Amateur radio club hosts area ‘fox’ hunt

David Andrews, Tellico Lake Amateur Radio Club member, prepares his radio for Saturday’s fox hunt in Lenoir City Park.

Tellico Lake Amateur Radio Club hosted a second fox hunt, which acts as practice for club members to respond in emergency situations.

Club members gathered Saturday morning in Lenoir City Park despite the cold and rain to track down a “fox,” or hidden radio transmitter.

Mike Wager, club president, describes the amateur radio hobby as an additional emergency response service in the county.

“We help in crises when phones go down, natural disasters, et cetera,” Wagner said. “The ham operators come out of the woodwork. In order to find a lost hiker or find anybody in distress for that matter, we do what’s called a fox hunt. It zeroes in on a transmitter that is intermittently transmitting. We as ham operators have the equipment know-how to go ahead and zero in on the fox, what we call it, and identify its location within usually feet. When that happens then we identify what the fox is in and we come back to the registration table and we log that we’ve found it and can identify it.

“… Basically it’s practice for real-life scenarios to actually find a lost hiker that has a radio that would be transmitting and be disabled or lost or whatever,” he added.

Mike Foley, club vice president, said emergency service is another aspect of the organization. While members socialize over coffee and lunch and interact with people all over the world, the club serves a purpose.

Foley said a few weeks ago a hiker lost in the Smoky Mountains came across an amateur radio operator who was able to help.

Club members may also volunteer with the Amateur Radio Emergency Services. Wagner said Loudon County, and some surrounding counties, have their own ARES set up.

David Weikert, club member and emergency coordinator for Loudon County ARES, joined the emergency service after finding out about it through the radio club.

“What we do is we provide emergency communications to governmental agencies,” Weikert said. “… Whenever there’s a communications emergency like a tornado, it can be either a natural disaster or a manmade disaster, we offset communications for that agency as requested. We also provide communications for bike races and marathons. There’s these places that … there’s no cell service so amateur radio provides communications when cell service is not there. A lot of us are members of ARES not just in Loudon County but also in surrounding counties.”

The club met in person April 21 for the first time in nearly a year. Since the onset of the pandemic, members have held monthly meetings via Zoom. They also regularly network over the radio to check in with one another, Foley said.

Members come from all walks of life, even as young as school age, he said.

Foley hopes the fox hunt will become a quarterly event.

“You don’t have to have a lot of technical knowledge,” Karen Foley, club member, said. “You don’t have to study electronics and stuff like that. Just show an interest in it, and there’s a lot of classes that you can take online and you study. You have to have a license to operate the radio but you study everything and then you take this test.”