I Got Skunked!

By Phil Duggan, N1EP

Fig.1 - AI-generated image of getting skunked on ham radio.
Have you ever put your call sign out on your local VHF repeater, or called CQ on the high frequency bands, only to come up empty? Of course you have. We have all been there. Everyone gets skunked now and then. But there are operating practices that can help maximize your chances of a successful contact.

Possibly the best solution is to make sure you have a decent signal, whether it is on a 2-meter repeater, or on 40-meter single sideband. Without a doubt, the most important part of your ham radio system is your antenna. Making improvements in your. antenna system is the “best bang for your buck” as they say. Also, make sure you have the proper transmission cable for the amateur bands you are working. For example, a long length of RG-58 coax is a poor choice for a VHF/UHF as there is significant signal loss at those frequencies. Antenna height...for VHF/UHF antennas: the higher the better!

Just because you can “kerchunk” a repeater does not mean that your signal is strong enough that your audio is consistently getting through. Band and weather conditions can also affect your signal. Arrange for another ham to meet you on the repeater and give you an honest signal report. If your signal is “full-quieting” then you are good to go. If there is noise or hiss or fluttering on your audio, then perhaps in certain conditions or times you will not be able to get through.

Here are some other tips:

Finally, a suggestion for all the hams out there. If you hear someone on your local repeater, or elsewhere, looking for a contact or a signal report, please answer them. It will only take a moment of your time to welcome a new ham into the hobby, or exchange pleasantries with an amateur on the hf bands. After all, what would ham radio be like if we all just listened and didn’t transmit? Short wave listening is fun, but ham radio is even more so!

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