JCAR’s First Annual Fox Hunt!

We’ll be hosting our first of what we hope will be many radio direction finding competitions, otherwise known as a fox hunt, on May 11th, 2024. We’ll meet near the boat ramp at Stevenson City Park, in Stevenson, Alabama. https://maps.app.goo.gl/pjR5dafzK6ZrspvTA

We will start our regular monthly meeting at 10AM, keeping it as short as possible. We’ll then brief the fox hunt participants on the rules of the event, do some equipment checks, and get started.

This event is open to the public! You don’t have to be an amateur radio operator to participate. We encourage you to bring your own radio, antenna, and any other equipment you have, but we have a few radios, antennas, and attenuators available to borrow.

Email club President Josh Brooks at W3JKB@JCAR.US with questions.

Digital Modes Are Coming!

Ask ten amateur radio operators about digital modes, and you’ll get 11 different answers. Digital evokes some strong opinions from hams, good and bad. That’s okay! Hams are a diverse bunch, and we don’t have to like all the same things.

JCAR is soon going to send a digital data transmission as part of its weekly ARES Training Net. In an actual emergency, we will still have to pass data back and forth, and digital modes have significant advantages over phone modes for data transfer.

We’ll be using a mode called MT63-2000L, which works well on noisy repeaters and doesn’t require any special equipment to decode and send. If you’re interested in setting up a computer to decode our digital transmissions, see our guide here: https://jcar.us/digital-mode-decode-setup/.

Winter Field Day 2024 Wrapped

WHEW did we have a blast at Winter Field Day 2024! We did the thing, and we did it pretty well.

The short version of the story is we got a great location, had enough people and equipment to keep transmitting for 24 hours straight, we had enough food to keep us (and some of the local wildlife) fed, and we had enough coffee to put hair back on my head. We learned a lot and even made a new ham! You can’t ask for much more than that.

The long version: This is only my second Winter Field Day, and my first with Jackson County, but everything I’ve seen and heard indicates it was a great success. A few of us had been going to Stevenson City Park since the land it’s on is now a Parks On The Air entity (K-9880, Crow Creek Nature Refuge) and we quickly realized it would be an excellent Winter Field Day location. I reached out to Stevenson City Hall, made the arrangements, and we had their park pavilion for WFD.

We did a good deal of planning and preparing for WFD. We bought band pass filters and kept stations on one band each, and gave our antennas as much separation as we could, to ensure we didn’t have stations interfering with each other. We located and worked on a club-owned HF rig, a Kenwood TS-50S to ensure it could run digital modes, CW, and phone effectively. We even planned on having our monthly exam session there.

We used moving blankets and tarps to enclose part of the pavilion, giving us plenty of room to operate. We had electric and propane heaters to keep us warm. It was a rainy day and a chilly night, but our hard work and effective planning made it a safe and enjoyable situation.

We encouraged hams with less experience on HF to get on the mic and make some contacts. We watched these guys gain experience and become better operators, which is a big part of any field operation. We tried different antenna types, from an off-center fed dipole to verticals to plain old speaker wire from Walmart, tuned as a random wire.

I brought my charcoal grill and some meat, and a couple other folks brought food to grill. Bringing food and grilling it is a cheap and effective way to feed everyone what they want to eat for an outdoor event. The only snag was when we didn’t secure the leftovers well enough, and a local kitty cat got into it. We still had plenty left, and that cat ate like a king.

The club rig had some rig control issues after many hours, but otherwise it performed very well. The random wire antenna I was running on the Kenwood let too much RF get into the external keyer on higher bands, and it kept sending extra dits and dahs, so I had to run my paddle as a straight key for the last hour or so of the event. Note to self, bring a backup straight key next time!

We had ups and downs, but we accomplished a lot, and we’re taking what we learned to ARRL Field Day in the summer!

73, Mike Kelly KY4LV

Winter Field Day 2024 Announcement!

Jackson County Amateur Radio is participating in Winter Field Day 27th-28th January at the Stevenson City Park Pavilion (https://maps.app.goo.gl/avemEiYvC8vv8qvb8). Our goal is to operate up to four stations for up to 24 hours. The number of stations and duration of operations depends on you! Please follow the link below to fill out the WFD registration form: https://forms.gle/CQWCs2khTauf9Bxa8

JCAR will be having demonstrations suitable for all experience levels prior to WFD, starting at 0900 26 January 2024.Setup begins at 1100. WFD starts at 1300 and goes until 1259 27 January 2024. Tear down will begin at 1300. All times are CST. Even if you aren’t interested in operating, your presence is greatly appreciated during setup, tear down, and throughout field day if you want to learn more about field operations. You do not have to be a club member or even a licensed amateur to be part of WFD.

If you want to camp overnight, the city of Stevenson charges $30 per campsite with water and electricity. A couple of club members will likely reserve a couple campsites for others to use.

We will be operating outdoors. You should bring space heaters, either electric, kerosene, propane, any that don’t use an open flame. We will have a designated warming area for the safety of those out there in case someone gets too cold. Dress according to the weather and you will most likely have a very comfortable and enjoyable experience.

If you want to bring any off-grid power sources, WFD is the perfect time to try them out. It’s okay if they fail. We will have outlets available.

We will be using K4SCO exclusively during WFD. Operators can log using any method they choose, but the logs must be legible and must contain all required WFD information: Call sign, class, category, location identifier, frequency, date, and UTC time. Familiarize yourself with the WFD rules here: https://winterfieldday.org/rules.php

Please be respectful of the operators while they are making contacts. If you want to talk to an operator, be patient and wait until they have a free moment. If you want to hang out and have a conversation, please take it somewhere away from the operators. You’ll be asked to leave if you repeatedly distract or interfere with an operator.

There will be food and beverages if you bring them. There will likely be coffee, water, sodas, and snacks brought for all by the operators. Want grilled meats? Bring a grill and meats. Bring your smoker and get a nice brisket going. There are several places to eat nearby, and anywhere that delivers food will most likely deliver to the park.

One of the most important things you can do if you can’t make it out to Winter Field Day at all is to make contact with our stations. You help the operators and the club by working the club once per band and mode.

Check out our study sessions!

JCAR is holding Technician study sessions! They’re free and open to the public.

Want to become an amateur radio operator? Our Technician study session will help you prepare. The session is two days, and includes plenty of breaks: Sat Feb 17th and Sun Feb 18th, 9am-3pm. The session is at 1615 E Willow St, Scottsboro, AL 35768

Our instructor will provide easy to understand explanations for every question you might see on the Technician exam. You can bring your own study materials, none at all, or order an ARRL license manual from KY4LV for $24.71, a 25% discount over the ARRL website.

To sign up for the Technician study session or order a study guide, email Mike at KY4LV@jcar.us