August 8th: Notes from a fox

Wayne, AC8RA sent this view from the Fox’s perspective from the August 8th Foxhound:

Let me start with a little bit of background. The June fox hunt was my first experience fox hunting. Bill Reed (KC8QDR) and myself did a bit of brainstorming regarding what worked well for us and others.

We both noticed Bob (W8IJG) and the TDOA (Time Difference of Arrival) antenna system he used on his truck. This seemed to give him a significant advantage, especially when he was getting close to a fox.

We speculated that a pair of transmitters close in frequency would at least partially negate his equipment advantage. We also figured that if they were similar distances from the starting point, participants would have an equal chance of heading for one or the other. As a result, we needed three foxes (two starting foxes, plus one for the final destination).

Knowing that FM transmissions are normally spaced 15KHz apart, we figured a 10KHz spread would be sufficient to ensure headaches for the hunters while still allowing a possibility of selectively hunting one or the other (by tuning 5KHz above the upper fox or below the lower fox).

The night before the hunt we tested the foxes and everything seemed to be looking good. We concluded that restricting ourselves to just this one dirty trick should be sufficient to ensure a challenging hunt.

The morning of the hunt dawned with perfect weather and we headed out to set up. Maria (KD8ZHQ) with Patrick (KE8BJF) and the other kids loaded supplies in the minivan and headed to Buehler’s to start off the hunters.

Bill and I headed off to our respective locations. Bill took off for the north end of Holmesbrook Park while I headed to the parking lot by City Hall in Wadsworth. Bill ended up using a twin-lead J-pole hung from a tree while I simply put another mag-mount antenna on my car and parked in the lot.

We got word from Maria that the hunters were off and she was relocating to serve as the final fox (at the Kaleidoscope in Memorial Park). To complicate matters, I realized that Wadsworth was having a big street sale/fundraiser shindig and there were one or more roads closed right around my location.

I settled in to wait, pulling out a book and starting to read. I had my mobile rig turned way down monitoring my tone while I waited. About 20 minutes into the hunt I got word from Bill that Bob (W8IJG) had found him and was starting to look for me. At this point there was still no sign of any sort from Del (N8OFP).

About a half hour into the hunt I noticed the tone from my rig stopped, so I headed back to the trunk to check on things. Not being able to bring it back online, I switched to the mobile. I initially was just transmitting a voice message about every minute or two, but then found a smart phone tone generator and resumed tone for a bit.

After close to half an hour of running a manual fox with no sign of either team, I dropped off the air and gave Del a call on his cell phone. He was still hunting not having found either fox. I didn’t have Bob’s number, so I had Bill drop his fox off the air and called Bob on air, asking him to call my cell number. Lo and behold, my phone rang less than a minute later and it was Bob.

Based on the hour and the state of progress, I ended up giving both hunters the frequency of the final fox by cell, then Bill and I headed to the final location.

Del actually beat me to the final location, followed a bit later by Bob. Discussing things after the hunt, Bob was within a couple hundred yards of me when I lost the tone. If the battery in my fox had held on longer, Bob would have found all three foxes.

Interestingly, Del mentioned that he had two possible headings from Buehler’s. The one he took obviously turned into a bit of a wild goose chase. The second heading would have actually taken him right to Bill.

I was actually surprised that the parking lot was as big an obstacle as it turned into. I expected it to be a bit unexpected because it wasn’t in a park, but nothing like the showstopper it turned into. I also did not anticipate the traffic snarl from the road closures.

In the end, the two closely spaced foxes did indeed confuse the TDOA system (to quote Bob, it drove it “ape****”). To his credit, he still found one of them and almost found the other, but ran out of time.

Now to see what evil machinations Bob devises…

Wayne Johnson (AC8RA)

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