WARNING; County hunting is addictive, it is the act of finding and making a contact in every county in the USA (3077). Many of the county hunters have been at it for many years. There are now many web sites with information to help with the journey.
The first award is by CQ Magazine and they require confirmation of the counties with cards and/or eQSL. Rules can be found at <https://cq-amateur-radio.com/cq_awards/cq_usa_ca_awards/cq_usa_ca_awards.html>.
The Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club (MARAC) is at <http://www.marac.org/> They have over 50 possible awards that can be earned. Just because one has worked all 3077 counties once, there are many other awards so it really a never ending process. There are awards for SSB, CW, Digital and many activities. The rules for the awards are at <http://www.marac.org/Award-rules.pdf>. Some club members have written a special logging program, Logger, makes it easy to track your awards and a simple way to apply for the awards. The program costs $20 and you get free updates very often as long as you are a member of MARAC. Dues are $10 per year. MARAC uses the honor system for confirmation so cards or eQSL is not required
Former BARC member, Hollis, KC3X, Snow Hill, has 63 awards listed on the MARC database. <http://marac.org/database/default.asp> He only needs one more county to finish working them all for the 12th time, any mode. Someone is going to South Dakota in May to get it for him. He only needs 2 counties to finish working all for the 5th time on CW and received CW County Hunter of the Year award for 2020 voted on by the members. He has put out 449 last counties for others to name a few of his awards. He has been at it for a few years! As you can see, there are more counties to work after the CQ Magazine award.
There is a web page just for spotting active mobiles when they are in a county. Sometimes fixed stations may be spotted in rare counties. Many State QSO party mobiles and fixed stations are spotted. The main county spotting web site is at <https://ch.w6rk.com/>. The nets are no longer active so check this page to see which mobiles are running a county. They mostly run on the old net frequencies.
COUNTY HUNTER WEB
The County Hunter Web is at <http://www.countyhunterweb.org/index.php>. Their valuable three special pages are used every day. First is the Forum that is very simple to navigate. Awards and trips are announced, and most anything else that county hunters are interested in. The Forum is at<http://www.countyhunterweb.org/DisplayForum.php>.
The Special Needs page at <http://www.countyhunterweb.org/DisplayNeeds.php> is where county hunters list their needed counties for many awards. A mobile will look over this page and plan their county hunting trip to help as many a possible to get the needed counties. Many times, a county hunter will see that a trip can be made to help someone to get that last county in a state or for the WBOW, #3077 to finish an award. That’s Whole Ball Of Wax! The mobile may receive a plaque from the one they helped for their effort. The first time I put out a last county, I saw on the Special Needs page that a station in Canada needed Beaufort County, NC for the WBOW. Heard him on the air a couple of days later and got it for him,
The Edit Your Needs page <http://www.countyhunterweb.org/EditNeeds.php> is where you can list your needed counties for the different awards. You will have to get a password from the webmaster, K3IMC, to enter your needs. Also, the same password works to add comments in the Forum. The other pages are open to view.
The Trips page, <http://www.countyhunterweb.org/DisplayTrips.php> is where the mobiles list the counties they plan to run. Also many mobiles that run State QSO parties list the counties they plan to run. It’s a great source to find counties you may need.
COUNTY HUNTER DOT COM
Another great source for county hunters is County Hunter Dot Com. <http://www.countyhunter.com/> by Dennis Hall, KK7X. It is another excellent site with great info and links. For those that like to chase National and State parks, he has a link with the KFF number and the counties the parks are in. It is listed by KFF number. It’s a great source even if you are just doing parks. It’s at <http://countyhunter.com/Toplist/KFF-County.htm>.
A very entertaining 20 minute video by Leo, WY7LL (SK), from Wyoming, is at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcR1i9hj2ho>. It shows visually some the web pages that I have listed above. Some of the links in the 2010 video are not correct because they have been changed. The correct ones are in this discussion. Also, CQ Magazine does not have the USACA records book now. It’s easier to keep records on a computer with logging programs. Some of the screen shots shown have changed also. At the 1 minute 40 second mark, he displays the large 14×20 certificate for 25 seconds belonging to W4YDY. It was a surprised to see it come up the first time. He said, “I’ll bet it was a surprise to you” the next time we talked. Sadly, Leo passed away in 2013 during the MARAC National Convention at Deadwood, SD, where he and his wife, WY7ML, were convention chairpersons.
COUNTY HUNTER NEWSLETTERS
Members of MARAC receive a monthly club newsletter, The County Line Roadrunner. They can be found at <http://www.marac.org/roadrunner.htm>.
Bob Voss, N4CD, Plano, TX, writes a monthly newsletter, County Hunter Newsletter, that covers county hunting and parks. He is the only Amateur Radio operator to travel to and transmit from all 3077 counties TWO times. Seventeen others have done it once. He is the top Activator for KFF parks in the USA. Bob’s newsletters are from about 70 pages to a little over 100 pages long. He reports on his travels to counties and parks and some other reports that are sent to him by other mobile stations. He writes about other subjects such as his experience at hamfests and band conditions. County hunting is his main topic. Just email Bob at email@example.com and he will be happy to add you to his list. Also the newsletters are archived at <http://chnewsonline.com/> going back to January 2006. He has many contributors from county hunters, park activators, State party mobiles and fixed stations.
Recently some have received the USACA award from CQ Magazine using eQSL for the confirmations. It’s not very hard now to get the award with 500 counties using digital modes along with SSB and CW. FT8 has become the most active mode recently and eQSL is a great source because of the high rate of confirmations on eQSL and the fact that CQ Magazine accepts them. In my case, I have about 3900 eQSL confirmations that include USA and DX. My log shows I have 916 counties confirmed on FT8 on eQSL and eQSL shows 1162 confirmed using all modes, SSB, CW and digital. Don’t need them since I already have the award. I don’t expect anyone will be able to use eQSL for all 3077 counties. Several counties don’t have anyone that use eQSL or many hams. Checked one county in South Dakota and there were 3 hams listed. Two had expired license and the one left was a Technician! Some county hunter mobiles use digital but none use eQSL since it it a big chore to upload them the way the system is set up now. At present, an upload would be required for each county and it would be very time consuming to load 3077 files to each eQSL and LoTW. I did it but I didn’t run many counties, less the 15, at a session.
COUNTY HUNTER AWARD #1
The first Amateur Radio operator to work all counties and receive #1 in 1965 was Cliff Corne, Jr., K9EAB, (SK) from Peoria, IL. He did it from an iron lung. I contacted him on May 23, 1960 in a round table that lasted 50 minutes with 5 of us located in NE, MS, MI, IL and NC on 20 meters. I was living in Raleigh at that time. So I guess Cliff used my QSL card for Wake County. I still have his card in my collection.
MOBILE OPERATION WITH GPS
If you want to put out counties on a trip through several counties with your HF mobile station, you will probably want to use a GPS. But I haven’t seen a GPS with county lines from the companies. I have a Garmin Nuvi. I found a web site that had add-ons for the Nuvi that included county lines. It was complicated to set up and I messed around off and on for several weeks trying to make it work. Finally I hit it and made a file that is less than 2 KB. Unzip it to a card and insert it in the Nuvi and the county lines appear. I put the info on my web site at <https://www.qsl.net/w4ydy/hamlinks.html#County>. Many county hunters have downloaded it and told me that it has saved them a lot of time. N4CD has put the link in his newsletter many times. Several county hunters have told me that it has saved them finding county lines many times. Many back roads don’t have a county line sign.
WORKING THE MOBILES
When a mobile announces his county or it is spotted, you may hear many stations calling. Many times you can wait a little and call and have more luck if you are having trouble. It’s hard for the mobile to pick out a station from the pileups. On SSB, it’s easier for the mobile to pick out call signs if you only use your call sign without phonetics. It’s also faster. Phonetics take up air time and cause more QRM. If the mobile has trouble with your call, he will ask for phonetics. Also, only put out your call sign one time on CW or SSB each time the mobile stands by for calls.
SOME ADVANTAGES OF WORKING COUNTIES
The biggest advantage of County Hunting is the hundreds of friends made over the years not only in the USA but in several countries. It’s always a pleasure to help others get that needed county if you are mobile or a relay station.
Fixed stations can help with announcing and relaying for the weak mobile stations. When relaying, the helper gets the fixed station to send a signal report and if the mobile hears him, the mobile will send a report. If both hear the correct report, then it is a good contact. If a net starts up, a fixed station can be net control.
Yakkey-Dee-Yak from Dave, W4YDY