Use your computer to work DX the right way
Many of us get on the air quite frequently hoping to work a new DXCC country or to work an existing country in our log on a new band or mode. It can be frustrating, especially when conditions are less than ideal.
There is however a tool that most of us already know about called the DX Cluster. Below is a screenshot of dxsummit.fi
There are practices that can be extremely important when trying to work that new one. If I am working contest as "unassisted," then I will never look at a dx cluster site. However, when you are chasing DX to build up your totals, there is nothing wrong with using the cluster, and most of us do.
The problems that do occur when chasing DX are typically just a few.
1) Calling on the DX station's split frequency. We all have been told LISTEN. Nevertheless, we constantly hear stations coming to the aid of the DX station and calling out "UP UP UP." I have noticed this much more in the EU than I ever did stateside. The problem is that someone will look on the cluster and see 3B9VB (or whoever), and immediately start calling on his frequency. This is just awful LID behavior. DX stations know who they are, and they are almost always going to work split. Whoever posted them to the cluster may not have posted "up 2," but it should still enter your mind that they are probably working split. So the first this to do is to wait, and verify where he is listening.
Let's say that he is transmitting on 14.208, so he might be listen up 5 to 10. That means you transmit between 14.213 and 14.218. IT IS AMAZING how many people just don't understand this.
2. The DX cluster will tell you if you can even work the guy. Let's say that 3B9VB is listed 6 times on the cluster. Let's also say that every one of those listing is by a West Coast USA station. Well, chances are that if your call starts with and I or a DK, so you probably won't be able to work him. Not definitely, but probably. ON the other hand, if you see only EU stations listing the DX, then it is a good chance that the USA is not going to be able to work the DX. There is a certain rhythm to propagation that you should learn to figure out. There are also some programs online like:
Voa cap allows you to put in your station particulars and then gives you a prediction of your propagation to another location that you specify. The important thing is that it is a "prediction," and not a certainty. Many times, Voacap indicated that my chances of working a particular DX country was on 25%, yet I was able to make the QSO.
3. When not to call is just SO important. NEVER call if you can't hear the DX station. NEVER call if the DX station is not working your continent. This happens to me All The Time. I will often call CQ JA, and some stations from the EU will just keep sending me their calls. Don't be like those guys.
4. Give only your full callsign. DX stations will usually ignore the stations calling with only their prefix or suffix. On those occasions when I have worked as a special event or just if I have a pile up, I will absolutely ignore the station sending or calling with just "ZZ" or their suffix. Even if I work a long list and they are still there at the end still calling with just their suffix; I will go QRT without working them. The reason for this is 1) it is not legal to give a partial callsign, and 2) it is really bad ham radio behavior.
This little review is probably just automatic for nearly all of you, but if you are a newbie or if you have been licensed for a while but have just fallen into bad habits, well, it is a good idea to try to correct those habits before you get a bad reputation on the air.
Everyone likes a good operator, and you can use the DX Cluster to find that DX, beef up your totals, and also work the radio like a pro.