Winter Field Day 2024 at Wildcat Mountain

WFD is, first & foremost, an emergency communications exercise conducted under less-than-optimal conditions (at least for those of us in the Northern states, lol). This year I made a virtue of necessity and used my lack of planning (see the previous post) as part of the exercise; after all, emergencies do not give us advance warning, right?

About 11:30 I filled a mid-sized vacuum bottle with cold Brawndo (“It’s got electrolytes!”) and preheated a larger one to be filled with coffee. A few minutes earlier I had posted my location on the WFD website (Visitors Welcome!). I fed the little dog, then grabbed my radio bag and was out the door. A quick trip to Kwik-Trip yielded a sufficiency of hot coffee and I was off to Wildcat Mountain State Park!

I wish I had paid more attention to the WFD map, or screenshotted it … can’t really give numbers, but there were not a lot of Wisconsin stations on it, and very few in public locations, to the best of my recollection. The weather (for January in Wisconsin) was mild; heavy overcast, fog, about 37F.

I already had a pretty good idea of where I was going to set up, so I pulled right in and started to set up my faithful 17′ telescopic-whip vertical on the Buddipole pole and tripod. By sudden inspiration as I was extending the pole, I used the little Leatherman multitool to cut open a loop in the tangled mess that is my counterpoise, which lengthened it to 18 or 19 feet.

The new, longer wire actually touches the ground! Less than 2:1 SWR across the entire 20 meter band!
Fourteen minutes for antenna setup, now the rest of the station …

Antenna to BNC, powerpoles for the battery cord, plug in the microphone and push the “PWR” button; I’m on the air! The phone end of the 20 meter band is a cacophony of stations all talking on top of each other as I start looking for my first contact. Even though I am operating on 12 volt external power, I leave the transmitter at 5 watts to qualify for the QRP multiplier.

My expectations today are low, whatever ambitious thoughts I may have had in past days and weeks; my time is limited, so I left the satellite antenna on its tripod in the garage, and though I have multiple antennas with me I will not deploy any of them today. It will be enough to make some contacts for WFD; if I can get enough to make this a POTA activation that will be a nice bonus. I have activated K-1480 a total of 13 times, and one of these days I will qualify for the coveted Repeat Offender award.

As often happens, there is a loud station right on frequency when the radio comes on, so I wait for the opening at the end of a CQ and call. And call. And call. QRP SSB is an exercise all its own, mostly in patience and perseverance. After a while, a fragment of my call will coincide with 100 milliseconds of silence and I hear “The whiskey nine station again?” or “The call ending in November?” and it is my turn! Make the exchange, 73 and good luck! Tune a few kHz along and do it again!

I attached my homemade kneeboard to the steering wheel for logging. So much easier than the usual balancing act!

Number 7 in the log was a pleasant surprise, a chatty operator! We spent several minutes comparing OK vs. WI weather, rig and antenna, and other stuff. I like a little bit of extra content in a QSO when possible, over the hard-line contest style … that said, I easily fall into it when in either side of a pileup! I made one park-to-park contact with a Canadian operator in Quebec.

Though a vertical is theoretically omnidirectional, propagation seemed to favor the Southeast; I heard stations to the west like CO, SD, AZ and even SJV, but I didn’t get through to them. 20 meters was rather unstable though, fading and un-fading could be rapid, and at its worst, cover the whole range from clearly audible to gone in 30 seconds or less. Still, one by one I filled pages in the log until the already gloomy light started to hint at approaching dusk.

The antenna came down, the radio went back in the case; the last of the hot coffee was poured, and I started the drive home.

QSO map courtesy of

No job is ever complete until the paperwork is finished (and filed!), so I transferred the paper log to Xlog, and exported adif and Cabrillo versions to send off. Here’s my own blog post, and I am going to do soapbox comments over at next.

Thanks for visiting! Stop by again soon for even more QRP fun!






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *