[VHFcontesting] More VHF activity = better contests. Long but worth it

Todd Sprinkmann sprinkies at excel.net
Mon Mar 30 20:19:04 PDT 2009

    I am all about VHF/UHF contests.  Nothing like them.  I consider them the 
radio equivalent of a big party that I don't want to miss. 

    I also feel that VHF/UHF activity in general is always in need of extra 
promotion.  I'd like to hear from just one VHF'er who thinks the bands we 
enjoy are too crowded.  Think of how many guys you know who tried VHF/UHF and 
said, "Heck with this -- there's nobody to talk to." 

    To increase activity, I started up SSB nets on Wed. evenings last summer. 
 Those went so well that I was encouraged to start a local FM net on 
Thursdays a month later.  The nets continue, and they stayed strong, even 
during lousy winter propagation. 

    Why are the nets going well?  (talking 200-300 unique check-ins to all 
nets over the past 7-8 months)  Because I promote the heck out of them.  I'm 
sure I'm not the first to do this, but I really keep after a variety of local 
and regional radio clubs (not just VHF, either) with emails to their Yahoo 
reflectors, email lists, you name it. 

    I email every net morning to remind those who care that there will be a 
net that night.  You can't imagine how many guys will forget it's net night, 
unless they get that reminder.  I email the next morning with a net report.  
There I run down who all checked in, where they were, and what their signal 
was.  So 2-4 times a week, hundreds of hams are exposed to what's going on. 

    Now I'm sure out of those hundreds of hams, several hundred automatically 
hit delete upon seeing me... again!  No worries there; I'm after the ones who 
may end up curious.  Again, it works.  I don't care how it works, I'm only 
interested in exposing as many people as possible to the whole concept.  I 
also ask others who enjoy what we're doing to let others know we're here, 
every Wed. and Thur. 

    Some purists may sniff that we shouldn't reach out to FM'ers.  Well, I 
make the FM'ers compromise with me.  :)  I run my Thursday FM nets on 146.43 
simplex.  I don't advertise on repeaters because I do enough radio as it is.  
So email will have to do.  I suspect many of the newer guys talk it up on 
repeaters anyway.  By now, I have a decent bunch of check-ins, and I keep 
getting new ones.  I especially enjoy it when I hear from a guy who hasn't 
been on 5-10 years and had given up. 

    If you still are leery of including FM'ers, I ask this:  Do you think 
there's enough activity on 2 meter SSB in your area?  Do you hear multiple 
QSO's on 146 and 147 simplex most nights?  Do you know of guys who have 
vertical-pol. beams and get out very well on FM?  Why not include them? 

    Over the months, by just talking about SSB in a friendly way, we've 
gotten new ones trying out SSB.  Guys that also enjoy the FM nets.  Some even 
check in to SSB on verticals.  At least they're on.  Some can't wait to see 
what's possible on 6 meters, with Eskip. 

    In the January contest, last year my local group, the Badger Contesters 
had 9 logs submitted.  This year, they had 28.  We heavily promoted new guys 
trying contesting.  I told them they're more than welcome to just enjoy the 
nets, but to give a contest a try.   Didn't beat them up about having to have 
large beams or being strictly SSB.   Asked them to "get on the air with 
whatever they have".  Just like they enjoy doing with the weekly nets. 

    Before the Jan contest, I sent out detailed emails I called VHF 
Contesting School.  One on grid squares, one on roving.  Frequencies to use, 
scoring, logging.  Stressed that VHF contesting is a lot more relaxed than 
HF.  You can even chit-chat with guys sometimes a bit.  I'm sure many 
hundreds groaned under the weight of these articles.  That's OK, I was 
looking for the 5% who were waiting for their lightbulb to be turned on.  It 

    We encouraged both the SSB'ers and FM'ers in the Milwaukee area to focus 
on an activity period on Saturday afternoon.  And work each other.  146.55, 
146.565, 146.58 were packed.  A handful of the new guys got on SSB, and a few 
were still trying for new Q's on Sunday.  It was more than I could have ever 
hoped for.  I had a number of emails afterwards from guys who want to keep 
getting better at contesting.  I hope they still feel that way this summer.  
I've given them a break from contesting chit-chat.  I'll pick it back up next 
month or so. 

    None of this would have happened without the nets.  The nets wouldn't 
have been well-attended unless I talked them up religiously.  You can find 
the activity, but you have to promote it.  Find those who wouldn't know squat 
about VHF unless you exposed them to it. 

    I now get email from a lot of folks, now that we've gotten more familiar 
with each other.  A couple of local all-purpose clubs (not just VHF) had a 
respected elder contact me to say that there have been complaints that I'm 
posting too much.  I asked the elders respectfully to tell me just who was 
complaining.  Of course, the actual complainers never came forward. 

    I then went to the various groups, and emailed, asking respectfully if 
anyone thought I was over the line.  Told them I'd consider it a learning 
opportunity for both sides.  I also asked the ones who enjoyed my content to 
let me know how they felt, was I doing more harm than good. 

    Over the past few days, I've had no less than 3 dozen emails saying no 
way on earth should I stop doing what I'm doing.  All kinds of hams.  Newer 
ones that said they would have never had the courage to try VHF unless 
someone consistently encouraged it.  Older ones who said they are glad for a 
fresh angle.  Hams who said, "You're making the bands more active, what on 
earth can be wrong with that?  Our email lists *need* more ham radio talk."  
Even heard from guys who admitted they have no interest in VHF, but they 
appreciate what I'm doing.  Also hear from hams who say they had given up on 
VHF, but now they've got a reason to get back on the air. 

    Never heard one public complaint.  Not one.  Now I KNOW I'm on the right 

    I think various ham clubs get too set in their ways.  It's like they can 
slip into a cave, and not look around and see what else is going on around 
them.  A VHF'er knows we look around.  Look for DX, for new grids, for 
rovers, we look for new guys, anything to keep our interest up and our 
numbers growing. 

    We need to do more of this looking around.  Some VHF clubs get a few new 
members in a year and think everything's A-OK.  I think in terms of finding 
dozens, if not hundreds of new VHF'ers. 

    Summer's coming.  It's the best time of the year to start talking up our 
passion.  There are hams out there on the sidelines who will get interested.  
You just have to be friendly and keep after them.  You also have to do some 
marketing.  *Consistent* marketing.  A one-talk, or one- presentation deal 
will get forgotten.  That's why nets are so useful -- these guys know at a 
certain time each week, they can work someone. 

    It may take contacting hundreds of hams in various ways to find the 
several dozen who will move forward in VHF.  Email is free.  Introduce 
yourself and get the word out.  Back it up with on-air activity.  If you 
can't do a net, then tell non-VHF'ers about the nets in your area.  Point 
them toward activity. 

    Hopefully I've turned on a few lightbulbs here. 

    Thanks for sticking with a long email, 
    Todd  KC9BQA  EN63ao   40 N of Milwaukee 

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