When does one QSY from a run frequency? This is one of the hardest operating strategies to learn in contesting. I tend to not overreact by moving too quickly. Think of it like the stock market--how many stocks have you sold at $20 per share in panic that eventually closed at $45 just 3 short months later? An extra 5-10 minutes of patience on a run frequency will often pay off in the long run.
With sunspots near a minimum, bands like 160 meters are even more important to maximized contest scores. With my relatively small 3/4 acre New York lot, I had pretty much dismissed any serious operation on that band. However, a 70' oak tree and 130 feet of wire can support an Inverted L that has worked VP8SGP, T32J, and many others. Check out the Inverted L antenna . . . it's an easy passport to 160M and higher contest scores.
Nothing looks better on the Saturday evening of a DX contest than a good night's sleep. Here's a few ideas to make sure you don't sleep too well. Try using two alarm clocks set 5 minutes apart to ensure that you actually wake up when you want to. If you have a guest room, use that "less comfortable" bed instead of your own. Finally, learn how to set your alarm clock(s) before the contest. There's nothing worse than trying to learn how to set an alarm clock (is it AM or PM?) on 2 hours sleep!
It may seem obvious, but labeling antennas and amplifier settings is a must for contest stations. In the excitement of Friday afternoon it may be more tempting to work guys than taking that final step towards efficiency. Paying attention to the details of preparation in the long run is what separates successful contest efforts from mediocre ones.
We say it every year. It's late May and there's over five months before the CQ WW SSB Contest. The next thing you know, it's October 15th and your 3-el 40 Meter beam is still resting on saw horses. Be up to the challenge. Make this the summer that you get an early start on your outside antenna projects!
In keeping with this month's theme of CQing, try varying your CQing style. Remember the most important information another station needs is your callsign, not the letters "CQ." You may want to "call CQ" occasionally by just signing your call sign 2 or 3 times, especially on CW. Calling CQ with less information apart from your call is always better than more!
OK, so you've been hearing about all this talk of second radios and you're gazing at your old beat up TS830 saying "but this doesn't apply to me." Although not nearly as efficient as a second radio, is the use of your second VFO on a single radio. Try calling CQ on one VFO and during periods of 5-10 second breaks tune with the other VFO. It may feel awkward at first, but it will allow you to call CQ more often and maybe put another 5-10 QSOs in your log per hour at peak times.
I don't know about you, but identifying the former USSR republics by prefix has become a formidable challenge for me. While most of the common logging programs provide the answers to "real-time" operating questions like this, there's nothing that can replace having it in your head. Studying current DXCC country charts and other sources to truly understand this week's version of our planet's prefix structure gives you one less thing to worry about when you're operating.
Contest rules are always changing. Although we make our best effort to report them accurately, even we get them wrong sometimes. Although you may think you know the rules of a contest that you've operated for years, the fact is that rules change all the time. Make the effort to "re-read" the rules for any contest you plan to participate in and you may be surprised how a little knowledge can improve your score!
Log checkers will usually tell you that incorrectly copied call signs is the most common mistake in contest logs. When CQing and running other stations, always repeat the call sign of the other station you are working. Even though you may be absolutely certain that you copied the call sign correctly, a repeat of the call will allow the other station to correct any possible mistakes. It's worth the time!
Even though winter's fast approaching and the possibility of tower projects are fading, it's never too late to consider a wire antenna project. You'd be amazed how quickly you can get a signal on 160 meters for the upcoming 160 contests with a simple inverted "L" hung from a tree and 4 or 5 radials. Take a look through some of the antenna books and check it out. All you need is a good pair of gloves and you're well on your way!
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