DX'ing 101

Notations and Frustrations from the DX side of things

Ah, a pileup! Here are some tips on how to get the DX in the log and confirmed on the wall, and not be a Lid in the process. This leans towards CW operations but I am sure Fone operators can see the same things to do or avoid on that mode.
If you can remember the first 3 tips you pretty much have everything you need.


#2. Be considerate.


#4. Follow instructions. If the DX station says he is listening up then make sure you have your rig set for split operation and transmit in the portion of the band he is listening. DX will give their call sign often so …listen.




#6. Sending a question mark on any pile up a Morse code shorthand for “Hi, the LID has arrived” (See Tips 1 through 3 again.)



#8. NEVER TUNE ON THE DX FREQUENCY OR HIS QSX FREQUENCY (if operating splits). Buy a dummy load or move several KC’s away and tune. Don’t be a lid! Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it right. As your parents used to say, "If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?" Set an example.




#10. Check your frequency and ONLY operate within the privileges of your license. There are some really poor and illegal operating practices out there. Don't get caught up in them. If the DX station is operating in a portion you are not authorized to be....DON'T GO THERE!
** Wow …ten tips and you haven’t even called the DX station yet. If you review these first ten you’ll see they are what you should be doing every time you operate, even for local contacts.


#11. Don't be a DX cop, it only causes more QRM.


#12. If the DX is working simplex on 14.029, then make sure you are zerobeat on the DX station. While you may like operating with no filters, DX stations often will use filters to weed out the QRM, so it is important to be on the right frequency. If you don’t zerobeat then you could be off frequency and out of the passband of the DX station and all your calling is just QRM to everyone. Very often I have stations calling me .6 to a full KC too low and they wonder why they cannot work DX. I personally run my “wide filter” at 600 Hz. Listening to 1.2 kHz for hours leads to listener fatigue.

#13. Only at the appropriate time, send your call, JUST YOUR CALL, ONCE, and LISTEN.
The DX knows who they are already and who else would you be calling in the middle of a pileup?


#14. Send your call so that it can be copied! Just because you can send your call without spaces, because you know what it is, doesn’t mean the DX is going to copy all the dits and dahs and then try to decode it into a call sign. A good clean fist with proper spacing is a beautiful thing at 7 WPM or 48 WPM.
If you are learning to use a Bug… that’s great, but this is not the place to practice!
If you are using a straight key, take your time and form the letters.
There is some guy who’s tried to work me for years at 35 WPM on a straight key and his callsign is dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dit dahhhhh. To this day I have never gotten him to take the sock off his foot.


#15. If the DX sends “DL6 ? KN” it means he heard a station with a DL6 call and ONLY wants them to answer. That’s what KN means! Since your call is a W1 you should remain silent and wait. The faster he works the DL6 station the sooner he will listen for new calls …possibly your’s Do you want everyone else QRMing your chance to get in the log?

If the DX station sends “W1A W1A W1A ?” and that is your call, he’s telling you he can barely copy you and to repeat your call several times. This is the ONLY time you should send your call more than once. Sending it one time will likely be met with another W1A W1A W1A ?

Never give an RST until the DX has your complete call. Just because YOU copied them, and YOU sent an RST (which the DX likely couldn’t copy either), does not mean you made a QSO.


#16. NEVER ASK DX TO QSY to another band if he is working a pileup. Obviously the band is open and active, which is why they are working that band. This is very inconsiderate of the stations waiting for their contact! Are you that rare that the DX station NEEDS YOU for DXCC on all bands? I doubt it. I get asked to QSY to 80 or 160 all the time, and it’s the middle of the afternoon where I am!

#17. If you feel that sending your call over and over and over will somehow force the DX station to answer you – think again.
You are now simply LID QRM and will be ignored and the DX station owes you nothing. Once you attempt to bully the pile up the DX station can take an operator break hoping you’ll go annoy someone else, QSY to another band or decide now is a great time to QRT and get a bite to eat. Any of these options, coupled with your “beacon” of you callsign, will tell everyone who annoyed the DX off the air. Trust me - DX stations do remember callsigns, so if you show up again in a pile up they know it’s a good time to take a break again.

#18. If the DX station asks for certain zones or areas then don't respond unless you are there. If they ask for EU don't answer if you are in the US. If the DX station comes back to a portion of a call, ie. "0K1Z ? KN", and you are not a 0K1Z, don't answer. It sounds easy, doesn't it? You'd be amazed....

#19. NEVER RELAY A CALLSIGN. That’s not a real QSO, it doesn’t count. Also, if the DX is sorting through calls he has a station with a certain pitch and signal strength he’s listening for and you sending the missing part of that stations callsign, 200Hz off and 10 dB louder is only confusing and QRM.


#20. The Long Path trap. Several years ago one eastern US station saw me spotted by a western US station who included the note “LP” for Long Path on the cluster spot. The eastern station then worked out the reciprocal beam heading from his location and called.

He kept calling me with a loud signal and I kept answering him, but he never acknowledged I answered him. After a while I started to ignore him but he wasn’t going away so I would answer only to have him call me again, whenever other stations started calling me.

I looked him up on QRZ to get his name, then did an internet search for his telephone number ...and called him. His wife answered the phone and when I asked for him she said he was busy, he was doing his ham radio hobby. I told her this was an overseas call and I am the station who he is attempting to contact.

He told me he was calling me via Long Path as the internet site indicated, but could not hear me. If you know anything about directional antennas you know that the front to back ratio works in RX too. By turning the beam away from me he could not hear me… but kept calling anyway when everyone else did. I guess he thought that when I answered him I would magically appear in his receiver? (True Story!)

#21. More listening … it always pays off. If you didn’t hear the DX callsign, relax, he’ll give it again. Don't be a LID and QRM with a question mark. Listen to who the DX is working and what frequency they are on. Listen to the flow the DX has to control his pileup and you will know when to call.

#22. Wow, you worked the DX on the dipole and are sure it’s a CFM’ed contact.

You want to try your vertical and / or make an “Insurance QSO”. Not a good idea! There are many stations calling that DIDN’T work the DX yet and you just did. Count your blessings and wait for another day.

If you do make the poor choice to call anyway, and the DX does hear you, you’re likely to hear “W1xxx B4 B4 QRZ?” Do not expect a signal report, besides most get the pileup RST of 5NN. He heard you, yes, but you just took away a slot from someone else and were little more than QRM. If this gives you a feeling of pride inside, IT SHOULD NOT. "B4" contacts are not logged.

#23. Fresh Meat! If you have already worked the DX several times on several bands (and have them all confirmed), give someone else a chance. I have one station in my logs more than 94 times on 20 meters! (update Nov 2014 - now 99 times)

#24. Pile ups are impersonal, deal with it. If the DX is working stations as fast as he can, confirming their call and sending 5NN TU … then you should do the same. The last thing the DX, or the stations waiting, want to hear is;

These are modern times, there is this thing called the internet and you can find the DX station on QRZ. Many computer logging programs can be tied to a callbook so they know your name and QTH before you send it.


#25. Helping others. Why some stations feel the need to tell others in the pile up when to send is beyond me. It just adds more QRM. These LIDS are the same ones who will try to relay for the DX. DX’ing is NOT a NET! If you QRM the guy the DX is trying to work, do you think anyone wins? Never ask "PSE LSN FOR K5xxx". It's first heard, first worked.

#26. Here’s where the DITTYDUMBDUMBDITTY (a.k.a. “?”) shows up again. The pile up is going hot and heavy and the LIDS and Cluster Crabs are coming out of the woodwork now. The DX is working stations with lightning speed and sends his ID every few contacts. DX finishes a contact and sends QRZ?. Rather than send their call, the Pileup LID wants to know who’s pile up this is before they grace them with their call sign so they send the sign of a LID … DITTYDUMBDUMBDITTY.

Ok, maybe they didn’t quite understand so DX asks again, QRZ? and they again answer with DITTYDUMBDUMBDITTY.

At the same time they professed their lack of skills DX got the call of a couple other stations who gave their calls and works them in rapid fire. Pileup LID didn’t catch what just happened so he again QRM’s the pile up with the DITTYDUMBDUMBDITTY. Again the DX station works several other stations and the Pileup LID still doesn’t catch on. *sigh* Remember, listening goes a long way!

#27. Don't get addicted to the cluster. Your radio has a dial on it, use it. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same is true for a pileup. The DX station calls CQ and someone tunes across them and LISTENS. Listening tells them this is a cool DX station to work, calling in the clear! It will only be a matter of minutes before someone spots the DX on a cluster which awakens the multitude of Cluster Crabs who come to feed. It's amazing to work two stations, the first spotted you on the net, and then the pile up begins.


#28. Making an insurance contact may seem logical to you, but if you listened the last time you worked them and heard the exchange, there is no reason to do this. It’s just more QRM and slows down the pile up. Besides, odds are you’ll only get “B4 B4” and the DX station will ignore you and move on to new contacts. If you feel the need for a second contact, do it tomorrow! (see #22)

#29. Research the proper QSL routes. A quick check of the internet, either QRZ.com or DX Summit, will tell you what the route is.

#30. Antennas (and skill) are more important than power. The old saying is “the antenna is ten times more important than the radio to which it is connected.” A good antenna will not only let you be heard over the crowd, you may hear signals others can't hear. An amplifier may get your signal out, but it won't help you receive any better.


#31. Know when to give up. You’ve got a poor antenna or conditions are not favoring your QTH but can hear the DX.

You have been calling and calling for the last 45 minutes non-stop and there is no indication the DX has heard any part of your callsign...

Throw in the towel, stop QRM’ing everyone else who’s trying to hear, switch off your rig and get out the antenna book and start working on a better sky hook or wait a while for the conditions to change. Propagation is NOT always a two-way street.

#32. Know the propagation. Much of this comes from experience. This is where your skills can put you above the others. Knowing when the path between you and the DX is most favorable is the key.

#33. The easy art of QSL’ing. DX stations work a lot more stations in a day than most non-DX stations do in a year. They may have screwed up your call, or when they punched it into the computer suffered from dyslexia or their paper logs show the stress of little sleep and too many QSO’s. Everything you put on your QSO card is valuable for them to find you in their logs. Remember to use UTC. Check the date. Remember that at 0001z it is a new day regardless of where you live. Anything you can do to make the DX station or QSL manager’s life easier is appreciated. If the date and time are correct that can save you from getting your own card returned to you as they can see exactly when the contact was made and see if they butchered your call in their logs. If the card doesn’t match the logs – its rejected. If you claim you worked them at 1900 (Eastern time) of May 5th on 7 MHz they will look in their logs May 5 GMT at 1900 GMT and see that they were on 14 MHz… and your card is rejected.

You have no idea what it is like to pick up your letter mail in a cardboard box do you?

Include a S.A.E. and the requested payment for postage. Including the S.A.E. is REQUIRED! No DX station wants to hunt up an envelope and then address it by hand. You spent several minutes sending your card out, do you spend 4 hours a week returning QSL requests? The easier you make it, the sooner you'll get your card. I have had cards sit for weeks because I was too busy to remember to buy envelopes at the store.

Not every country accepts IRC’s. Use only the newest IRC’s and be sure the post office stamps them in the lower left or the post office just sold you scrap paper.

In closing I offer these words of advise...
Remember, you were born with one mouth and two ears and should use them in the same ratio!