All’s fair in love, war…..and DX

8B_9U4UOver the past few months, the topic of DXing ethics has come up in various places on the internet and in print. It’s a recurring theme – and I’m not talking about pirates, jammers or “Up cops”.

I’m talking about the practice of working rare DXpeditions for entities we already have.

There is a school of thought that questions the fairness of such a practice. After all, with so many experienced DXers calling for East Kumbaya-ville who already have that country logged, there’s less chance of the Little Guy getting him.

One very well-known DXer recently wrote that he was “guilty” of working the recent 5X8C DXpedition even though he already had Uganda confirmed.

He’s not guilty – he’s a DXer! That’s what we do!

The notion of not working a DXpedition just because you have the particular entity is absurd.

For every pile-up I succeed in working through, I learn something. I learn of yet another operational habit a DXpedition can have and how to work with it. Pile-ups themselves are dynamic and fluid – they change in behavior from one band to the next and from one DXpedition to the next. And they change over time.

What you learned last year may not apply today.

Anyone can get through in a pile-up eventually. But only practice will teach the subtleties that will enable a DXer to do it consistently and quickly.

Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy. – Robert Heinlein

For the world to stand by while Newbie works the DX may be a noble and charitable idea but it teaches nothing in terms of skill. I’d even argue that it would remove sense of accomplishment from the accomodated station.

If I run a 100m race with Usain Bolt – and beat him because he gave me a 70m head start – what have I accomplished?

The good news is that pile-ups aren’t full of Usain Bolts – they’re just a bunch of guys who’ve been DXing for years and some are pretty darn good at it as a result. The best of them could trade stations with the Newbie and still get through the pile-up first because they’ve learned how through trial and error – trial and error that would be absent if a certain mindset prevailed.

I am happy to stand by for a station when it’s one-on-one and I see myself as having an advantage over the other DXer. For example, me and a W3 were the only two callers for a 9M6 one morning on 40 meters. I didn’t need 9M6 on that band and had no way of knowing if the W3 did or not – but I knew he had a much tougher path than me so I stood by while he made his contact.

If it had been for a needed entity, I would have been duking it out to the best of my ability regardless of who else was calling!

But my real feelings about pile-ups are this:

I consider them puzzles to be solved as quickly as possible. If it results in a new country for me, great – that’s icing on the cake. But the real sense of accomplishment comes from getting through the pile-up due to a strategy as opposed to lucky timing or lengthy calling.

That means I’ve learned something and am able to apply it; isn’t that a primary goal of any hobby?



  10 comments for “All’s fair in love, war…..and DX

  1. Ed
    February 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    I agree with you, John. Not only am I trying to add to my DXCC totals, but I’m shooting for 5BDXCC and 8BDXCC, so that means I’m fighting it out for countries I’ve already worked on other bands. I will say that I keep very close tabs on whether or not I’ve worked AND confirmed a country on various bands, so if I don’t need them (regardless of mode), I will generally only work them if they’re not all that busy. As you say, it keeps one sharp.

    On the other hand, ClubLog used to show the actual number of QSO’s by band and mode (“greenies”) and you could look up any callsign and see how many times they worked a station – for some reason I can’t find this ability anymore – it simply shows a single QSO for each band/mode. I can remember finding certain prominent DX’ers who routinely work DX stations multiple times on each band using the same mode. One particular N3D* who seems to get the ire of most DX’ers with his constant calling tactics had worked a DXpedition 5 times on RTTY on 80 meters alone, in addition to several 40 meter CW QSO’s and many others. Now that probably warrants the title of DX pig. I understand an “insurance” QSO, but 5 times on the same band and mode? Absurd.


    • February 22, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      I know the N3 you’re talking about, Ed – and the old ClubLog stat. Perhaps they got rid of it for the reason you mentioned. If so, that’s good.

      And I forgot to mention the DXpeditions themselves…if they were only called by those who needed them there’d be less inspiration to even have a DXpedition. From my short stint as VQ9BL many years ago, I know what a rush it is to have so many callers. I feel I owe it to DXpeditions to work them even if I already have that entity. They went to the trouble and expense to throw the party – I’m gonna darn sure show up and play!

  2. Larry W2LJ
    February 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Bottom line ….. I am responsible for getting the DX or DXpedition in my log. As long as I’m not being jammed, I couldn’t care less if the guy next to me in the pileup has them already a couple of times. I consider it pretty lame to blame others for your lack of success. I grew up in an age where we all didn’t get trophies. I never won one and I survived to tell about it.
    Larry W2LJ

    • February 22, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      I didn’t mean working the same DXpedition multiple times (on the same band) but working a DXpedition to a “non-needed” country.
      Larry, I know you recently added the 100-watt amp to your K3 – is there an Alpha amp in your future?!

      • Larry W2LJ
        February 23, 2013 at 8:34 am

        Ha! No John, I don’t think so. If I could, I would put that money towards beam and tower, first, like you did. But that’s not going to happen, either. Another thought about DXers working entities they already have them confirmed, though. The possibility exists that said person might be going after a DX award. Take for instance, the Worked All Budapest award ….if I want to earn that, I would have to work 25 different HA5 stations. If a person didn’t know that I was trying to earn that, on the surface he might be thinking, “He already has HA, what’s THAT all about?”


  3. N7UN/Guy
    February 26, 2013 at 7:46 am

    All good and valid points! After being the DX on numerous Caribbean trips and having the opportunity to work the endless pileups, it’s actually a pleasure to work the really experienced callers/Dxers! They know, because of their skill in listening, where in the pileup to call you and how to time their call in order to be successful.

    Instead of endlessly pushing the F1 key, these guys send their call once just off the main pileup. And are successful! And these “success skills” are well known in the DXing community. For instance, W1JR, who has them all, is a pleasure to work because of his calling skill. You can tell he has listened to the pile and consequently “knows” exactly when/where to send his call! That makes it really fun!

    And these skills are well communicated. They just need to be applied and that takes volition!


    • February 26, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Good morning Guy,

      You’d think that with new rigs having sub-receivers that pile-up fluency would increase – after all, they allow the DXer to hear the pile-up they’re calling into. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      Instead, I think this club’s membership is increasing daily:

  4. Ed
    February 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Guy’s comments are really interesting and I wish that more people would have the opportunity to read what he wrote. After working a good catch, it’s easy to feel elated and as if you’re “on a roll” and tune away looking for more goodies. But I often hang out and listen to the ‘other side’ of the pileup. Sometimes I’m amazed that I got through as loud as some signals are. But I remind myself that those signals are loud where I’m at and not necessarily where the DX is.

    If I remember correctly, John, you don’t have the subreceiver in your K3 and you’d posed the question about a P3’s usefulness a while back, did you ever get one? I bought a K3 over the summer and I’m sending it in for some repairs next week and debated about getting a subreceiver installed while it is there, but I’m on hold for now.

    • February 28, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Ed, I’m really surprised! You mentioned before that you didn’t want a K3 since all its options would lead to more spending and so you bought a Kenwood instead. Did the Kenwood turn out not to be that great a radio?

      I don’t have the P3 or the sub-rx for my K3 – two years’ of ham radio hobby money was spent on my tower/Yagi so those options will have to wait. I don’t regret it – the antenna improvement was the right thing to buy first, before those indoor options.

      I also like to listen to the pile-up after working a rare station. Like you say, it’s surprising to get thru some of them until you listen to the spread and then it all becomes clear – the DX station is listening to a sliver of bandwidth (200-350 Hz at most?) compared to the 8-12 kHz width of the pile-up – that means most of the callers are “barking up the wrong tree”. That’s good and it works to our benefit.

      Good luck to you with Clipperton…they should be on the air very soon.

  5. Ed
    February 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Well, John, I’ll tell you, it turns out that the Kenwood can hold its own with the K3 but I didn’t know that until I had a K3 sitting next to it! I didn’t intend to get a K3 but a great deal popped up and I went for it. But what I’ve learned since having both is that the 590 seems to be a better radio ‘out of the box’ and is outstanding on CW. It took a lot of effort to get my K3 to where I like listening with it but eventually I did. I’m also sending my K3 to Elecraft for evaluation because a recent side-by-side comparison with another fellow’s K3 revealed that mine has a very high noise level with the same settings. Something that I’d suspected for a while and finally confirmed. Quite frankly, if the improvement isn’t dramatic I’ll have a tough decision to make. If the 590 had a second receiver and the capability for an IF output, I’d say it’s a definite keeper. Even minus those two items, it is a fine radio.

    I’m out of town in Ohio but I hope to get home tomorrow and I’ll be in the hunt for Clipperton. Good luck to you too, should be a chipshot from TX.

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