The first VHF/UHF contest of the year is always in mid-late January. The other big ones are in June, July, August and September. There are also single-band, one-evening VHF/UHF sprints in April and October. Visit my website archives for the appropriate months and you’ll find plenty of contest information.
Here’s the link to the ARRL rules for the Jan 21-22nd VHF Sweepstakes: http://www.arrl.org/january-vhf-sweepstakes
In the central time zone, this contest runs from 1pm on Sat., Jan 21st until 10pm on Sun., Jan 22nd. The busiest times tend to be at the start and toward the end of the contest. Saturday evening and Sunday morning are good times to be on, also. I encourage everyone to try harder and spend plenty of time calling CQ contest at different times during the weekend. The VHF/UHF contests are more relaxed and friendlier than the ultra-busy HF contests. It’s not unusual to hear fellows taking a minute to chit-chat and get caught up. Plus, nearly everyone in the V/UHF contests gets plenty of sleep. In the Midwest anyway, you will find almost no activity after midnight or before 6am. I know this because I’ve given up trying, after 9 seasons. Those who run the digital modes may do the bulk of their ops overnight, so keep that in mind. I’m the wrong guy to ask about digital mode operation.
Farther down this post, I provide links to my series of articles called VHF Contesting School. I wrote those articles when I was brand new in late 2003 because I couldn’t find enough info on how/what to do in a V/UHF contest. You are free to share those articles with hams everywhere. We always need more V/UHF contesters. The majority of contacts in any V/UHF contest take place on the bread-and-butter bands of 6m and 2m (50 and 144 MHz). Because most hams have one or both of those bands, we can easily develop more V/UHF contesters, if we take the time to show them the basics.
I love V/UHF contests because they make the bands come alive. I enjoy active bands with lots of signals, and I love the variety that you find in a contest. I love tracking rovers as they move from one grid to the next. I love hearing stations from more than the normal 200-300 mile range, which means we might be getting band enhancement. I love hearing 6 meters suddenly open up with sporadic E skip, which means I might actually get really busy, and put 30, 40, 60 or more contacts in my log inside of an hour.
As I said above, I’ve written a series of articles called VHF Contesting School. They are thorough. It may be more than a total newbie will want to read thru. That’s fine, skim thru the articles, and take what you need. Don’t worry about every last detail. You can be a casual contester, and have fun on your terms.
These links are in order from a basic introduction, to antennas, to what bands and frequencies to use, and so on.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1677 VHF Contesting School — Introduction.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1689 Antennas – The Most Important Part of Your V/UHF Station.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1700 What Bands and Frequencies to Use.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1717 How to Log a V/UHF Contest.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1727 Helpful Hints — Being a Smarter Operator.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1737 Go Roving! Put the Antennas and Rigs in the Mobile.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1740 More Detailed Rover Info.
http://kc9bqa.com/?p=1750 Rules and Scoring.
Again, you are free to pass this info along to licensed hams everywhere. There’s 19 days until the Jan (2012) VHF Sweepstakes, so have fun learning and then put your knowledge to use on the air, having fun and making lots of contacts Jan 21 and 22nd.
Another great resource is www.kcvhfgridbandits.com. Here you can access audio and video clips of V/UHF DX being worked, plus listen to actual QSO’s that are made in V/UHF contests. Let me dig around that website and see if I can steer you toward specific examples… http://www.kcvhfgridbandits.com/linked/junearl.wmv is a good one. That link provides 19 minutes of action in the 2008 ARRL June VHF QSO Party, which had nice conditions. I’m sure if someone started searching YouTube for V/UHF Contest clips, you’d find dozens of examples.