[CQ-Contest] Practice of sending "?"

John Lash wa2go at erols.com
Sat Nov 8 18:15:55 EST 1997

At 09:17 AM 11/8/97 -0500, you wrote:

>      It's been my experience that the station that sent the "?" ALMOST NEVER
>calls you for a contact. 
>73,  Steve  K7LXC

I don't collect statistics on this, but I'd estimate for myself that 10-15%
of the times I have sent a "?" resulted in a QSO.  Higher at the start of a
contest, and lower at the end.

Playing both sides of the fence:

1) By responding to a "?" with just your call, while not as much of a qso
attractor as an entire CQ, is at least something to let people know you are
on that frequency.  One down side is that depending on whether other
passers-by  heard the "?" the other station sent you or not, they may not
know if you are CQ'ing or calling someone else who is.  The up side is that
it saves you an entire CQ if the guy is not a dupe.

2) By responding with an entire CQ, you may slightly annoy the person who
sent you the "?", but you probably do nothing to prevent him from working
you, while increasing your chances of working somebody else in case he is a

K4OJ's idea of responding with a "1x1" cq, e.g. "SS K4OJ" is a very good
idea, and I think I'll probably give that one a try (next year!).  It does
require you to reach for the paddle unless you have it in one of your
memories though.

There are so many other factors that contribute to what is the best thing
to do to respond to the "?", such as: current run rate, degree of
crowdedness of the band you're on, how far into the contest you are, how
long your CQ msg and your call are, etc.  Obviously at the beginning of the
contest, anybody is a lot less likely to be a dupe, and so I think it might
be more prudent to send just your call or a mini-CQ then.  But by midway
through, if you've been CQ'ing a lot and not doing much S&P, chances are
that if the person sending "?" is weak and has been S&P'ing, they probably
already picked you up, whereas if they are a big gun, they've probably also
been CQ'ing and might not have run into you yet.

Tom, Steve, and others have convinced me that in general it's probably
better to send at least part of a CQ in response to "?", but I still think
there are times when just the call would be appropriate.  At the end of the
contest, probably an entire CQ would be appropriate.  We're all different,
and we all have our own opinions and our own ways of doing things.
Obviously, some work better than others, and I suppose we get to see the
results of our differences when the scores come out, don't we?   

This whole discussion has gotten me to think about just how complex the art
of contesting really is;  how many split second decisions we make in those
24 or 48 hours, and how, just like in any other sport, the difference
between the top few finishers always ends up being a very small magnitude
relative to the scores.  When you see that happening, you know the
competitors are really pushing the envelope!

Now, what are we all going to say next weekend when our CQ finishes, the
relay lets go, and we hear "what'syourcall?"   :-)

73 and let's have fun!!!


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