Much like a high-tech game of hide-and-seek, the public is invited to the first radio “fox” hunt of the year this Saturday at 9 a.m. at Fair Park. The fox hunt, hosted by the Rusk County Amateur Radio Club, mixes fun with education and provides an opportunity to practice radio direction-finding skills while learning more about emergency communications and radio science.
The “fox” is actually a small radio transmitter located in a public place somewhere within the city limits. Participants will meet at the main parking lot at Fair Park at 9 a.m. for a brief orientation before the hunt begins. Organizers say everyone is welcome, especially if they are interested in learning more about radio and communications.
“We have hunters of all ages--kids included,” said Keith Ballow, a club member who is helping with the event. “You don’t have to be a radio expert or even own a radio. We’ll have lots of extra equipment and will explain how to use it.”
Amateur radio operators (also known as “hams”) are licensed to use radio and antennas at various frequencies for emergency communications such as natural disasters. But when there is no pressing emergency, they say they enjoy using their skills to just have fun.
“Fox hunting is a great way to have fun while learning how to track down signals,” said Ballow. He explained that the same techniques are used by utility companies to locate malfunctioning equipment causing Wifi or television interference while the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) uses it to locate pirate radio stations or even to track criminals using cell phones.
“At one of our recent club meetings, we built hand-held, directional antennas that are perfect for locating a radio signal,” said Ballow. “This hunt allows us to test them out in the real world. But to make it fun, we turned it into a game!”
Once the hunt begins, participants will use antennas and other equipment to listen for the fox and determine which direction the signal is coming from. They then will travel to new locations and take new bearings, slowly closing in on the “fox”.
The next Rusk County Amateur Radio Club meeting is Thursday evening, 7 p.m. at the South Main Church of Christ Annex Building, located at 402 South Main Street. The fox hunt will begin at 9 a.m. at the Fair Park on Fairpark Drive in Henderson. Both events are free and open to the public.