VHF Contest School — More Detailed Rover Info

       A basic definition is that rovers are VHF/UHF contesters that operate mobile, activating different grid squares in the process.  They may operate either while in motion or while stationary.  Or a combination of both.  They may travel alone or with a driver or logger or navigator.
   They may activate few grids, or as many as possible.   They may stay near population centers, or rove to high hills and shoot for more DX-type contacts.   There is a lot of flexibility to roving.   Lots of different ways to strategize.   As well as how to equip your rover vehicle, meaning what bands to bring along and what antennas.   Plus the strategy with planning out different routes as you rove in various contests. 

   Often times, hams take up roving because they are limited from putting up antennas at their QTH’s.   On the open road, or high up on hills, they overcome their antenna limitations at home and finally experience the thrills VHF/UHF can bring. 
    Some rovers are content to keep it pretty simple, and others go to great lengths.   Check out the pictures at    http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/woverbeck/rover.htm  and at the Badger Contesters website:  http://www.badgercontesters.org/gallery/gallery_index.html

   Rovers are very important in VHF contests because every time they enter a new grid square, they are just like a new station you haven’t yet worked.  If you work a fixed station in a contest, once you’ve worked them on all the bands you share, that’s it, there are no more points to be had from that station.
   If you worked a rover in say EN53, and then they moved into EN63, you are able to work them again.  They move into EN52, you can work them again.  On any or all of their bands.   Say they then move into EN62.   They’re fair game all over again.  So if a rover had 50, 144, 222 and 432 (or the FM equivalents of 52, 146, 223 and 440) and you worked them on all 4 bands in all 4 grids, you would get 16 QSO’s in your contest log, instead of only 4.  THAT is why I love rovers.
   Always make sure that when logging rovers, you enter their callsign such as “KC9BQA/R”.   That “/R” is necessary.  Rovers also need to remember to identify themselves as “KC9BQA/R” when roving.

   Rovers can make themselves very desirable by going to lesser-populated grids.  I have carefully tracked rovers as they traveled thru EN45, EN55 and EN65 in Northern WI.   When I was able to work them, they were the only contacts I had the entire contest from those grid squares.  Did I appreciate that!   Of course, the farther away from populated areas that you rove, the better antennas you need.   As well as needing great locations to operate from. 
   While we’re on the topic of locations, here’s two links you’ll enjoy:  
www.confluence.org and  http://gatorradio.org/Operating_Training_Aides/Ham_US_Grids%202005.pdf   The first link is so important, I’m going to repeat it below.   The 2nd link is a colorful grid map of the USA.  

   The Upper Midwest/Great Lakes area gets good rover activity.   Some parts of the country have very little.   So we’ve been pretty blessed to have a good group of rovers for most contests.  I often hear rovers in WI, and sometimes across IL, MI, MN and IA.   The rovers I work from more than 100 miles away usually have beam antennas — the longer the better.   I have personally had contests where rovers made up 35-40% of my total QSO’s.  I just appreciate the heck out of rovers — I could go on and on.   

     Rovers benefit from publicity about their effort *prior* to the contest.  The reason being that other rovers and fixed stations will know you’re out there, and know about where/when to look for you.    An estimate is good enough — a rover who stays on schedule for an entire contest is a rare breed!   As a rover, you want to be calling CQ often, letting everyone know you’re out there.   Also make sure to let folks know when you’ve entered a new grid or are getting close.
    You can also submit two different entries into a VHF/UHF contest.   How??   By roving part of the time, and opping from your home station as well.  Those would be two separate entries.   One advantage of doing this would be comparing propagation out on the road, versus propagation at the home QTH.  Another might be coming home to thaw out, or cool off (depending on the season).

    I’ll close by talking about why I think you should give roving a try in the Milwaukee area.   (Readers from other areas, look at a grid map and see what the closest grid corner is to your metro area) 
    In Milwaukee, right at 70th and Lincoln in West Allis, (someone with a GPS could confirm the exact location) there is an intersection of latitude and longitude that creates 4 different grid squares.  EN63/EN53/EN52/EN62.
    A ham in or near Milwaukee can drive a short distance and activate 4 grid squares.   Meaning that even with very modest antennas and rigs, you are within easy reach of dozens of stations.  This is assuming there’s a good turnout of contesters, of course.    Promotion among your friends ahead of time would help there.   Just think how much contest activity could be created by a few rovers and plenty of fixed stations, all centered for a time around the EN63/53/62/52 grid intersection.   Ordinary mobiles can try contesting from there Jan 23-24.  There’s no law that says a new rover has to start at the top or spend 6, 8, 12 hours operating, especially in January.   Also, rovers can (and do) work other rovers in the contest, so right there is more food for thought.
     I wish a half-dozen mobiles (or more) would just spend some time moving thru that grid intersection, working whoever is on or near 146.55, 146.565, 146.58 or perhaps 146.49 and lower, if it’s really busy.   Also using SSB near 144.200 if they have it.

    Let’s revisit that useful website rovers can use:  www.confluence.org.   Here’s the link to the grid square intersection in West Allis, WI with pictures and text.   http://www.confluence.org/confluence.phplat=43&lon=-88
If you feel like traveling a bit farther, there are other grid intersections you can inspect.   The more grids you activate, the better your score will be.   I’m sure some guys will be on from the EN52/62/61/51 grid intersection on Chicago’s NW side.   They are well within reach of SE WI stations, given adequate antennas and (preferably) SSB gear.

   Some hams get hooked on roving.   I hope a few of you do.  Or pass this info along to someone that sounds like they would enjoy roving.   If you have interest, good for you.   I’d be happy to listen to your plans or questions.   As you continue to grow as a rover, you will make lots of friends among fellow contesters.  We can always use more rovers.  even casual, brand-new ones.   Roving is also fun to do with a friend or perhaps your son or daughter.   Take a potential ham out with you on a rove.

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