September 2016 Foxhunt report

This is a two part article – As we’ve done in the past, we have one part from the fox’s perspective (courtesy of  Carol N8SIN) and another part from the perspective of the hunter (courtesy of Del N8OFP).  Enjoy!

From Carol N8SIN – The Fox’s Perspective

This hunt was going to be something different with another twist.

All the participants met at Buehler’s back lot at 9:30 A.M. Hunters arrived and Del passed out maps and starting locations. All the hunters would be dispatched to different locations and work together as a team to triangulate their readings to find the “jammer”  (fox)

Fox hunt participants:

  • Vern KE8VS went to Doylestown Park
  • Wayne AC8RA, Maria KD8ZHQ, Patrick KE8BJF and family went to Hilltop Country Market at Benner Rd. and  585.
  • Barry KI8B went to Sterling Rails to Trails parking lot
  • Fred KD8GYS, and Del N8OFP went to River Styx Park

At 10:00am the “jammer” went on the air. Then one by one the hunters checked in and gave their location and reading, marking their maps accordingly with everyone’s information. Where all the lines intersect is where the jammer would be.

Now comes the twist. My house is situated between 2 city parks. Being a devious fox hider, I decided to have the fox at my house and the picnic in the backyard. This breaks the rule to ALWAYS have a hunt on public property.

When all the hunters checked in and all their locations and readings were marked on the map, they took off to find the despicable “jammer”.  They all gave several updates on new readings along the way during their progress. Communication was on the “39” machine, with everyone working as one team. After about a hour, Fred (KD8GYS) and Del (N8OFP) were the first to arrive. I put them to work setting up tables and chairs in the backyard. As they were doing this we watched team Wayne (AC8RA) Maria (KD8ZHQ) Patrick (KE8BJF) and family drive by. They found the 1st. Street Park empty, and were on the way up to 3rd. Street Park.

The next to arrive was Barry (KI8B), seeing 1st. park was empty, and the signal was west of that location he proceeded down Maple  street and found us immediately.

Team WMP and family, noting both parks were empty, asked if the fox was on public property.  Not wanting to tell them I “cheated” on that rule, they were told we saw them and to retrace their footsteps to find us. They were the next to arrive.

Now where is Vern? He had his radio on the fox frequency so I shut off the tone and Del tried to call him on the 39 machine hoping he switched his radio back to the repeater.  Being the “new guy” we couldn’t remember his complete call so KE8 Vern went out on the air. Between Del, Fred, Barry, and Wayne they got him to the picnic.

The backyard was nicely shaded and everyone enjoyed a belly bursting lunch! Listening to everyone’s stories it was decided we need to have a class on compass reading, better maps, more communications to find a real “jammer”.

Here’s some pictures courtesy of Del N8OFP (click any of the pictures for larger versions):

Everyone learned a lot more than they thought they would and had a great time with this lesson on triangulation!
Now  on to the next hunt……..
Carol (N8SIN) and Gary (N8OGK)

 

From Del N8OFP – The Hunter’s Perspective:

The morning of the foxhunt started out cloudy and gloomy looking but cleared off and turned into a perfect day for a foxhunt. Carol was expecting 5 or more vehicles so there were 10 locations chosen in case we had a few hunters show up at the last minute.

The locations were:

  • Weatherstone Park in Wadsworth (Just north of the Buehler’s)
  • Homesbrook Park in Wadsworth (A couple miles south west of Buehler’s)
  • River Styx – Medina County Park (Just south of River Styx)
  • Hubbard Valley – Medina County Park (Hubbard Valley Road north east of Seville)
  • Rittman City Cemetery (West side of Rittman)
  • Sterling Rails to Trails Parking Lot (North side of Sterling)
  • Hill Top Country Store (South of Rittman on Benner Road almost to SR585)
  • Circle K (Intersection of SR57 and SR585, South of Rittman)
  • Doylestown Park (North east side of Doylestown (near the former home of SARA’s repeaters))
  • Silver Creek Archery Range (On Eastern Road just west of Silver Creek road and just north of Silver Creek park)

As it turned out we had four vehicles to hunt so each of drive reached into the hat and selected a locations. Barry (KI8B) selected Sterling Rails to Trails parking lot, Wayne (AC8RA) and family selected Hill Top County Market, Vern (KE8VS) selected Doylestown Park, and Del (N8OFP) and Fred (KD8GYS) took River Styx Park.

The fox went on the air at 10:00AM, and once the hunters arrived at their designated locations the hunting gear was unpacked and assembled. As Fred and I were getting the beam and radio assembled a pickup truck pulled in near us. When the driver got out of the truck he asked what we were tracking… We told him a hidden transmitter, he said OK and went on his way, we took it that he was evidently familiar with DFing or tracking radios transmitters. Once the equipment was assembled we started listing for the fox. It was relatively strong at our location at River Styx park but we were able to null it out without having to use an attenuator. Our initial reading (using a new app on my tablet showed the fox was at 197 degrees. To double check I also checked the bearing with my Garmin 60CSX GPS. The GPS showed 150 degrees (lesson 1: The compass in smart phones, tablets and hand held GPS are not nearly as accurate as one might think). Trusting the GPS more than the tablet we decided to use the 150 degree bearing. We communicated our reading on the repeater, followed shortly by Barry. Barry was using a very nice military style compass and had a reading of 97 degrees. Wayne then called in with a reading of 30 degrees and Vern had a reading of 270 degrees. Now that we had all the bearings it was time to plot each bearing on the maps (lesson 2: In order to perform this exercise correctly you need to have a very good map the has the lines of longitude and latitude marked. You also need to know where North is on the map.. Without these two items on the map they are pretty much useless for triangulation.) Barry was using his laptop with Delorme Topo mapping software to plot the bearing lines. This was WAY more accurate than the maps the rest of us were attempting to use.

Once everyone so of kind of had lines drawn of their maps we all started off to find the fox. Along the way we stopped and took additional reading and announced them over the repeater to the other hunter.

Fred and I stopped at the Mennonite Church at the corner of Seville and Mennonite roads. The reading from there was south almost straight down Mennonite Road. We then drove to the Rittman Historical Society building. At this point the signal was so strong that we had to break out the Active Attenuator. With the attenuator we were able to narrow the direction to south west of the Historical Society parking lot. We announced this information to the other hunters and were told by Wayne and his team that the fox WAS not at the park on Industrial Street in Rittman (approx 3 block from where Fred and I were. Barry was headed for the location were the bearing plots on his laptop crossed (which was near the Vet Hospital on the east side of Rittman. Other than Vern’s initial bearing no one had heard anything from him so we weren’t sure where he was.

Fred and I headed for downtown Rittman (south west of the Historical Building). As we approached downtown Rittman we were able to pick up the fox on the radio connected to the tape measure yagi which was folded up and laying in the back seat. We were also able to hear the fox on another hand held with the rubber duck nearly removed. We knew we were close…. We decided to check First Street Park which is very near downtown Rittman. The signal was so strong that we had one radio with no antenna that was picking the fox up intermittently and Fred was using the tip of a ball point pen as an antenna for another hand held, which had the signal loud and clear. As we passed along in front of First Street park Fred looked at me and said somewhat jokingly, it’s at Gary and Carol’s house. We kept heading south on first street and as we went down over the hill at the far southern end of First Street we started losing the signal. We turned right onto Diagonal Street which took us in a north west direction. As we got closer to the top of the hill (same hill we just went down on First Street) we started picking up the signal again and it was getting stronger. As we got close to the Third Street Park both hand helds were hearing the fox loud and clear with no antennas. We then turned right on Maple Street (heading east towards Gary and Carol’s house). Shortly after we made the turn onto Maple street I told Fred he was correct in his assumption that the fox was at Gary and Carol’s house (I knew this because I had helped them get the fox setup earlier in the morning)…

Shortly after we Barry announced that he was stopping for gas, his truck was just a little too big for him to push and that is what he would be doing if he didn’t stop soon. We were getting out of the car when Carol came out to greet us and asked for help setting up for the picnic. As we were setting up tables and moving chairs from the house to the back yard, Wayne and his team drove right by us, they had driven by First Street Park and saw no one was there, then they saw Third Street Park on the map so they headed for it. We were waiting for them to discover that no one was at Third Street Park and come back our way, but they didn’t return… Wonder where they went??? And has anyone heard from Vern???

We got the tables and chairs setup and were sitting around waiting for everyone else to arrive, and hoping it wouldn’t e too much longer because we were starting to get hungry and we all know that Carol was going to have a great lunch for us…

We kept watching for the other hunters, but none were anywhere to be seen. I called on the repeater and no reply from anyone… Did they all give up, did they all fall into that giant RF trap… We had no clue. Then we saw a large blue truck approaching, it was Barry. He had been trying to call us on the repeater but had inadvertently hit one of the buttons on the microphone and the radio was nowhere near 147.390… Shortly after Barry arrived we finally got Wayne on the radio, as it turns out several of his team need to make an urgent pit stop, so they had stopped at the Rittman Library. Wayne and team eventually found the fox, but where oh where is Vern. Barry saw Vern on the North East side of Rittman as he was heading for the gas station to refuel his blue tank..

We waited a few minutes and then tried to call Vern on the repeater, no reply, waited a few more minutes and tried again… nothing… So we decided to turn the fox off and try to contact him on the fox frequency… nothing… so back to the repeater. This time I heard what sounded like someone on simplex on the output of the repeater. Wayne grabbed his foxhunt gear and started sweeping for a signal on the repeater’s output. We did hear someone talking but after listening for a while we were able to determine that it wasn’t Vern but one of the other 147.390 repeaters.

Just about the time we were thinking that we may have our second foxhunt of the day to locate Vern he found his way to the fox location.

As Carol said we all had a great lunch and good time sitting around talking about the hunt and whatever else happen to come up, of course we ate and ate… What a spread…

All in all it was a great time by all and we learned a lot regarding DFing. In order to be successful at Triangulating bearings during a foxhunt you MUST have:

  1. A good compass. Not all compasses are created equally. The compass that I have (which I let Vern barrow) arrears to be 10 to 20 degrees off. Which is a tremendous difference when you are trying to triangulate a bearings.
  2. A good detailed map with longitude and latitude lines, and it must tell you where North is and if it is based on True North or Magnetic North (the current difference between True North and Magnetic North is 8 degree West).
  3. You must know how to read the compass.
  4. You should also know the beam width of your antenna. The narrower the beam width the more accurate the bearing you’ll get.
  5. You need a protractor so you can readably mark the bearings on your map.
  6. If you are using a laptop or tablet with mapping software make sure the Bearing setting is set for Magnetic
  7. An attenuator is a must when you get very close to the fox, and an active attenuator seems to work better when you are very near the fox. The reasons for this statement is a total other discussion that can be covered at another time if there are any interested. Just let me say this, in a perfect foxhunting world you would be better off having both and passive and active attenuator.
  8. It is advisable to have at least two radios when foxhunting, one just for the fox and the other for general communications.
  9. When you are sweeping for a signal, move the antenna very slowly, If you are sweeping too fast the radio may not have time to display any change on the S-Meter.
  10. Listening for changes in the signal can be as important and watching the S meter and may actually indicate that the signal is getting weaker or stronger before you see a change on the s meter.Below is a simulation of what our maps would have looked like for yesterdays hunt. The blue pins are each of the hunter’s starting locations, the black lines are the bearings they gave to the rest of the team.
    The Red Flag is where the fox was actually located…As you can see we need better equipment and a lot of practice when it comes to triangulation. The bearing that came closest to where the fox actually was, is Barry’s which I believe was 97 degrees. The rest of us were pretty far off. Most likely this is due to not having accurate compasses, radios with poor S Meters (this is discussion for later), lack of practice with the equipment etc.image001

The maps below is what we would have hoped for when triangulating bearings on a map… As you can see if we would have had better equipment, maps and more practice we should have been able to draw a box around the fox, which would have made finding the fox much easier.

image002
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I would like to thank everyone who took part in this foxhunt, especially Carol and Gary for putting on another great hunt and for being such gracious host to allow us to invade their back yard.
And I’d like to thank Fred, my co-pilot on this hunt.

Hope to see everyone at the next SARA foxhunt, keep an ear to the nets and watch the SARA Web page for details on the next hunt.

Best 73 to all
Del N8OFP

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