For the second time in the 90's, a crowd of eager hams tromped and ran through Angel's Gate Park in San Pedro (CA) looking for hidden radio transmitters. Hamcon/Foxhunt-99 was in the same place as the 1995 Hamcon hunt, but this time there was much more to look for.
Instead of standard IARU rules (five MCW transmitters in a one-minute-each rotating sequence on the same frequency), this event had a variety of unique transmitters on many frequencies. It was similar to an event called the "ARDF Technical Session" in Asia. Hams in the USA are calling it "Radio-Orienteering in a Compact Area" (ROCA). Several ROCAs had been held in the San Francisco Bay Area during the preceeding 12 months. (See Homing In for February 1999.) The official transmitter hunt of the 1999 Dayton Hamvention® was similar to this hunt. (See Homing In for September 1999.)
My goal was to have 21 radio foxes (a ROCA record?) on the air by the 1:30 PM start time on October 3. One transmitter was dead-on-arrival and a couple of them quit early, but the 18 others were plenty enough challenge for 21 hunters from all over southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties. Eleven hunted as individuals, while the rest chose to be in the two-person Team Division. Each received a map of the area and a competitor ticket listing the 21 transmitters, with frequencies and brief descriptions of their sounds.
Six of the foxes were "micro-T's" on or within 10 KHz of the southern California coordinated T-hunt frequency (146.565 MHz). Competitors didn't know it, but they were also physically close, within about a 900-foot diameter circle around the start/finish area at the Fort MacArthur Military Museum in the center of the park. Since half of these six transmitted continuously and the rest intermittently, the QRM should have made them the hardest to identify and track down. Nevertheless, most hunters spent much of the 90-minute hunt period on these six foxes. All but three hunters found at least one of them.
The rest of the transmitters were on separate frequencies throughout the two-meter band. That should have made radio direction finding (RDF) easier, but there was still plenty of legwork to do. These foxboxes were widely scattered throughout the 130-acre park, including the southwest, southeast and northeast corner areas. The football-field-sized pit with concrete bunkers in the northwest, site of a good deal of RDF action in 1995, was off limits this time. A production company is making movies there. Nevertheless, there are dozens of other old buildings, bunkers, and fortifications in the park, so there was no shortage of hiding spots.
Every fox had an attached tag with a unique 3-digit number. To get credit for finding a fox, that number had to be written onto the competitor ticket on the line for the correct transmitter. Just to make it more interesting, there were some decoy (non-transmitting) devices and tags out there. The toy G.I. Joe radio/phone with flashing LED got lots of attention. One competitor decided that it was transmitting on 146.565 MHz. But as the others figured out, it was only active on the lightwave band. Many folks carefully examined the decoy ammunition can next to the big artillery gun, but in the end, it didn't fool anyone.
Three hunters correctly identified the camouflaged rucksack micro-T, worn by one of the Army-uniformed museum volunteers as he walked around. On the other hand, nobody figured out that the signal on 145.785 was coming from the back seat of an old army Jeep that the museum staffers were driving around and parking in several places.
Nobody got the right number for the transmitter in my van. There were tags on all ten of the van's antennas, so the choice wasn't easy for those without good "sniffing" gear. The "Ringing Phone" micro-T atop Battery Osgood-Farley was the one found by the most competitors (11). Two of the transmitters were underground, one in a cistern and the other buried under ice plant on a slope. Each of them was found by only one hunter.
By the way, there were four versions of the competitor tickets, each with the fox descriptions/frequencies listed in different order. This was to make it more likely that everyone would spread out and not arrive at the same foxes simultaneously.
The budget for Hamcon (the annual ARRL Southwestern Division Convention) was tight, so big cash prizes were not available. Fortunately, there were lots of merchandise donations for the prize raffle. First place in each division received a small cash prize. In addition, every individual and team received one raffle ticket for each correct code number on their scorecards.
The main goal for Hamcon/Foxhunt-99 was to challenge the experts while encouraging the beginners. Everyone who stayed for the entire hunt found at least one of the 18 foxes. Nobody was shut out. I think that everyone went home with at least one prize from the raffle table.
THE SCORES (number of foxes correctly identified):
JUNIOR DIVISION (Ages 18 and under): Justin Waite WB6WFI 4 Jay Thompson W6JAY 2 PRIME DIVISION (Ages 19 through 49): Glenn Allen KE6HPZ 7 Scott Barth KA6UDZ 7 John Oppen KJ6HZ 3 MASTERS DIVISION (Ages 50 and up): Deryl Crawford N6AIN 4 John Panner KD6CQR 4 Gary Holoubek WB6GCT 4 Richard Thompson WA6NOL 1 David Corsiglia WA6TWF 1 Greg Shreve KE6YEG 1 TEAM DIVISION (Two-persons, any age): Marvin Johnston KE6HTS, Dennis Schwendtner WB6OBB 8 Chuck Carlson KD6RSQ, David Shaw KE6UPI 5 Karen Gerharter KF6FHD, Phil Goodman KC6SEP 3 Ed Hershey WB6GSO, Mike Morris WA6ILQ 3 Joe Stodgel KJ6S, Yvonne Prelutsky KF6PJM 1 (In cases where more than one competitor or team found the same number of foxes, standings were determined by time of arrival at the finish line.)
Kudos: Lots of hams worked hard to make Hamcon/Foxhunt-99 happen. Although each person is listed only once, some helped in multiple ways. A big "Thank You" to everyone.
Joe Moell KØOV
Hamcon-99 Foxhunt Chair
Go to International-Style Foxhunting Comes To The Americas -- How we're getting the ball rolling
Go to Equipment Ideas for Radio-Orienteering -- Simple and inexpensive receiving and transmitting solutions
Go to Latest Championship Foxhunting News -- Stories of recent national/international ARDF events and announcements of upcoming ones
Go to Foxhunting for Scouts -- Let's get the kids involved
Go to Extenders Aid Handicapped Foxhunters -- A novel way to include persons with disabilities
Back to the Homing In home page
This page updated 17 February 2003