If your goal is to obtain your DXCC award, here are a few tips that may help.
When I became active again back in 2007, I may have had 20 or so confirmed QOS’s with DX stations. Within less than two years I was able to work and confirm enough DX entities to apply for my first DXCC certificate.
Sign up for LOTW (Logbook Of The World)
Times sure have changed in the years that I was inactive on HF. Back then, you had to send out hundreds of QSL cards via the bureau or direct to prove that you had indeed confirmed your 100 QSO’s for a DXCC certificate.
In steps the ARRL and LOTW! Now, through the miracle of the internet, you can use the Amateur Radio Relay Leagues Logbook Of The World to confirm contacts with DX entities. Every day, more and more people are signing up for LOTW and the service has proven to be successful and secure. Many of today’s computerized logging applications tie directly into LOTW and will submit your log and confirm your contacts for you.
Get your Extra!
Now that the CW requirement has been eliminated, there’s no reason not to get your Extra. That bottom 25 KHz holds more DX than any other band segment!
CW (Morse Code) is by far the most reliable mode for DX’ing on the HF bands. It’s narrow band width and full duty cycle signal make it easy work weaker signals to be heard. If you already know CW you should concentrate your efforts here as much as possible.
If it’s been a while since you’ve used CW, you can easily get your skills honed by operating higher in the bands where people tend to have longer QSO’s. One thing I do is just listen on the bands while I work on other thing in my office. Park on a frequency and just listen to people come and go. Subconsciously, you will start hearing words instead of characters and before you know it, you’ll be able to hold your own in any CW QSO.
While there are many CW tutorial and teaching methods available, once you’ve learned the code, there is nothing better than “on the air” experience to help build your skills as well as boost your confidence. Get on the air and operate whenever possible. You’ll find that your abilities will improve as you become more active.
Participate in HF contests
Try RTTY Contesting!
Let’s face it, more RTTY operators confirm via LOTW than any other contest operator. RTTY is also a mode that allows weaker signals to get through and be heard.
The fastest way to get your DXCC is by participating in DX contests. In many instances, you could almost work the 100 DX entities needed for your DXCC in one contest!
Participating in contests not only helps you to obtain your DXCC but by submitting your log, it demonstrates activity on the HF bands. This will help to ensure that our bands remain intact and will help to keep them from being taken away for commercial interests.
» RTTY Contests are easy!
Try getting in to the RTTY DX contests like CQ World Wide RTTY, ARRL RTTY Roundup, and WPX RTTY. I have found that almost 75% of my contacts in those contests are confirmed within the first day via LOTW. You can easily fabricate a RTTY interface if your radio supports FSK keying with nothing more than a few components. Most contest software packages come equipped with the appropriate interfaces to tie right into your radio and make RTTY contesting “point and click” easy.
» CW contests are very popular
More DX operators operate CW so these contests will get you more DX contact. Contest packages like N1MM (highly recommended) make it easy by using pre-designed “macro keys” to send the CW messages for you. You won’t even have to use a key or paddles to participate in a CW contest so if you’re worried about your sending capabilities this will help ease your mind! Like RTTY contests, you’ll find that a majority of your contacts will be confirmed in a very short time via LOTW.
» Don’t get discouraged
One problem with the big DX contests is that for the “little guns” there is way too much activity in the beginning to compete. Wait until the contest has worked itself out a bit. Sometimes I will wait until the last half of a contest period and walk through the bands. By that time the contest stations are begging for new contacts.
» Don’t try calling CQ
I prefer using the “search and pounce” method for contesting. It gives me the opportunity to pick the stations that I know will hear me. If your CW skills are a bit rusty, it also gives you the opportunity to listen to a station through a few QSO’s to make sure you have the correct exchange being sent by that station before logging the contact.
Now, with the sunspot cycle on the rise, there are more and more DX’peditions to rare entities. Like contesting though, don’t expect to work them the first day they start operating. Find out when the entity will be active and plan on working them within the last days of operation. Pay attention to the band conditions and watch the DX Clusters to see what band would be your best choice.
Watch the WARC bands during big contest weekends. Many DX’peditions will have operators active here during contests so your chances are better of finding them with limited competition.
Most DX’peditions will be active with LOTW but for those that aren’t you may find that they have a state-side manager for QSL’ing. Use some of the resources available on the internet to do your research.