About VK5ZBR

Radio tech, radio ham. Love building stuff, restoring things and love to surf and ride bicycles. Traveling all over the place.

AREG Members go Fox-Hunting at SERG Convention

This year, Adrian VK5ZBR again went down to Mt Gambier to participate in the South East Radio Group Convention with his family and Mike VK5AGI. The highlight of the convention is the annual round of the Australian Fox-Hunting Championships. Here is their story….

Hi All
I thought I would share our weekend at SERG Australian Fox Hunting Championship 2017.
Team Moose (aka VK5ZBR) had 4 members:
  • Mike VK5AGI – driver, ARDF
  • Adrian VK5ZBR – DF & ARDF
  • Kerry (XYL) – navigator & ARDF
  • Alayna (harmonic) – ARDF, navigator and playground critic
 Kerry now with last year’s hunts under her belt is the navigator. This year, a child seat was also fitted to the team Moose car, with Alayna a full time member this year!
There were two other VK5 teams also participating:
  • VK5TV Bevan and his wife and
  • VK5FAB (Ken and Paul Burns with extended family).

The FAB team this year was competing in all hunts.

Our equipment
This year we were not sure how we would go with one navigator as its quite a
difficult task. Kerry would be dealing with paper maps, Ozi Explorer and Google
Map Pro for the first time.
I also decided to try the SDR play on my new 12inch Chuwi tablet, this was a carry on from last years 10in tablet. The SDR was only used for detecting the fox when we were in close proximity. I had no antenna on the SDR so the signal had to be extremely strong. Again the SDR is not very useful for direction finding because of the processing delays. It’s great to identify the signal your listening to though.
I again used my Icom R10 and trusty ammo box home brew DFing radio I built in 1994.

Adrian and Alayna Hunting Transmitters

Event 1

This event was the 10 Leg ARDF in Marist Park (crater), very hilly and great to hide foxes. Our team split up into 2 groups, Mike then Kerry, Alayna and I the other. I was teaching Alayna and Kerry ARDF. We had two hours
to complete the hunt. We did the hunt at a pace Alayna could do. Surprisingly we got as many foxes as I did last year on my own.
Event 2

The 4 leg CW FM transmitters on the same frequency with CW ID’s in any order. They come up at 30sec intervals. We learnt our lesson last year and Mike made two timer boxes with 4 colour LED’s on it. We would know each fox by its

Teams at the start of event 2

colour. This hunt is in the Caroline Forrest near Hells hole. We finished all the legs just on time. The last leg being the yellow colour took us nearly 1hr. It was located very high and clear giving a massive signal that always appeared to be closer than we thought. Yes we got bogged once on the blue leg but we recovered in 5min with a shovel.


One of the fox transmitters in Event 2

Event 3

This was the famous Wayne Kilpatrick Night Hunt (5 Legs) this will be Alayna’s first night hunt. She was a bit scared of the forest at night. This hunt is fun and can break you or your car (both which has happened in past years). Just to finish the night is a success. This year we saw plenty of kangaroos, and even a wombat. No UFO’s this year, however.

Leg 1 the 2m fox was surprisingly

Kerry & Alayna on the night hunt

easy, Kerry had a bit of an orientation problem for the first 5 minutes but got her bearings after that. Remember she’s using a topographic map and driving a PC with Oziexplorer and Google maps pro. We actually drove straight to the fox, which was just over the border in Victoria, with only one way in.

Next was Leg 2.  Oh damn, we can’t hear the signal! We switch to SSB and I can just make out something and head in the general direction. Lots of radio chatter about the fox not transmitting. After quite a few km the signal went from in the noise to s9 plus.
The fox announced his coax was faulty, NO JOKE! Lucky we were heading in the
right direction. Thank you again R10 in SSB mode!
Leg 3 we could hear with no problem but when we got closer we had issues with
many reflections. I was becoming a bit concerned so began to get-out the car with the sniffer antenna to get bearings. This took a lot longer but it all made sense when we found the fox hidden in a bush. The railway line was next to him and re-radiating his signal. I hate railway lines!!
Having found Leg 3 it was on to Leg 4. This is a nasty 6m band hunt! I had fixed up the loop days before and re-calibrated it. I was amazed how well it was working again. I could work out the direction with in 10deg. The trick that worked was stopping in line with the road and taking bearings. Kerry would plot this on the paper map and we drove nearly right up to the fox. The time was 9.30pm and I thought wow were doing very well with one leg to go. Alayna, however, checked out for the night so Mum lost her helper.
Leg 5 10m. One of the most difficult bands to hunt on in a pine forest! Why, oh why didn’t I check the loop before we left!! We could here the piccolo signal and I was having issues determining the direction. This loop has a better peak in one direction, and it didn’t feel right! So we did some driving to determine which way was
correct. Kerry plotted my directions and we ended up in Piccaninnie Ponds
Conservation Park near the beach. Kerry said how far do you think it is, I said far.
She said well it’s not in the ocean. We realized my bad gut feeling my DFing was 180 deg out had come true. So, back the other way north through to the township of Donovans.

This is when it got interesting, some

Mike VK5AGI in the drivers seat

nutter in a car coming the other way drove down the center of the road with his high beams on. This car then proceeded to come over to our side and Mike had to drive off the road not to hit him. This woke us up and we forgot about the hunt for a while.

Eventually, we got to the location that Kerry wanted to get to far north on the intersection of the princess highway. The signal was still north but not getting stronger. I made up my mind something is still wrong. I got my test transmitter out and tested the loop. Sigh, it was still wrong! When I looked up the loop had slipped 45deg at some stage. Damn! A bit of bending and the loop was re-aligned. The direction was now pointing back towards Mt Gambier….
Kerry determined this was logical for the last leg and I knew it was high up after all
these km’s. So we just drove back that way and quickly the signal got stronger and
stronger. It ended up being at Potters Point. I wish I checked the loop on the start
of this leg. It was now 11.30pm and time to get back to the room for a hard
Scottish drink. We were wrapped we finished and we weren’t the last team
either, although we would have finished at 10pm I think, if that loop was aligned. Poor Alayna was dead to the world.
Event 4
This is a 10 leg ARDF event hunted on foot. Hmm, we tried but Mike and Alayna had issues with waking up after Saturday night’s effort. It started to drizzle too, and we didn’t like the idea of getting wet. So, off to the SERG hall for breakfast and bargain hunting instead.
Event 5
This was another Triple leg Hunt – another tough one. This hunt is fast, you need to change antennas fast, the first leg 70cm was straight north, driving past the airport to Telford Scrub Conservation Park. All the teams were very close.
The next leg was on 2m, but  none of us could hear it! Oh no, what now. We drove back out to the Riddoch Highway and headed north. The signal then finally comes up. Bugger its bearing is 9 o’clock, so we dive for the next main track to the left. We all follow each other and this fox is tricky. We find him but only after driving on both sides of his location to discover a track in-between. If we waited longer before we started this leg Kerry said we could have driven nearly straight to him saving many km.
The next leg was 70cm again. Kerry got a bit confused and we ended up following our Yagi for a while. This leg we got close and I did the rest on foot with the sniffer. We found it.
Event 6
This was another triple leg hunt, but this time with a twist. This hunt requires quick antenna changes again. 2m and 70cm we can do with a switch but the inclusion of 80m in this event means a manual antenna change to the loop antenna mid charge. The 80m loop is Rod VK5UDX’s and I’m not familiar with. Its not set up for my side of the car. 
Leg 1 – 2m fox was quite straightforward, we ended up behind a quarry on west side of the Mt Gambier forest, and it was so close half the teams were within seconds.
Leg 2 – 70cm this again was straight forward as we drive North West to a forest near Glencoe West.
Leg 3 – 80m this is when it got interesting, our in car 240volt power supply decided to put up noise on the fox frequency. It never does this normally! Each time I needed to stop for a bearing we had to kill the 240volts in the car. Because of this and the loop being very vague we drove around all over the place just trying to work out which direction the signal was. I got quite confused and Kerry could not get any clear direction of where to go. I tested the loop with my test signal and I found the car body was really affecting the pattern of the loop. In the end, we pulled out, as we had not much time to get to the next hunt. Bummer! Should have used my original loop that was back at the house.

Getting Ready for the 23cm hunt

Event 7

This is the 23cm hunt and is another favorite as the fox can do tricky stuff with reflections. They use a tin can radiator and can beam the signal to appear in totally different places. However, our Yagis are like a torch, nice and sharp and are great to DF with so we were in with a fighting chance.
The hunt started at the top car park near the caravan park on the lake. We headed off and I could not hear anything. I was on SSB 1296MHz, tuned down to 1295.996 and there was the fox very weak and fluttery. Not good as I didn’t get a decent direction, the next signal was a bit better and I determined the direction. Kerry got a line out of town possibly on the edge of the Myora forrest. We still didn’t not know how far it could be. We got to the round about near the show grounds and the bearing was not changing much. I determined with Kerry’s navigation the signal was far away. So we broke from the pack and head east to get into the 80km zone sooner. First left we headed north to get to Kerry’s bearing line. The signal stared to really pick up and getting much cleaner. We had a give way sign to deal with then a near straight run. What do we see, the hound pack leaders approaching the same intersection as us. We ended up having to
give way to them. A sharp right hand turn onto a track and there is the 23cm fox
lying in the tall grass out of sight. We got 4 th position. So close! And we were very
happy with this result.
Back to our rooms to clean up and relax then back to the SERG Hall for David’s WENET talk and fox hunt presentations. VK3FAST won the weekend again. SERG put on a great dinner again and we sat down with the VK3AI team. We had a great time talking about the action over the weekend. We even got tips on the next 80m loop design to try, I will try and build it for 2018.
The use of Google earth pro was invaluable. The old topo maps are so far out of
date and you need Google photos to get the real story. The GPS server soft
ware work flawlessly. Next year we may get another tablet PC and have both map
system running together. Two new GPS as the one I had stopped working on windows 10, long story ! Mike had to write some code and got his Auduino GPS bits going the day before Mt Gambier. Well-done Mike. The commodore did well and nothing broke this year. Alayna bottom still has feeling. Kerry wants a pencil holder and I want to make more room in the car. We also want to log our track with signal strength. Time to get coding!
We had lots of fun and did better than we thought. Alayna has plenty of things to talk about and I’m not sure if she had any wow moments. Only time will tell. This year we had plenty of people asking what we were doing and we explained its ham radio hobby looking for hidden transmitters.
Regards Adrian VK5ZBR

AREG at the National Foxhunting Championships with VK5ZBR

I thought I would share our weekend at SERG Mt Gambier Fox Hunting Convention.

Team Moose (aka VK5ZBR) had 6 members:VK5ZBR team moose Logo

  • Mike VK5AGI – driver, ARDF
  • Rod VK5UDX – navigator, DF & ARDF
  • Liz (XYL) – navigator, ARDF & back up driver
  • Adrian VK5ZBR – DF & ARDF
  • Kerry (XYL) – navigator & ARDF
  • Alayna (harmonic) – ARDF, collecting sticks and playground critic

Kerry and Liz were learning to navigate as Luke (VK5UDX son) is working in Hayman Island. There was two other VK5 teams: VK5TV (Bevan and his wife who upgraded to a Prado this year) and VK5FAB (Ken and Paul Burns and extended family).

This year we decided if were changing navigators we would try something new with the receiver side of things. After last years 23cm efforts of not even being able to hear the fox we decided to try SDR technology (as the winning VK3 team last year was able to see that the 23cm was way off frequency).

The SDR did work well but it was not what I was expecting. Have you ever tried to DF with a yagi or loop on a SDR using HDSDR? It’s a real mind bender! It’s like you have a rubber band coupling on your antenna. Everything is delayed but by the end of the weekend I got the delay (latency) down quite a bit by lowering the bandwidth to 200KHz and lowering the sampling rates etc. When the going got tough or my mind bent too much I went back to my trusty ammo box DF radio I built in 1994.


Rod teaching Alayna to ARDFEvent 1 was the 10 Leg ARDF in Marist Park (crater), very hilly and great to hide foxes. Our team split up into 3 groups (Mike and I were on our own and the rest as a collective group). You have your yagi’s, DF radios and get two hours to complete the hunt. Most of the time you’re at a brisk walk or a jog and you get very quite wet in the tall scrub or rain. I did very well getting 7 after making a mistake that cost me a bit of time. The others did very well as finding 6.

Event 2 is the horrible 4 leg FM transmitters on the same frequency with CW ID’s in any order. They come up at 30sec intervals after each other and sometimes they get out of sync which does strange things to the Doppler. The audio comes out as a horrible ripping sound when they over lapped, which the SDR can see but this doesn’t help with direction. We took too long on the first one and ran out of time to get all 4.

Event 3 was the Wane Kilpatrick Night Hunt (5 Legs) and is the event we all look forward to as it’s fun and can break you or your car (both which has happened in past years). Just to finish the night is a success.

LeChanging antenna night huntg 1 we took ages to find the first 2m leg that was 25km from the start in a forest. The fox did very infrequent transmissions that caused us to over shoot were we should have turned a few times. We felt like killing the fox (some other teams did on air) but we were all smiles when we finally found the fox.

Leg 2 70cm and leg 3 were in VK3 and it’s where our maps kept swapping over. The VK3 maps are not as good as the VK5 maps to start with but Rod VK5UDX and Kerry our navigators did a fine job working out were to go with such poor detail. We basically had to follow our noises through some grass tracks to get to the fox.

Rod and Kerry navigating night huntLeg 4 was the nasty 6m band and ended up being near the Gas pumping station next to a runway strip. The rule to 6m is to get as many good bearing and where the lines cross over is where it is. But if they are play trick on you it’s not. Hmm tricky and not being in the clear makes is a challenge but we found him after an hour looking.

Leg 5 the 10m leg, this band just goes a long way. This was our easiest leg, we had 35min to find him and we did with 5min to spare. He was set up in the car park on the mount it self near town with a 10m squid pole. We were surprise to see Bevan there too on the phone, but he knew where to go as he had found the 10m fox earlier by chance when he was trying to get a fix on leg 2 70cm fox.

Kerry's night hunt markings map

Night Hunt Map Markings

So after finishing at midnight it was back to the room for some green label and royal crown whisky.


Event 4 10 Leg ARDF we did brilliant at this leg all sleeping soundly catching up on zzz’s ! … apparently the teams that got out of bed most of them found the 10 foxes. But sleeping in gave us time to repair the rear wheel rim having a few square sides. A nice rock did the trick and lots of heavy hammering with some filing. Tire pumped up and ready to go. Dam night hunt!

Event 5 triple leg – another tough hunt. Multi Morse code 4 leg hunt 2mWe thought we started out well but we had some crazy reflections. I still don’t understand what happened here. After figuring this out we headed in the correct direction 20km north instead of west of the mount and found the fox. The next leg was 2m but we could not find him. We tried different locations and nothing and then we heard a few hounds call up on the repeater saying that couldn’t hear 2m leg either. With a few hints we travelled north and could just start to hear the fox on 2m. Looking at the time we knew we would not find the second fox before time was up, especially after hearing he was another 20km north. We reluctantly decided to pull out and head back for lunch for our radio purchases and free Yaesu hats from Ross. Lots of teams bailed too.

Event 6 triple legs, this hunt requires quick antenna changes. 2m and 70cm we can do with a switch but also requires yagis for loops. To help Rod VK5UDX has leg 2 6m-loop ready to go.

Leg 1 – it was a traffic jam but we were a close 4th on this leg.

Leg 2 – I changed to my multi band loop quickly but after moving off I couldn’t hear anything but Rod VK5UDX could! I was a bit confused and checked all the receivers then I reconfirmed the frequency and all looked good. I looked up out the window and realised I didn’t connect the dam coax. We just keep going as we were in a race but little did we know the 6m fox had a nasty trick he was playing. He was close by but he was set up near a hill range with a large deposit of iron. It had the effect of a big reflector. The signal got stronger quickly but we ran out of track. The track was on our navigator computer and paper maps but not in real life. Dam we have to back track. I now had the first chance to connect my loop to help Rod VK5UDX out. We were now in territory of confusing signals, my loop is like a yagi but because I had not been able to see the signal progress as we honed in I had no idea which way the signal direction average out to be. Rod VK5UDX could tell but had the 180-degree ambiguity issue now. We picked poorly and went the wrong way. Because of this reflector effect we only knew of our mistake when we drove out of the beam. That was the end of that hunt as we ran out of time.

Event 7 23cm hunt, this is another Mike read for the multi 2m CW huntfavorite as the fox can do evil stuff with the signal. They use a tin can radiator and can beam the signal to appear in totally different places. But our yagis are like a torch, nice and sharp and are great to DF with. Every body took off but we took our time. Taking quite a few bearing from the top of the Mt Gambier crater to make sure it wasn’t in the crater and these bearings confirmed it was a distance away to the west. The signal was towards the horrible part of the Mount Gambier forest but being 23cm the fox it must be in a clear shot of the start point. We headed in the general direction out of town and then got a massive signal near a school. For about 5 minutes we thought he was around that location. Rod VK5UDX went for a quick run and worked out the fox was doing his trickery. So off we headed due west, down an infrequently used grass track for a few Kms (cleaning the belly of the car) and once in the clear we nearly overshot him, quick reversal and up the top of a hill where we could see him with his tin can and finished 4th.

The Convention was capped off with a presentation and dinner at the Scout Hall attended by about 80 people. As part of the presentation VK5PAS gave a talk about the WIA and VK3BLM was announced as the winner over VK3FAST by 2 points. SERG put on a great dinner and allows for a lot of war stories to be swapped and for foxes to let us in on their tricks.SERG Sunday dinner

It was a great learning experience with the SDR and for the navigators. I think a panoramic display for my DFing receiver will be a better way for me but I still will use the SDR play and dopplerSDR play for overall signal strength and signal confirmation.

To be noted we are the only team with a two-wheel drive vehicle and we get there on the good tracks, which are faster. We just made lots of small mistakes this year and had rookie navigators. We don’t take it as seriously as the VK3’s, who are well trained and quick. To have a chance of winning you need to get very good scores on both of the 10leg ARDF and a few first placings. Also, as ARDF is a running type of sport just like orienteering, you need to be fit too. The top teams have young members to help them out.

All in all it’s a lot of fun and we will be back again next year. Regards Adrian VK5ZBR