Fox Hunting, Amateur Radio Direction Finding, Radio Orienteering
What is fox hunting, amateur radio direction finding (ARDF) and radio orienteering (Radio"O")?
Actually ARDF is used almost exclusively to refer to "radio orienteering", the international on-foot variety of transmitter hunting. ARDF *IS* however, a more "technically correct" term for what we also call fox-hunting, hidden transmitter hunting, t-hunting, rabbit hunting and I'm sure that list could go on depending on whatever part of the country you are in.
Classic US single transmitter mobile foxhunting is a map and compass exercise as well as a test of RDF skills. Successful hunters, (usually a team of two), pay careful attention to their own location and the bearing to the fox at all times, plotting them on street maps provided by the hunter. They know that if they miss a fox bearing, they must wait several minutes to hear the fox again. They also must obey traffic laws, since exceeding the speed limit or other violations means potential fines, money, that could be used on radios. In addition the hunter(s) must keep an eye on time and distance. Many fox hunts are timed and start/finish mileage logged, excessive time and mileage can be used as a "penalty" against your final score.
Classic orienteering is often described as a road rally of foot through the woods. Competitors compete on different skill / age / gender levels and must find "controls" on roads, trails, paths, streams, and sometimes where there are none of these. It is a land navigation sport that uses a specialized topographical map and a compass. It is also referred to as the thinking sport since on the more advanced courses not only is good phyiscal condition helpfull, being able to read and interpet the map as well as visually "read the terrain" around you will guide you to the control point.
ARDF/Radio"O" is a combination of land navigation, map and compass reading as well as a test of RDF skills. Unlike in traditional orienteering where you search for a control point based upon a general location marked on a map, Radio"O" causes you to use your ARDF skills in addition to land navigation skills. Unlike in classic fox hunting where a single mobile transmitter is used, in Radio"O" you may be searching for as many as 5 transmitters, on foot, in a park or forest setting. Successful hunters pay careful attention to their own location and the bearings to all foxes at all times, plotting them on detailed orienteering maps provided by the organizers. They know that if they miss a fox bearing, they must wait four minutes to hear that fox again. They also must monitor the time, since exceeding the time limit (typically two hours) means disqualification. In other words, it is better to return under the limit with only one fox found than to find all five but take one minute over the limit. Each target transmitter has a distinctive identification, sent continuously in CW or MCW. Even without knowing Morse Code, it is still very easy to identify the individual foxes.
Since this is done on the Amateur (ham) radio bands is a license required? No ... a license is not required, since you are receiving and not transmitting when you participate in a radio orienteering event. Numerous ham radio clubs have frequent fox-hunting meets that you can participate in, again for recieving only, a license is not required. However, having a license will add to your enjoyment and understanding of the radio direction finding aspects of the sport. The FCC provides an entry level license that includes a written test over basic radio principles, operating practices, rules & regulations. This "Technician class" license, which covers the 2 meter band, does not have a Morse Code requirement.
What I'm trying to do with this page is to provide basic information and links to sites that will answer your questions about any aspect of Fox-Hunting / ARDF / Radio"O"
Amateur (Ham) Radio Links
- Homing in - By Joe Moell, K0OV
- RDF projects - By Joe Leggio, WB2HOL
- Montreal Fox Controller - By Jacques Brodeur, VE2EMM
- Doppler products
- VK3YNG Foxhunting equipment
Other clubs / organizations / individuals
- Texas ARDF
- Off Cycle
- Albuquerque Transmitter Hunters
- Piedmont Transmitter Tracking - By Charles Scharlau, NZ0I
- Hidden Transmitter Hunting - By Byon Garrabrant, N6BG
- Radio Direction Finding Web Site - By Kevin Kelly, N6QAB
- Boston ARDF - By Vadim Afonkin, KB1RLI