Put your directional finding skills to use and join us every weekend for our RWK Foxhunt! Foxes are placed somewhere within the city limits of Richardson every Saturday morning. Fox#1 chirps on 144.500MHz every couple of minutes. There also is usually another fox (“Wheatley”) on a UHF frequency (433.250MHz).
The foxes are usually active from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon (or until the battery gives out or weather gets bad). Your goal is to find the fox and log your entry. Use your best radiolocation techniques (see below) to locate the fox. Once you find the fox, just use your smart phone and “shoot” the QR code on the front of the Fox with your camera to go to the online fox hunt log. If you can’t get the QR code to work, type in the coded URL printed close to the QR code from any phone or computer. Each Fox has its own online log (see right) so you can see who has found the fox that weekend.
Please join the K5RWK groups.io discussion group for up to the minute news about Fox deployments! One of the best ways to learn foxhunting is to ride along with an experienced hunter – let us know by posting a message on the groups.io list if you’re looking for a “ride along” opportunity.
What Is Foxhunting?
Foxhunting (hidden transmitter hunting) participants attempt to find a hidden transmitter (the “fox”), using handheld or mobile directional antennas within a designated area. As a minimum, you will need a mobile or portable 2M radio and usually a directional antenna, although some hunters use multiple radios and specialized DF (direction finding) antennas. You can work alone or in teams to find the fox.
While foxhunting is fun on its own, it’s actually good practice for hams to be able to find malicious or unintended interference from other radio sources. It’s important to have a good team of trained “hunters” to nail down interference sources, and foxhunting is great training.
How To Get Started
As a minimum, all you need is a portable VHF/UHF radio (HT) or mobile radio with a car-mounted antenna. You’ll probably also want a directional antenna (yagis and loops are popular options – see below for a cheap build-it-yourself tape measure yagi). Then just listen on the published frequency after the hunt is announced. If you hear the fox, use a combination of signal strength and a directional antenna to try to determine which direction it’s in relative to where you are. After a few receptions, you should be able to close in on the general location. For the “end game” (finding the actual fox when you’re close), you may need some additional tools or techniques – see the tips below.
- Know your radio – get a feel for how your radio sounds for close, strong and weak signals. This will give you an initial indication of how far you are from the fox.
- Use a directional antenna – You should have a portable “DF” antenna that you can point while listening to the fox. You should be able to narrow down the general direction of the fox from your location.
- Triangulate – Take readings from multiple locations and see if your readings converge to a smaller area. This will lead you to the next location closer to the fox.
- Weak is Strong – While most small yagi antennas have a fairly wide (30-40 degree) main lobe, sometimes the nulls off the back can be much sharper. Search for the null and the fox will be in the opposite direction.
- Attenuate – When you get close to the fox, it will be harder to listen for signal changes from your antenna. Use an attenuator to drop the signal to a lower level. Your body also makes an excellent attenuator at VHF/UHF – by holding your HT close to your chest and rotating you can sometimes find a null.
- Beware of reflections – Just like light off a mirror, RF can reflect off of large, flat surfaces. These reflections can seem like valid sources but they will only make you mad (hint: sometimes the foxmasters do this on purpose!).
- Shift Frequencies – Especially on FM, a shift of 5kHz or 10kHz up or down from the fox frequency, will weaken the signal enough to get a better direction reading.
- Use Harmonics – No transmitter is perfect, and some are outright dirty when you get close. Listen for the third harmonic of the signal (third harmonic of 144.5MHz is 433.5MHz) – if you hear the third harmonic, you are very close!
Helpful Presentations and Materials
- Build an inexpensive Tape-Measure Yagi antenna for foxhunting! (offsite link)
- Build a 70cm tape-measure antenna (to hunt Wheatley)
- Amateur Radio Direction Finding Presentation by Andrew Koenig, KE5GDB
- A park foxhunt video using the Tape-Measure Yagi (YouTube)
- Jay KE5FMS shows how he uses just a HT to hunt the fox.
Meet The RWK Foxes!
FOX#1 – He was the first RWK Fox, built by KE5GDB and modified by KD4C. He is big and powerful and is always found on 144.500MHz and features the smooth, soothing ticks of WWV (and occasionally some SSTV). Fox#1 may be tracked here.
WHEATLEY – So named because he features Wheatley from Portal2 (the voice of Stephen Merchant), he was built by K5CG and has become a dependable and wily Fox. He can be found on 433.250MHz and mostly is in Richardson, but occasionally ventures north. Wheatley may be tracked here.
The RWK sponsors a monthly prize for one RWK Member licensed ham who finds the fox every calendar month.
Fox hunt prize rules:
- Only RWK-sanctioned foxhunts are eligible for the prize.
- All licensed amateurs in your party/team who are current Klub members and find the fox may enter.
- Entrants must provide a separate log entry with name, call sign and a contact info on the foxhunt log.
- Each entrant is entitled to one entry per fox found each weekend (Eg. two foxes found = two entries max).
- One prize will be awarded for each calendar month.
- The winner will be randomly selected publicly at the General Meeting in the following month.
- Previous winners within the last 3 months are ineligible
RWK Fox Placement Rules
The RWK Foxes will usually be placed based on the following rules:
- Foxes will usually only be on Commercial or Public property. A Fox will rarely be on residential property (unless he has permission from the owner). Foxes are also pretty good about respecting “no trespassing” signs.
- Foxes should be visible from the car and will be “vehicle accessible” – you shouldn’t have to walk more than 25 feet from your car to log the fox. There should be a close and safe location to stop your car (lot or alley) – You shouldn’t have to stop on a public roadway.
Other Neighborhood Foxes
We’re glad that foxhunting is becoming popular in NTX. You can also hunt these other neighborhood foxes:
FREDDY THE FOX – Built by KI5GRN, Freddy hangs out in McKinney (usually) and can be heard on 434.5 MHz.
SACHSE– We have rumors of a new fox in Sachse. Reportedly, the fox is on 146.565MHz but very low power.
Latest Foxhunt Posts:
- Getting Started With FoxhuntingBy Chip Coker KD4C In January (2023), I was invited by the Metrocrest Amateur Radio Society (MARS) in Carrollton to talk about Foxhunting and 3+ years that the RWK has held weekly foxhunts. They were kind enough to record it and provide RWK with a copy of the recording, so here it is. Hopefully you…
- My Path Back To Ham Radioby Brian Murphy WB8QZM On a typical hot August day in 2020, I found my path back to ham radio. I was used to cycling 20 miles a day but for the last two, had experienced unusual shortness of breath. Upon the advice of my doctor daughter, I went to the Plano Heart Hospital ER. …
- Foxhunting For RealBy Chip Coker KD4C At Field Day 2019, RWK had a side activity where hams built a small “tape-measure yagi” and had a small foxhunt in Lookout park. Since shortly after Field Day 2019, we have staged foxhunts in the City of Richardson most every weekend with at least one fox (and two foxes on…
- General Meeting – April 2021 – RWK Foxhunt BasicsThis month our main presentation is all about foxhunts. The RWK has now been doing weekly (with a few exceptions) foxhunts for almost two years, and it’s time for a refresher course. Andrew KE5GDB is going to explain how to hunt, the tools that you need, and techniques that you can use to find the…
- Fox#1 Real-Time Foxhunt LogYou can watch who’s found Fox#1 in real time with the new online foxhunt log: kd4c.com/foxhunt-log The log shows the current week’s log entries (for the past 5 days) and is instantly updated when someone new finds Fox#1.