A lot of presumption here, since I am new to the hobby, hihi.
But here’s some things I’ve learned chasing DX (distance contacts). DXers:
Have an interest in making contacts with hams outside one’s own country either casually or for awards. Some DXers don’t confirm contacts (QLSs) nor participate in awards, or they got them years ago and now just make serendipitous contacts and live for the moment, hihi. Some of these guys make for very interesting contacts and many live in exotic places. DX chasers can use any legit mode: SSB, Contesting, CW, and Digital. Or a DXer may simply be a “ragchewer” making distance contacts.
Make contacts and don’t mind rejection. Radio contacts are a funny thing, and it’s easy to take things too seriously or personally. Bare in mind, you may be one of many, many hams trying to make contact at the same time. Only one gets chosen at a time by the operator on the other end. Successful DXers keep trying and strategize, looking for strengthening band conditions in their area, or happen onto the DX entity they are chasing at an opportune time, maybe being the first to come back to station’s call, or being on at a time when there is a “pipeline” or strong signal into your location. Some DXers chase the weak signal stations when the bands are “quiet.”
Have the necessary equipment. An HF rig. It doesn’t have to be an expensive rig, but you should be able to work on different bands with a tuned antenna. What bands? 20m is considered to be “the DXers band.” But 40m and 17m work well for making DX contacts also. There are seasonal times of the year where 10 and 6m have many DX opportunities. There are fewer opportunities on the other bands, but they exist. One hundred watts and a wire will give you many DX opportunities. If you are restricted on your antenna, there are many other options. Consult your local hams or Elmer.
QSL. Most do confirm, either by Direct mail, or using the Bureau, or by using a digital confirmation log such as Logbook of the World (LOTW), QRZ, or eQSL. In my case, I’ve chosen to do Direct, Bureau, and LOTW. Since I am on QRZ anyway, I will confirm a contact on QRZ if requested.
I use my own computer log to track Direct QSLs and to upload all contacts to LOTW. Prepare for long confirmation waits. If you are getting close to an award, go after several contacts from the same DX entity to increase your chances of a quicker QSL.
What makes a DX entity is sometimes politically arrived at by those maintaining the official list. Sometimes they change. Some entities are removed from the list and new ones added. For example, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico are their own DX entities and count as different “countries” for awards. Cuba is it’s own entity, but Gitmo (KG4) counts as a separate one. Yes, there are US hams at Gitmo!
LOTW is great for most contacts, especially if you are using FT8 a lot. You apply with ARRL who hosts the service. You download the software to your computer. They send you a setup password in the mail. You enter the password and you are good to go from your location. If you commonly work from different location you have you have a different log account for each, if I understand it correctly.
When you log your contact in LOTW, it will match it with the other DX station who has also logged it on LOTW and give you a confirmation. When you get 100 DX confirmed entities on LOTW you are eligible for the LOTW DXCC Award (DX Century Club). You apply for the award, pay a fee, and they mail you a certificate. You can make up the difference of digital QSLs for an award by submitting QSL cards you have received to make the 100 total. There are extra fees for submitting paper confirmations for an award.
Other databases logs have their own proprietary awards, but LOTW is something of an international standard and foreign stations seek it’s awards also. LOTW keeps track of your entities and notifies you when you qualify for other awards. I have WAS (Worked All States), am close to DXCC, and I dream of getting a Triple Play award (100 DX contacts in SSB, Digital and CW modes).
QSL cards by mail can be professionally printed or “homebrew.” I started with a homebrew card for my first 100 cards. My second batch I had my own designed card custom printed in a batch of 500 for about $110.
When you send a QSL, it is particularly important to look the station up on QRZ.com and follow their QSL directions. It is the usual thing to send your card with a SASE and some Green Stamps (US One Dollar bills). Requested amounts range from $2-$5. This covers their mailing expense, since many stations handle thousands of QSLs (sometimes per month!). If there are other requirements stated on their QRZ page, follow them. Otherwise, you may not get a QSL! Some DX locations have managers in the states or elsewhere and you send your mail request to them, as the mail service in their home country may not exist or be reliable.
Log! Keep a log. Paper, spreadsheet or dedicated software log that uses a standard .ADI log file format. A digital one will save you work. I use WinLog32. It’s free and has been adequate for my needs so far. I decided to go that route when I found you cannot backup the free log on QRZ unless you are a subscriber! There are many options so check around with other hams and see what others use also.
Study propagation. DXers look for prime times to make contacts, and the more new contacts one is after the harder it becomes. Knowing when conditions are favorable increases your chances.
Plan. As contacts get harder, DXer’s make lists of entities they need and their callsign prefixes. They follow DX reports seeing what DXepeditions are coming up. They learn the band characteristics–what time of day a particular band becomes good. They follow “gray lines.” They talk of “short path” and “long path.” We are a strange bunch of hams!
Treat others with respect. One of things I notice about DXers is that they model respect for one another. Be respectful too when you make contacts. Go overboard to be nice. You are after all representing your “DX entity.”
Have costs. Yes, it costs. You can do it on the cheap or go overboard with hardware, software and gadgets, such as large monitors and software maps, beam tower antennas, and high dollar transceivers. Or you can build your own CW or SSB transmitters and simple antennas and make distance contacts on 5W. You can skip the awards and do only digital log contacts for free.
Use DX Resources. Check out:
- ARRL’s LOTW
- Arkansas DX Association
- AARL’s ITU List of International Call Signs
- Radio Society of Great Britain’s List of International Prefixes
- DX Cluster and Research Tool
- DX Summit Spotting Tool
I’ll edit this if need be. Please post any tips you have for beginning DXers and how you have gone about making DX contacts.
73, and Good DX!