Josef “Jeff” Sipek

BCRA Fox Hunts (2021)

This post is about two of the Wikipedia article: fox hunts organized by the Bristol County Repeater Association in 2021. (Information about the last/next fox hunting event.)

July 31st, 2021

This was my first fox hunt of any kind. To improve the chances of success I teamed up with KM1NDY and AA1F. They participated in at least one BCRA fox hunt before, so they knew what to expect. (You can read KM1NDY’s thoughts about the hunt on her blog.)

The “parameters” of the hunt were simple: find the transmitter transmitting every 5 minutes from somewhere within 5 miles of exit 13 on MA 24.

Everyone likes to talk about gear, but at least in my opinion it is much more important to have a good strategy than to invest in specialized gear. That idea, combined with not knowing whether I’d like fox hunting or not, meant that I was going to use what I already owned. That meant WA5VJB’s cheap yagi and an Alinco DJ-G7 handheld. As far as non-radio gear is concerned, I brought my iPad to use for an annotated map.

I already talked about the antenna in my ARRL June VHF contest writeup, so I won’t repeat myself here. I got the Alinco handheld because I wanted a handheld with a third band. That narrowed my options down a lot. Since I heard good things about the Alinco and having a 1.2 GHz capability seemed cool, I went with it, even though the Boston area doesn’t have any sort of 1.2 GHz activity.

We decided to meet up at Wikipedia article: Massasoit State Park. That made it easy for me to do a POTA/WWFF activation after the hunt.

My co-conspirators were running a bit late, so I got to make the first “measurement” from the park parking lot alone. You can see it on the map labeled as #1:

As you can see, I went relatively low-tech on the map annotation. I just took a screenshot of a reasonably zoomed map and hand-drew the 5 mile circle. Then, during the hunt itself, I just eyeballed the direction of each measurement and noted it down.

When KM1NDY and AA1F arrived at the park, I shared with them my measurement. After a brief discussion about where to go next, I hopped into their car and we headed west to get back to the highway.

I won’t bore you with turn by turn retelling of the whole trip. I will, however, mention a few observations. In no particular order:

  1. Even the eyeballed arrows on the map are more than sufficient to get an idea where the transmitter is.
  2. The built-in attenuation in the Alinco handheld is super convenient, and pretty much all that I needed.
  3. Knowing the fox can help a ton—E.g., Skip (KB1CNB), acting as the fox, is known to like coffee shop parking lots, so looking there first is wise.

October 23rd, 2021

Between this and the previous BCRA fox hunt, I got a chance to do some on-foot fox hunting thanks to K1MJC who hid a fox several times in nearby Wikipedia article: Waltham. This time, I decided to try the hunt by myself (well, with Holly) and left KM1NDY and AA1F to fend for themselves—or “once our partner and now our competitor” as KM1NDY put it in her writeup.

This was a bigger hunt. The radius was 10 miles centered on the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Fall River and there were two transmitters!

Given the size, I decided to make a better blank map. I stitched together a couple of screenshots and then drew 5 mile and 10 mile circles. This turned out to be mostly useless since both foxes were within the 5 mile circle and we hadn’t even picked them up before entering the inner circle. Just look at the annotated map:

I didn’t even bother to try to capture all the information on this map because of how close everything was. When I got home, I ended up redrawing the map to show all the detail based on the above map, notes I made on the side, and what I remembered.

As you can see, we started off getting measurements for both foxes, but soon afterwards thought that we were relatively close to the blue fox. After driving between the two banks of the river far too many times, we gave up on the blue fox and tried our luck with the red fox.

Hunting the red fox was pretty straightforward, and before long we found Skip (KB1CNB) in his car playing the role of the fox. Skip told us that the other fox (blue on our map) was on the other side of the river. This sort of helped. So, we headed across the river.

Looking at the map now, it is clear which measurements were real and which were erroneous, but it is much harder to sort it all out when you are driving around not knowing where the fox is. :) We got really close at stop #20 where we got two equally promising directions. Sadly, we followed what turned out to be the reflection instead of the real one because we assumed that the blue fox was, much like Skip’s, a car in a parking lot. It wasn’t. The fox was on a step ladder in someone’s yard. We were clued in to this when someone mentioned it on the BCRA repeater.

I should know better, but I’ll promise anyway to write about my fox hunting strategy at some point in the future.

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