An Elk in the wilderness

Edward Abbey’s friend Doug Peacock once said “It ain’t wilderness unless there’s a critter out there that can kill you and eat you.” By that measure we don’t really have any wilderness in Wisconsin. There are black bears a wee bit north of my QTH, there is a growing wolf population a bit beyond that, and on occasion a cougar is sited. While we may not have wilderness we do have some beautiful outdoors here in Wisconsin and my XYL and I endeavor to spend as much time in it as we are able. To that end we just returned from another camping trip, our third this year with two more planned before winter closes in.

The purchase of the camper a few years ago has really fueled my interest in portable operations. This is our third season with it and I have a reasonably good portable station worked out for HF but VHF\UHF has largely consisted of my old Kenwood TH-G71 HT which is primarily used as a NOAA weather radio receiver as 5w and a rubber duck isn’t enough to get me into any local repeaters from camp. Thus the need for an Elk. While we do have some elk in Wisconsin, their affect on VHF\UHF communications is unknown, perhaps because we only have about 60 of them. Once we have more, who knows. In the meantime there is an Elk that has a great affect on VHF\UHF communications, that being the Elk Antennas 2M/440L5 log periodic antenna.

I purchased and deployed a 2M/440L5 something on the order of 10 years ago. It’s been faithfully serving through the hot and humid (and occasionally stormy) summers and the cold and blustery winters with no ill effect to it. The black anodizing on the elements has faded a bit but it is still working great. I’m not much of a VHF\UHF operator but I’ve used it in the past for some 2m SSB work with an old Kenwood TR-9000 and later a TR-9130 as well as occasional 2m FM repeater access all with good results. It is a very well made, well performing antenna that gets great reviews.

Recently a friend and fellow Amateur Radio operator, Josh KD9DZP, got a great deal on a pair of Kenwood TM-D700 transceivers. Given that my only 70cm rig was my  HT and aside from an old Kenwood TR-7950 with some minor issues and the old TR-9000 and TR-9130 my newest 2m rig was an ICOM IC-V8000. So given the fact that I didn’t have a proper dual-band mobile rig Josh made me a great deal on one of his pair. This started my gears whirring regarding a better portable VHF\UHF station for camping. I had various portable power sources sorted out and now that I had a better rig the last piece was an antenna.

I considered a number of options and the end result was the purchase of a Comet GP-3 for my home QTH and the removal of the Elk log periodic from its mount to allow it to be used as my portable VHF\UHF antenna. With the Elk freed up for portable operation it will also allow me to try out satellite operations at some point, something that I’ve never done.

This camping trip was the first outing for the old Elk and my new TM-D700. Prior to leaving home I programmed the radio with all of the 2m and 70cm repeaters that I was liable to access from camp. Upon arrival at camp there is a bit to do to setup the camper and camp itself. The division of labor is such that once we have the camper sited and the jacks deployed, I take care of the outside camp setup and my XYL prepares the inside of the camper. Once I completed the camp setup my first order of business was to deploy the Elk for some testing. Like all of the sites at our favorite campground, this one had plenty of tall trees with some clear overhangs that would be perfect in which to hang the Elk. I fashioned a yoke from paracord for it that would keep it vertically oriented as well as allow me to rotate it using the Armstrong method. With my arborists throw bag I had the Elk up in a good position in slightly more than one jiffy.

Elk in red @approx 25 feet

The antenna is more clear of the trees than depicted. It could easily be rotated from the ground without the need to lower it.

Elk @ camp

Deploying the TM-D700 (yes, using a Samlex power supply instead of a battery) I began to make some calls on various local repeaters. I was able to access the WeComm repeater in Plymouth (146.850 MHz – approx. 38 miles from camp), the 2m repeater in Manitowoc (approx 11 miles from camp), and the FM38 system (70 cm) via its repeater in Green Bay, 442.800 MHz (approx. 30 miles from camp.) Bob, K9BOB responded to my call on the FM38 machine in Green Bay and we had a nice QSO. I was also able to speak with Josh, KD9DZP via the Fm38 system from his home QTH over 70 miles away from camp. He was accessing the Milwaukee repeater at 443.800 Mhz.

TM-D700 @ camp

The power settings for the TM-D700 are 5W (Low), 10W (Medium), and 50W (High.) I was able to access the FM38 system at all power settings with the Elk pointed at Green Bay. I needed at least 10W to access the Plymouth machine and low was all that was needed to access the Manitowoc machine with the antenna pointed in their respective directions.

In addition to the 2m and 70cm usage, I checked all of the NOAA weather radio transmitter frequencies and of the seven, I was able to clearly receive five, of which KIG65 in Green Bay, WXN69 in Sister Bay, WWG87 in Fond Du Lac, and WWG91 in Sheboygan were the strongest. That’s plenty of weather coverage for camp.

I think that the Elk Antenna log periodic makes a very nice portable VHF\UHF antenna for camping. It’s easily transported and deployed, and it packs a lot of performance in a relatively small footprint. I look forward to more trips to the woods with my Elk and at some point I may even point it at some satellites.

 

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