She said well it’s not in the ocean. We realized my bad gut feeling my DFing was 180 deg out had come true. So, back the other way north through to the township of Donovans.
This is when it got interesting, some nutter in a car coming the other way drove down the center of the road with his high beams on. This car then proceeded to come over to our side and Mike had to drive off the road not to hit him. This woke us up and we forgot about the hunt for a while.
Eventually, we got to the location that Kerry wanted to get to far north on the intersection of the princess highway. The signal was still north but not getting stronger. I made up my mind something is still wrong. I got my test transmitter out and tested the loop. Sigh, it was still wrong! When I looked up the loop had slipped 45deg at some stage. Damn! A bit of bending and the loop was re-aligned. The direction was now pointing back towards Mt Gambier….
Kerry determined this was logical for the last leg and I knew it was high up after allthese km’s. So we just drove back that way and quickly the signal got stronger andstronger. It ended up being at Potters Point. I wish I checked the loop on the startof this leg. It was now 11.30pm and time to get back to the room for a hardScottish drink. We were wrapped we finished and we weren’t the last teameither, although we would have finished at 10pm I think, if that loop was aligned. Poor Alayna was dead to the world.
This is a 10 leg ARDF event hunted on foot. Hmm, we tried but Mike and Alayna had issues with waking up after Saturday night’s effort. It started to drizzle too, and we didn’t like the idea of getting wet. So, off to the SERG hall for breakfast and bargain hunting instead.
This was another Triple leg Hunt – another tough one. This hunt is fast, you need to change antennas fast, the first leg 70cm was straight north, driving past the airport to Telford Scrub Conservation Park. All the teams were very close. The next leg was on 2m, but none of us could hear it! Oh no, what now. We drove back out to the Riddoch Highway and headed north. The signal then finally comes up.
Bugger its bearing is 9 o’clock, so we dive for the next main track to the left. We all follow each other and this fox is tricky. We find him but only after driving on both sides of his location to discover a track in-between. If we waited longer before we started this leg Kerry said we could have driven nearly straight to him saving many km. The next leg was 70cm again. Kerry got a bit confused and we ended up following our Yagi for a while. This leg we got close and I did the rest on foot with the sniffer. We found it.
Event 6 This was another triple leg hunt, but this time with a twist. This hunt requires quick antenna changes again. 2m and 70cm we can do with a switch but the inclusion of 80m in this event means a manual antenna change to the loop antenna mid charge. The 80m loop is Rod VK5UDX’s and I’m not familiar with. Its not set up for my side of the car.
Leg 1 – 2m fox was quite straightforward, we ended up behind a quarry on west side of the Mt Gambier forest, and it was so close half the teams were within seconds.
Leg 2 – 70cm this again was straight forward as we drive North West to a forest near Glencoe West.
Leg 3 – 80m this is when it got interesting, our in car 240volt power supply decided to put up noise on the fox frequency. It never does this normally! Each time I needed to stop for a bearing we had to kill the 240volts in the car. Because of this and the loop being very vague we drove around all over the place just trying to work out which direction the signal was. I got quite confused and Kerry could not get any clear direction of where to go. I tested the loop with my test signal and I found the car body was really affecting the pattern of the loop. In the end, we pulled out, as we had not much time to get to the next hunt. Bummer! Should have used my original loop that was back at the house.
This is the 23cm hunt and is another favorite as the fox can do tricky stuff with reflections. They use a tin can radiator and can beam the signal to appear in totally different places. However, our Yagis are like a torch, nice and sharp and are great to DF with so we were in with a fighting chance.
The hunt started at the top car park near the caravan park on the lake. We headed off and I could not hear anything. I was on SSB 1296MHz, tuned down to 1295.996 and there was the fox very weak and fluttery. Not good as I didn’t get a decent direction, the next signal was a bit better and I determined the direction. Kerry got a line out of town possibly on the edge of the Myora forrest.
We still didn’t not know how far it could be. We got to the round about near the show grounds and the bearing was not changing much. I determined with Kerry’s navigation the signal was far away. So we broke from the pack and head east to get into the 80km zone sooner. First left we headed north to get to Kerry’s bearing line.
The signal stared to really pick up and getting much cleaner. We had a give way sign to deal with then a near straight run. What do we see, the hound pack leaders approaching the same intersection as us. We ended up having togive way to them. A sharp right hand turn onto a track and there is the 23cm fox in the tall grass out of sight.
We got 4 th position. So close! And we were veryhappy with this result.
Back to our rooms to clean up and relax then back to the SERG Hall for David’s WENET talk and fox hunt presentations. VK3FAST won the weekend again.
SERG puts on a great dinner again and we sat down with the VK3AI team. We had a great time talking about the action over the weekend. We even got tips on the next 80m loop design to try, I will try and build it for 2018.
The use of Google earth pro was invaluable. The old topo maps are so far out ofdate and you need Google photos to get the real story. The GPS server software work flawlessly.
Next year we may get another tablet PC and have both mapsystem running together. Two new GPS as the one I had stopped working on windows 10, long story ! Mike had to write some code and got his Auduino GPS bits going the day before Mt Gambier. Well-done Mike.
The commodore did well and nothing broke this year. Alayna bottom still has feeling. Kerry wants a pencil holder and I want to make more room in the car. We also want to log our track with signal strength. Time to get coding!
We had lots of fun and did better than we thought. Alayna has plenty of things to talk about and I’m not sure if she had any wow moments. Only time will tell. This year we had plenty of people asking what we were doing and we explained its ham radio hobby looking for hidden transmitters.
Regards Adrian VK5ZBR