Fox-hunting season starts under water

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Steve Nardin, W9SAN searches for a hidden transmitter along the St. Joe River. More photos from the February , 2020 fox hunt are available in this website’s photo gallery.

So, here it is February, 2020, the centennial year of the Fort Wayne Radio Club. And February marks the start of another season of Foxhunting. One initiative worth taking on this year is to grow the ranks of foxhunters in and around Allen County, and we hope to accomplish this as the year goes on.

We hunt the wily fox on the first Sunday of the month, February through November. (We take December and January off to get the blood flowing again in our frozen fingers and toes). Each hunt starts from Cobin Memorial Park on south Coliseum Blvd next to Lakeside Golf Course. The fox itself can be ensconced anywhere in Allen County. The fox actually consists of a foxhunting team serving as (high power) fox for that particular month plus a microfox that they have cleverly hidden (usually) close to the location of the high power fox. The high power fox typically transmits about a 30 watt fm signal using a yagi on 146.430 MHz for one minute every five minutes, while the microfox transmits about a 40 milliwatt frequency modulated cw signal for one minute every 2 ½ minutes. Once the foxhunters identify the general location of the fox using the high power fox signal, they dismount and track down the microfox with hand held DF equipment.

For February there were three foxhunting teams in the game. The first team consisted of Linda and Steve Nardin, W9‘s LAN and SAN minus their grandson Alex who usually fills out their team but was unable to attend this month. The second team consisted of Don Glick, K9LI and his wife Julie. The third team included Charles Ward, KC9MUT and Fred Gengnagel, KC9EP.

The part of the fox was played by the team of Carole and Al Burke, WB9’s RUS and SSE, minus their usual cohorts Annie and Jim Pliett, KA9YYI and K9OMA. Seems as if Jim and Annie decided to take respite from the cold and snow and were getting some rays at a resort down in Jamaica. When asked why they weren’t in town for this first hunt of 2020, they said “Hey Mon, we got to relax sometime. No problem.”

Al and Carole hid out near the boat ramp just off E. California Rd. on the west bank of the St. Joe River at the foot of the PFW Student / St. Joe Pathway suspension bridge. They employed a 4 element yagi at about 15’ driven by a 20 watt FM base station rig. It produced a robust high power fox signal at the Cobin Memorial Park initial receiving site / starting point.

For the microfox they employed the microprocessor controlled microfox package that has been employed for foxhunting for several years now. As a result of experiencing the absolutely diabolical techniques employed by certain unnamed foxhunters who devised genuinely evil techniques at camouflaging and hiding the microfox in past years, Al decided to try something different for this hunt. He decided to hide the microfox under water . A significant amount of experimentation was necessary to find a suitable, leak free container for the microfox. Al finally settled upon a quart Mason jar as the perfect container. It was tall enough to accept the microfox package and it sealed up great. He used a large number of nails plus some nuts and bolts to act as ballast inside the Mason jar (more on this later) and to occupy volume inside the jar not used by the microfox. Thus the Mason jar would sink like a rock when placed underwater, a fact confirmed by testing the thing in Carole’s sauna-bathtub which was filled to the brim with water. This testing verified that the package would not leak, and also that the microfox signal was loud and clear when it was turned on and under water.

Sunday afternoon after having set up the high power fox equipment at the hide site Al was getting ready to emplace the microfox in the river when a member of the Purdue-Ft. Wayne Campus Security Detail pulled up. Spying Carole and Al he naturally was curious what we were up to. No sweat I thought until it occurred to me that, from his point of view, here was a guy with strange looking radio equipment about to hide a small package near the student walking trail that contained some kind of electronics and stuff that was clearly surrounded by nails. I could imagine him asking “Watchya doing there Mr. Terrorist?”

So I naturally made it a point of explaining to him that we were part of a foxhunting exercise that the FWRC conducts monthly …Yahda, Yahda, Yahda. He accepted all of this and asked how many other people were involved. I explained to him that about seven or eight folks comprising the fox hunting crews would show up within an hour of starting the hunt, and would eventually discover the microfox hiding place under the water. I told him that the hunters were just normal people (although a couple of them might look a little suspicious). He seemed satisfied, wished us good luck and continued on his rounds.

Forty five minutes after the start of the hunt Don and Julie Glick showed up on site, dismounted and started looking for the microfox. Shortly after that Steve and Linda Nardin arrived followed by Charles and Fred and the foot race was on.

I was impressed with Don’s trust in his hand held DF equipment because it consistently dissuaded him from searching in the marshy plants around the shore of the river and pointed him out into the river. He told me after the fact that after tearing up a bunch of plant material he finally concluded that the microfox had to be in the river and under water. So he reasoned that there must be a cord attached to it so that it could eventual y be retrieved from under the water and thus started looking for the string. Once he found the string I had attached to the neck of the Mason jar the hunt was over.

Subsequently Steve Nardin and then Charles and Fred found the microfox and at that point I was relieved that no one fallen into the river and we were not bothered by any passing freshwater crocodiles or other such bad tempered creatures.

After the hunt we buzzed over to Logan’s Steakhouse on Lima Rd. and partook of their fare. It was warm and dry and the food was good. No one went away hungry.

The scoring for this month’s competition is as follows:

Hunter February ScoreYear-to-Date Score
WB9RUS 4.33 4.33
WB9SSE 4.33 4.33
W9SAN 2 2
W9LAN 2 2
KC9MUT 1 1
KC9EZP 1 1
W9LI 4 4
Julie 3 3

It turns out that Don and Julie will not be in town for the March foxhunt so Steve and Linda (and hopefully Alex) will serve as the fox for next month’s adventure. Why don’t you come join us on the next hunt which will occur on Sunday, 2 March starting at 13:30 hours?

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