The importance of copying the full call the first time


Contesting is a radio sport that requires the operator to have many specific skills. One of these skills is being able to handle the “rate” of callers coming back from your CQ. The faster you can handle a pileup, the more contacts go in the log helping the score.

But, where to start learning the “rate” skill?

The first place I’d start is learning to copy the entire call the first time you hear it. Whether it be phone or CW, but especially with CW, getting the whole call the first time will do more for increasing your rate than any other trick.

The reason this is such an important skill is getting only a partial call means that you, in essence, work the same station twice. Not only does this take time where you could be working someone else out of the pileup, but it also discourages others waiting for you to complete the contact so they get a chance to work you. Even repeating with only one other person waiting will often drive that person away from your frequency.

Speed of logging is everything in contesting because the more correct contacts in log, the higher the score.

The only way to increase your capacity to hear one full call in a pileup is to practice. On CW, this is fairly easy using a program such as Morse Runner. Start out by copying the complete call with no others calling and increase your CW speed as well.

Here’s a video of Morse Runner in action:


Then, start adding in stations calling at one time in the simulation. This will force you to hear the one station you are copying even though others are calling on top of the station you are trying to work. Everyone calls on slightly different frequencies, so if your receiver can handle the load, you will develop hearing stations in spite of the closeness.

Increase your rate by copying the full call the first time.

Scot, K9JY

  • I must confess I am guilty of this…

    For example in a pileup I will hear a suffix like ‘JY” and I will send “JY” back on CW if I cant get the full call.

    It sure is fun running pileups though.

    Another trick I do sometimes if I can keep up, is if I hear 2 calls, I will call “JY” and then when finished with ‘JY” instead of QRZ, I will send the suffix of the other one’s call. If you get a lot of sharp operators you can run a pileup nicely like that.

  • @Jack Wilson – Then your memory kicks in and you KNOW that the JY you are hearing in the pileup is K9JY, right? Ha!

    I had the opportunity to operate a large pileup and thought I heard one letter from my buddy. I laid out his entire call and, sure enough, he was there. A total shot in the dark.

    Note, this is for contesting as well. Being a participant in a DXpedition is different in that you want to make sure you get the operator’s full call even if it takes a bit of time.

    But, practice with a tool like Morse Runner makes a big difference in either case.

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