Depressed that all you hear is noise on 9M2AX's 80 meter frequency because you don't have the 500 square miles needed for proper beverages? Don't give up hope. I've found many times that using an antenna tuned for another band can often improve your receiver's signal-to-noise ratio so that you can actually copy guys not otherwise possible. Try using your 40 meter antenna as a listening tool on 80. Different combinations may work for other bands, too!
Have you checked the direction of your antennas and compared them to what your rotator is telling you lately? During the last CQ WW contest, I spent most of the first day using a 3-el 40 meter beam that was 40 degrees off its proper alignment. A short walk out back can add dBs to your signal by deploying a little attention to detail. Forgetting the obvious will almost always lower your score!
Here's an often overlooked "transaction" in building contest scores; share your contest operating plans with your significant other! While it may be risky to cross that chasm, the likelihood of arranging that "trip to Mom" may increase substantially, leaving you unencumbered to focus on your score, not making amends. After 20+ years of contesting (and nearly as many wedding anniversaries), I've learned that I'm still the only one in my family who knows what's really happening during the last full weekend of October.
Are you struggling with a question about contesting and just don't know where to turn? Most of the contest world's leading contesters (at least the ones that I know) are more than willing to share their knowledge. Don't be shy. Apply some elbow grease to your word processor and send a few letters to some of the guys you admire. I guarantee that not only will you be surprised with the rate of responses, but you may even discover a few answers to your questions BEFORE next year's contest season starts!
Whether you've experienced the loss of a contest log in the mail or not, this tip is for you. Unless you've joined the Internet computer revolution for log submissions, it still pays to include a postpaid post card with your paper entry. At the very least, it will serve as verification that your log was received. It also may afford you the opportunity to resubmit your "lost" log before it's too late. Nothing can improve a contest score more than ensuring it's received by the contest sponsor!
Preventative maintenance is not in the vocabulary of most hams, but it is a critical success factor to contesters. Our sport doesn't allow the clock to stand waiting during a contest while we solder a gamma match connection that really needed attention during the summer. Don't waste an opportunity to solve problems before they happen. With summer temperatures at their peak, take the initiative to put that climbing belt on and ensure your scores are maximized this fall!
Having recently moved (finally!), I've been thinking about the luxury I'll have to finally set-up that new ham station the right way. While most of you may not be moving, we're always working on new antenna/equipment projects. You don't have do be involved in major station renovations to take on that next project with perfection in mind. Attention to detail (and a little luck) is what separates winners from losers in contesting. Bear that fact in mind the next time you want to skip soldering the coax connection on a dipole or improperly weatherproof your next gamma match.
This month I offer more of a safety tip than operating advice for contesters, but take a minute to read on. Contest season creates situations that make contesters do crazy things. I've spent more time on icy towers or climbing in treacherous winds than I'd care to recall. Do yourself a favor and remember that a key to doing well at contesting is to stay safe and alive. Be enthusiast, but also be smart this contest season. We'd like to work you next year, too!
Do you suffer from a perpetual lack of organization? If so, you're like most of us. A tip learned from one of my contesting mentors, Jim Lawson, W2PV, is to document your station. Do you know what size wrenches you need when you go up the tower next time? What are the resistance readings of your rotator between pins? How is that 4 over 4 relay box constructed? The list goes on, yet a little attention to administrivia will go a long way to make you a better contester (tnx W1WEF and YCCC Scuttlebutt).
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