Making the Contacts

Inevitably each year the debate over just what is Field Day erupts in club meetings, on the air, and in Internet forums.  One side calls it a contest while the other classifies it more as a casual operating event.  I can argue this both ways, but regardless of which side you’re on one of the objectives of Field Day is simply to make contacts.  If you consider Field Day a contest, more contacts means a higher score.  If you’re in it as just a casual operating event, making more contacts is naturally more fun than making less.  Here are some tips for making more QSOs, not only during Field Day, but really any operating event or contest:

The other station knows his callsign.  The only time you should say or send the other station’s call is when you are calling CQ and giving the other station his report.  A possible exception to this is if you’re replying to a CQ and there are multiple stations on the frequency calling CQ.  Otherwise, sending the other station’s call is unnecessary and it just wastes time.  It often messes up CW operators calling CQ because they’ll start typing the first callsign they hear.  Once they realize it’s their own call coming back, they have to backspace and type in your call.

Adjust your syntax based on the number of stations you have piled up.  If things are slow going, you can be more generous with the verbiage.  If you know you have a pileup going, be more sparse so you can turn around the QSOs more quickly.

Hold your ground on a frequency.  If you have had the frequency for a long time and a LID pops up on your frequency or nearby causing interference, just hold your ground and it’s likely that they will go away shortly.  Often I’ll make longer CQ calls or do a string of QRLs or say “the frequency is in use” and they’ll get the message.  When operating QRP this strategy may not work so well and QSYing may be your best bet.

Switch between CQing and search-and-pounce.   Often people will pick one over the other.  I tend to favor CQing as much as possible and then switch to search-and-pounce periodically to scan the band and harvest QSOs from those calling CQ who haven’t worked me yet.  Keep an eye on your QSO rate while you’re CQing and watch for declines; this is your cue to go into search-and-pounce mode.

Use phonetics when it makes sense and use standard ones when you do.  Much has been said about the use and abuse of phonetics, but there’s a reason there are standard phonetics.  They have the most clarity and are less apt to be confused with other letters over the air.  Cutesy phonetics can be problematic and actually aggravate the problem phonetics is supposed to help.

Make good use of air time.  If you didn’t get a station’s full callsign, you don’t need to give them a 30 second monologue on how you didn’t get their callsign, what letters you exactly heard, and the five combinations of letters you think their call might be.  Just say ‘again?’ and they’ll repeat their call.  The same goes when you have a messy pileup.  Just say ‘again?’  or if you were able to pick out one letter of a callsign, say that letter so you can thin out the pack and get a full callsign.

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