things chasers might be surprised to learn

Sometimes when I am a little slow to respond to a flurry of calls on CW, it’s because I heard a fragment of a familiar call and am quickly paging back in my paper log so I can come back with the complete call! This usually works, but I had a bad guess once - oops!

Hi Roy,
Let me, please give you an advise to better handle this situation, which all activators have to deal with.
The method I use and I’m going to explain now doesn’t involve any more overs than the copying the full callsign one.
The sequence is as follows:
Pileup calling.
You manage to copy the tail ending IF, for instance.
You come back with ??IF GM UR 579 579 ??IF BK
Now the pileup should standby and only EA2IF will show up sending your signal report.
Finally you come back and confirm the full callsign copied by sending EA2IF QSL 73 TU E E
The QSO is over, it took only 2 overs to each participant and you didn’t waste any precious time paging back your logs while the pile keep calling not knowing what’s going on at your side.
Try this an you’ll soon see how smooth and easy things will go.
GL. 73,



Hi Guru,

The key sentence of your reply is the pile up should standby, should, but often this does not happen, at least not always.
What I do like as a chaser from an activator is triple confirmation, this goes as follows.
EA2IF: tu …
I call ON4BCA
EA2IF: ON4BCA (confirmation nr 1) gm Patrick (confirmation nr 2) 559 559 ON4BCA ((confirmation nr 3).
As a qrp chaser with poor antenna this confirms in pile up, QRM, QSB with a very good chance that the contact is OK.
You need an example of an operator who is doing it that way nearly 100% of the time? HB9BIN


I agree, Patrick, and this 3 confirmation strategy is what I actually do, as long as I know/remember the name of the operator AND assuming I’ve got the full callsign copied in the pileup. If just a part of the callsign is copied, it’s not possible the confirmation nr.2 of sending the operator’s name.
Other thing I often do when I have already picked up a callsign but there are still several chasers calling and tail ending is repeating the picked up callsign twice at the begining, then the greetings+name_if_available+signal report and again the picked up callsign at the end.
With this method, the activator makes sure that not only the picked up chaser knows the activator is coming back to him, but also the other chasers in the pileup know it.
This usually works flawless, although there’s always the single indisciplined or LID not playing this game and its rules. But those are a very small minory not worth making a case for them.
By the way, thank you for having chased me on Monday.

P.D. I learned from Juerg HB9BIN the strategy of sending the picked up chaser callsign at the begining AND at the end when the pileup is big.


Thanks for your reply, I forgot something important:
For a chaser, when starting on a frequency is to make the identification of the activator, ok one has sotawatch + the activator regularly giving his call + chasers wellcoming the activator by name, but there is something very helpful to make sure that as a chaser you get the moment when the activator is ready with a qso in pile up and that is learn to recognise his cw fingerprint, every cw operator has his cw fingerprint that is unique: speed, pause between characters and words… very nice if you can make the ID by cw fingerprint.


Guru, I appreciate the advice. I should be clear that I don’t go carefully paging through my logs like a scholar - I have only done this when I have a good idea I can find the callsign quickly, usually from an activation earlier the same day or the day before. This way I can answer just as the pileup ends.

Perhaps I will try your suggestion today.


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Good luck!


My favorite CW practice program, MorseRunner drills you on something similar to this. If it simulates a pile-up and you only copy part of a call, all you have to do is send at least 3 characters which match one of the call signs. All other (simulated) operators will stand by, so long as you didn’t send the 3 characters while they were still sending, and that operator will re-send his call sign.

This has really helped me to begin to be able to work SOTA pile-ups.
73 DE Kevin/KPK… ? DE K4KPK


“The key sentence of your reply is the pile up should standby, should, but often this does not happen, at least not always.”

For sure. I actually give it my best effort to pick something out of the “leading end” or even the middle. I can’t always manage it and have to pick out something on the trailing end, but I think focusing on the tail end discourages stations from standing by. The incentive it to wait to the end of the trail before sending to increase chances of being heard in a pileup, causing stations to attempt to out do each other being the last to send.

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…which really drags things out, unfortunately, even if it is easier for the operator at the sharp end. :confused:

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I agree. What I’m trying to do is identify call fragments as early as possible (With a narrow CW filter setting and shifting around the clarifier) in order to discourage the prolonging of the calls. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, especially when there are 2 equally strong stations on precisely the same frequency.

Quite often, it helps not to listen for the character, but for the sound/tone of a activator. When I recognise certain country prefixes, there is a fair chance that I can map the handwriting of some regular chasers without actually hearing the suffix.
Generally, I find pileups easier to handle when I use my FT-891. There, I can set the filter curve to “really narrow”, in opposite to my FT-817 which only has the 500Hz fixed bandwidth CW filter.

73 Jens HB9EKO

I fully agree, Jens. Worst case is two or more chasers, all of them equally loud, calling zero beat.
I’m really surprised how few chasers take advantage of calling a little off frequency, say +/- 100 Hz. It makes a huge difference. There are some well known chasers who don’t have the loudest signal on the band but get into the log quickly because they always do that.

73, Roman

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Yes indeed. Since Guru @EA2IF suggested I widen the [narrow] CW filter I previously used, I’ve found I can concentrate on one callsign with a particular pitch lower or higher than the rest of the pileup. And as you say, they are not always the loudest signal. The brain is a wonderful thing.


I have my sidetone frequency quite low, somewhere around 400-450 Hz. When chasing, I use a narrow filter (100Hz or less). When activating I usually use a wider one (from 200Hz up to maybe 500Hz on a really quiet band). Partly that’s because summits tend to have a quieter RF background, and very narrow filter settings tend to sound a little “ringy”, so a wider filter gives a more pleasing sound without excessive hiss. A useful side-effect is that callers calling a little off zero-beat are easier to hear, wheras with the narrowest settings they’d be lost. At lower sidetone settings the offset from zero-beat doesn’t need to be so large to be noticeable.