WA4ZKO 2019 2M Sprint results

Posted in Contesting, VHF-UHF with tags , , , , on April 22, 2019 by WA4ZKO

144 MHz Spring Sprint – 2019

Call: WA4ZKO
Operator(s): WA4ZKO
Station: WA4ZKO
Class: Single Op LP
Operating Time (hrs): 2

Total: QSOs = 7 Mults = 6 Total Score = 42


Band seemed about average. Few stations on/audible in my area but easy working those that were on. Worked a new (to me) Kentucky station so it was good knowing I’m not the only one active in the state LOL. No sign of the usual stations on from the mountains of E. Tenn or the Carolinas.

Still a good opportunity to check out the station gear. Also nice to work and chat with several stations that I had not talked with for a long time which is one of the nice things about these Sprints. Shut down shortly after 9pm after working everyone that was on and needing to work on other items before bedtime.

Looks like my best “DX” was K2DRH in EN41 at 361 miles. Also enjoyed working Fred KJ4ZYB out portable near Roanoke VA. He was the only signal I heard from the Southeast. Not bad for my 100w to 10el at 58 feet. I haven’t put the hardline back online yet so just using some 9913F for now.

I plan on working the 432 Spring from KY. Not sure if I’ll be working the 50 MHz Spring from EM78 NKY or /p in EN21 SW Iowa, time will tell busy Summer calendar ahead.

Not to bash FT8, but I’m starting to agree with others that it is fracturing already limited activity. Maybe the digital side should be its own contest or only allowed for a portion of the contest.

73 Jeff, WA4ZKO

Running an Effective 10 Meter Beacon

Posted in 10 Meters, Beacons, Ham Radio with tags , , on October 3, 2018 by WA4ZKO

While I would not say I’m a beacon expert I have ran a few beacons over the years including a globally received 10 meter beacon and (per my inbox) a greatly missed 2 meter beacon. My beacons were turned off a few years ago due to planned decommissioning of the tower they were on to relocate it elsewhere. We also have plenty of beacons in the tri-state area, especially on 10 meters.

There is legit debate about the current usefulness of CW beacons with other systems available like WSPR providing a better way to check for and visualize propagation across the HF bands. That said there are still many of us that still utilize these “old school” beacons. Personally I still use them when back-country camping/hiking or mobile where it is more convenient or practical to just pop over to 28.200 and listen to the NCDXF beacon network for a few minutes for a global feel, then tune across the beacon sub-band to see what other paths are open with minimal equipment needed.

I occasionally get emails wanting advice on setting up a new 10 meter CW propagation beacon.  Figured I’d just do a blog and point future inquiries here. So here are some tips and items to consider:

1 –  Ask yourself does your area need a CW propagation beacon?  Is it already served by a 24×7 beacon?  Would you maybe be better off running a WSPR beacon or similar?

Do you understand the time, money, and general commitment it takes to run 24×7 RF infrastructure?  I often joke that putting stuff on the air is the easy part. Keeping it on the air month after month, storm season after storm season, well maintained year after year is where 9 out of 10 will fail.


2 – Part time propagation beacons are generally a bad idea. Reliable 24x7x365 beacons are far more valuable. Part time beacons leave your users wondering “is there no propagation on that path or is that beacon off the air again?”


3 – Use an effective beacon message string by keeping it short and efficient. There is nothing that will aggravate your users into tuning on past your beacon like a superfluous beacon message. Such extra stuff in the message string tends to hinder those trying to dig your beacon out of the noise and QSB peaks.

Keep it short, simple, and predictable with just a preamble, callsign, callsign, grid, grid, pause and repeat. Example:   VVVV  CALLSIGN/B CALLSIGN/B  GRID  GRID

The above format is what 99% of your beacon’s listeners need to know. The brevity and repetition of key information helps the listener efficiently ID the beacon and grid square for location even under bad conditions. If they want to know more details then they can email you, look you up on QRZ.com or their favorite search engine. Make sure you have that extra info posted online along with contact info in case there are questions or your system is malfunctioning. Remember being “reachable” is part of operating under the automatic rules.

Avoid using long key down carriers as they are easily mistaken for birdies and carriers from the illegal intruders so common in the bottom of the 10m band. Again, keeping your beacon messages as simple and efficient as possible will increase the odds of successful reception.


4 – Operate on a proper coordinated QRG in accordance with band plans. Per the official ITU Region 1, 2, and 3 band plans the 10 meter beacon sub-band is 28.190 to 28.300 MHz. Over the last decade some poor coordination practices have blurred the above lines, but 28.190 to 28.300 is the range most listeners will focus upon.

The single best way to ensure maximum reception potential is to be where listeners will be looking for a beacon which is in the normal beacon sub-bands. Operation on odd QRGs will reduce the number of listeners tuning across your QRG and thus fewer reception reports.

Lately I’ve seen lists of beacons with some on QRGs way down into the automated digital, RTTY, and CW regions. This may be well intended, but it is ultimately misguided and counterproductive.  Few beacon listeners will tune into those areas. Operating there is poor operating practice as it dramatically increases the chances of your beacon causing harmful interference to other modes. You will also note that these beacons are rarely if ever noted on the normal spotting networks.  Even if noticed, not wanting to promote bad operating many hams will not spot or QSL beacons operating outside of the beacon sub-bands.

Also keep in mind that the lower you go in the band the more non-ham QRM your listeners will run into. This QRM will only further reduce your beacon’s effectiveness. Judging by the the illegal QRM patterns on the 10 meter band during the last solar cycle I’d highly recommend a QRG as high up in the beacon sub-band as possible.

Sometimes these poor frequency choices come from new 10m beacon operators mistakenly thinking they have to be on a completely clear frequency. Your beacon can easily share a QRG with beacons in other distant regions of the world. Only worry about this if you’re sharing the same QRG with a nearby beacon.

Remember that due to the nature of 10m propagation it is unlikely that a listener in one location would hear your beacon and another beacon sharing your QRG in another region/direction at the same time. If it does happen then the odds that both will be zero beating so close that a CW op can’t sort them out is even lower. If this really worries you then shift your QRG up or down a few hundred hertz.


5 – QRO doesn’t help as much on 10 meters as it does on the lower (noisier) HF bands.  A few watts of CW to an efficient antenna system is more than sufficient on 10 meters. If you have the choice between a few more watts or a better antenna system then go with a better antenna system. So go easy on those PA finals.


Hopefully these five tips will help you setup and run a more effective propagation beacon. While written towards the 10 meter band, a lot of this applies to beacon operation on any band.

73 & Good Beacon Hunting




WA4ZKO – 2015 2m Fall Sprint Wrap-Up

Posted in Contesting, Ham Radio, VHF-UHF with tags , , , , on September 22, 2015 by WA4ZKO

I didn’t get started till around 7:30pm and operated off and on as I had other projects going on. Probably spent a total of 2.5 hours on the air. Did a a mix of hunt-n-pounce operating and some extended CQing that gave the rotor a good workout.  Activity was about what I expected for a Fall Sprint, slim pickins ;-)

Conditions seemed flat in most directions, but there was some real nice enhancement off to the south into N. Georgia where I worked K4CKS in EM74 and KX4R in EM73 at 313 and 326 miles respectively. Best DX of the night was W3IP over in Virginia by Mt. Weather (FM19) at 368 miles. W3IP was weak here, but the NW Georgia stations were both booming in nicely. Shame there wasn’t more folks on the air down in northern GA/AL areas…used to be a bunch of guys active down there. As usual, not a peep heard out of Tennessee and I think Dennis (N9TZL) and myself where the only ones on in Kentucky.

144 MHz Fall Sprint Results
Call:  WA4ZKO
Class: Single Op
Operating Time:  2.5 hrs
QSOs:  9
Grids: 8
Score: 72
States:  6  (KY, OH, IN, VA, MI, GA)
NOTES:  120w to 10 elements at 58′

Oh well, I had fun and these Sprints seem to fit my limited contesting time better than the big weekend contests. I do wish they’d push these Sprints back into late October/November. That way the rovers might get to take in some Fall scenery while out rovering and help justify the time and gas.

Still a big ? on my availability for the 222 MHz Sprint. I’ve contemplated going down to EM86NV (Black Mountain) if my schedule works out. Problem is with so little activity (even on 2m) out of the south anymore, it is tough for me to get motivated enough to make that 4 hour 1-way drive into the middle of nowhere ;-)

I “might” go out hilltop portable in EM78PQ on the 29th and try working the 222 sprint with a modest setup (25w, 4 el yagi) as kind of a transverter test. If I do that it’ll probably just be a short 7pm till 8:30-9pm deal.

So far my schedule is looking good for the 432 Sprint on October 7th so I’m planning to be on for that one.

Well here are the remaining Fall Sprints and dates:

220 MHz    7 pm to 11 pm local time on Tuesday September 29
432 MHz    7 pm to 11 pm local time on Wednesday October 7
902 MHz +  7 am to 2 pm local time on Saturday October 10

More details and full rules can be found here.

WA4ZKO 2014 2m Fall Sprint Wrap-Up

Posted in Contesting, VHF-UHF with tags , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2014 by WA4ZKO

The Quick Summary:

4 QSOs for roughly 1/2 hour total operating time.

BAND    2m
QSOs     4
GRIDS    3

BEST DX:  Not sure where N8XA was, but guessing K8TQK at 81 miles (EM89JE)

SCORE:  A whopping barn burner score of 12, grin.

Hey, I’m not complaining considering how thin the local activity levels have become, a flat band, and only running QRP to a halo antenna.

The Longer Version:

Well I was a few minutes late getting started, could only operate for short periods of time since I was at work, and only running 4-5w to a halo antenna at 20 feet. Thus I didn’t go into this sprint expecting much, especially after how low the local activity levels were during the Sept VHF Contest.

The 2m SSB noise floor was surprisingly quiet considering I was operating just a few feet from a small server farm. I had the little Yeasu FT-817ND rig on a 12v 12 Ahr LiFePO4 battery that can run the rig on high power for several hours. I used this battery pack during Field Day for HF Robust Packet APRS with excellent runtime. I just setup on top of some nearby file boxes and logged contacts the old fashioned way (pen and paper) for later entry. A shot of this impromptu portable setup is below:


I forgot to pack a coil of RG-8 with me, so I had to use a pretty lossy run of RG-8X. I could work everyone I heard with one exception. I heard N8QAZ near Columbus Ohio well, but could never get his attention. He was CQ’ing way too fast without much of a receive gap in between CQs so I only tried him a few times before moving on. Gotta slow it down if you want to hear the weak ones.

First QSO of the evening was Dennis N9TZL in EM78qx and easy at 23 miles. Last QSO was N8XA who was also portable somewhere in EM89.

Well I got on the air and made a few Qs, worked some grids and 3 states with just QRP. Better than not being active at all. The FT-817 has opened up some portable operating options and fun. I should of bought one years ago.

Well it’s officially Fall this evening and that wraps up the 2014 Summer VHF contest season. From here it’s the 222 Fall Sprint on September 30th. I will not be active for that one. Considering the low activity levels on more popular bands, very hard to shell out the cash for a 222 transverter right now.

Next possible contest for me will be the 432 Fall Sprint on October 8th.

Then it’s the 902 MHz and up Sprint on October 18th. While I have given thought to a 1296 transverter (just like with 222), around here 900 MHz is a lost cause due to all the Part 15 wireless internet systems all over the county. At least around here, we (hams) have essentially lost the 33cm band to WISP QRM from one end of the band to the other.

Oh well, hope to hear you on for the 432 Sprint.


WA4ZKO 2014 ARRL September VHF Contest Wrap-Up

Posted in Contesting, VHF-UHF with tags , , , , on September 21, 2014 by WA4ZKO

Well, as usual I hoped to be more active in this one than I was. I spent a good chunk of the weekend to/from or at the hospital. For those not in the loop, my Father has been facing some serious health challenges. He is doing somewhat better now, but far from out of the woods.

Even with everything else going on, I still managed to get on the air briefly at times over the weekend. It was a good to get a break away from everything else going on. I got in the shack for a few minutes late on Saturday afternoon then a bit longer in the evening after sunset. Then on Sunday it was just a few minutes around 1pm and that was it.


The Quick Summary:

16 QSOs for roughly 1 hour total operating time. Not too bad all things considered.

BAND    6m  2m  432
QSOs     2  10   4
GRIDS    2   9   4
STATES   2   7   3

BEST 6m DX:   W4IY FM08 at 397 miles
BEST 2m DX:   N3HBX FM19 at 402 miles
BEST 432 DX:  K8EP FM09 at 389 miles

SCORE:  Looks like about 300.

That said, since I don’t have the time to operate in a competitive manner anymore I don’t worry much about scores and log submissions. I find it much more enjoyable to just get on the air, give the grid out, put a few Qs in the logbook and call it a day. Plus if I don’t submit logs, then I can operate however I want without worrying about running afoul of some silly rule/rule change some worrywart wanted.

Longer Summary:

My first QSO of the contest was AK3Q down on the river in Bellevue, KY and the struggle he had with hearing me on 2m SSB at 33 miles had me worried that something was wrong on my end considering what I had aimed his way. I suspect he was using a vertical and down behind a lot of terrain. Either way, good to hear a new call on 2m SSB. I probably missed others, but he was the only KY station I heard on the air. Wow.

My worries were very short lived as I immediately worked W8SPM over in FM08 with ease. I think he said he was portable (and QRP ?) up on Spruce Knob, WV which is 279 miles out. The FM08 contact was followed by expected big signal levels from WB7PMP in EM88. Then a nice 402 mile 2m contact with N3HBX in Maryland a few miles north of Washington made it clear my 2 meter SSB gear was working just fine!

As expected, the cold front that came through just prior to the contest wiped out what was nearly daily nice inversion tropo in the area. The band was pretty flat to my west, but there seemed to be some enhancement off to my east. I could hear several of the guys to the east fussing that the band was in great shape over there, but not very many folks active. Here locally the usual hotbed of Cincy area activity was strangely silent for a major contest whenever I checked the bands.

It sounded like there might of been a rover or two up around the Chicago area, but as usual no joy in getting their attention. I thought I heard some activity in the noise floor to my south (probably the Atlanta area folks), but didn’t work anyone down that way.

Granted I need to be careful judging activity levels considering how sporadic my own operating was. I undoubtedly missed a few folks. Still, for a major contest the bands were pretty empty around here.

I gather 6m opened to the Colorado area on Sunday evening. Hopefully some were able to get in on that opening. I only worked a couple stations on 6 meters. 2 meters seemed to be where most of the action was when I was active.

Some nice comments and “thanks for the 2m beacon” were received. Good to know folks find the 144.276 EM78RP beacon handy for evaluating the band and antennas.

Since the 432 side of my FT-847 is acting flaky, I used the FT-817ND rig and a 100w brick for my 432 contacts. I really didn’t expect too much from the 817’s receiver on 432, but it pleasantly surprised me. It seems every bit as good as the 847’s UHF side…maybe a bit hotter? Combined with the 100w amp it proved it can get the job done.

Oh well, now on to the Fall Sprints.



WA4ZKO – June VHF Contest Wrapup

Posted in Contesting, Ham Radio, VHF-UHF with tags , on June 17, 2014 by WA4ZKO

Well this contest weekend was a good mix of radio fun and family. I really didn’t operate as much as intended, but still managed to get in about 2 to 3 hours total time in.

Total of 52 QSOs. The band breakdown:

6m    30     22      13
2m    22     12       7
432    7      6       6

With everything else going on, my operating was kind of sporadic at best. Basically come in, check the bands, work a few folks, then leave the radio radio room to spend time with family and work on some outside projects.

NOTE:  The following is just my observations from my sporadic operating time and I’m sure I missed a few openings.

Saturday afternoon was pretty much work the local/semi-locals and that was it. 6 meters just didn’t open up any till the evening so it was a mostly 2m/432 day. I gather there was some eskip in the northeast and west coast areas, but it just wasn’t getting into this area. Around 8pm 6m would open a bit to Texas. Around 11pm I would hear a 6 and 7-land station trying to come up out of the noise floor, but the band faded out about that time.

I did have some fun on 2m/432 Saturday night so it was far from a bust. I worked well into VA, PA and WI. I worked the W3SO folks over in FN00 (PA), the W4IY folks in FM08 (VA), NW IL, and several southern WI folks. Best 2m DX was probably N9DG in EN53 at 423 miles. Best 432 DX was W4IY in FM08 at 298 miles.

Sunday morning just before lunch I clearly came in on the end of a decent 6m opening to the west. 6m was open to TX, OK, KS, and CO with big signals, but I had to QRT for lunch and family. I returned around 1:30pm to find just the 0-land folks still in there and a Florida grid or two coming in. I checked the DX window and found a very lonely ZF35EJ (Cayman Islands) in there about S5 and worked him on first call. I would then work the only rover I heard all weekend, AL1VE /R out in DM99.

I never heard Dan K9ZF /R on this weekend. I would later see where he was sick Saturday.

Don’t know much about how the rest of Sunday went as I was occupied with family and outside projects for the rest of the afternoon/evening.

Score wise? Some have noticed that I have not submitted a log for any of this years contests. I’m not planning on entering this one either. I’ll let others collect KY band certificates, my file cabinet is getting full of them, grin. Even if I was retired and had all kinds of time to devote to aggressive contesting, I doubt one could win the whole thing from this area with the low local/semi-local activity levels we have now.

Are you getting out of VHF/UHF Contesting Jeff?

Nope. There are several things at play here. I just really don’t care to compete or enter these things anymore. It’s mostly that I simply don’t have the time to devote to contesting like I used to and the rule/paperwork headaches just aren’t worth fooling with anymore.

I can now operate as I wish without worry of running afoul of some rule on this or that. As several others have commented, the “rule/contest worrywarts” tried to fix things that worked fine for decades and managed to do far more harm than good. Now they set around wondering why so many of the reliably active “old hats” are either getting out of contesting or (like myself) just don’t bother with turning in logs.

Maybe it’s the “grumpy old man” kicking in, but hobby stuff should be fun. I can get all the paperwork, short reporting deadlines, and rule compliance headaches I need by simply going to the day job.


WA4ZKO – Sept VHF Wrap-Up

Posted in Contesting, VHF-UHF with tags , on September 21, 2013 by WA4ZKO

Well as somewhat expected for this time of the year, 6 meters never opened up so it was a mostly 2m & up show. I wasn’t very active during Saturday afternoon other than briefly checking the bands from time to time. Was more active on Saturday evening.

Just before dinner I stumbled across N8JQR/R (K8TQK at the mic) working their way into EM88. After that they headed to the corner of EM78, EM79, and EM89 and I worked them with ease in all four grids on 2m and 432. They didn’t have 6m gear with them, but still some nice grids/bands to add to the logs.

Around 9pm I would come in and work a couple hours of the contest. Things seemed really slow here locally. I would add WZ8D, W4NH, N8ZM, AA4ZZ, K8EP, and K5QE to the logs before calling it a night. Would end the night by working K5QE on meteor scatter (FSK441) with some pretty good burns observed.

I would wind up with the following:

TOTAL QSOs:      20
TOTAL 6m QSOs:   6
TOTAL 6m Grids:  6
TOTAL 2m QSOs:   8
TOTAL 2m Grids:  8
TOTAL 432 QSOs:  6
TOTAL 432 Grids: 6

Interesting when your 432 QSO & grid count matches your 6 meter totals.

All in all a pretty good run for the limited amount of time I had, band conditions, and lack of local/semi-local activity. Thankful for the N8JQR rover being out there. I gather propagation on the higher bands was pretty good Sunday morning (figures, grin).

Heard K4TO on from Winchester, never worked him though. Talked to KI4WEF on the 440 repeater as we tinkered with meteor scatter, but we never really made a valid contest QSO ;-) Oh well, anymore I just enjoy getting on the air for a few hours and handing out EM78. IMHO, far more fun when you don’t go taking contesting too seriously. Just get on the air, make some Qs, and have fun doing it.

REMINDER:  Monday evening is the Fall 144 MHz Sprint. Not sure if I will be around for this one or not. Tropo forecast looks interesting.

September 23, 2013:
144 MHz Fall Sprint