DXpeditions: Bruce remembers “hunting for rare game”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bruce Atchison (VE6XTC), who shares the following notes from a DXpedition over 30 years years ago. Bruce writes, “While going through some old blog posts, I found this one about a DXpedition I took in 1984.”


In past posts, I’ve mentioned my passion for radio. It began with my discovery of distant stations on my dad’s car radio when I was ten years old and continues to this day. Because my memoirs deal with subjects other than distant signal reception, referred to by radio aficionados as DX, I haven’t been able to write much about this infatuation.

One aspect of hunting for DX is travelling to remote locations that are free of man-made interference. When I learned that my cousin Wayne, was going hunting near Lodgepole in October of 1984, I begged a ride with him.

In a clearing along a cut line, I erected a seventy-foot-long wire antenna and connected it to my general coverage receiver which I powered with a car battery. While Wayne hunted moose, I tracked down exotic stations. Just as the fresh autumn air invigorated me, so did the crystal-clear reception of stations which I could barely hear back home.

At our makeshift camp site, I often let my cousin listen to the radio. This occasionally led to some strange situations. As we ate breakfast early one morning, I tuned in a station from Papua New Guinea. To my astonishment, the announcer began playing country music. There we were, two Canadians in the Alberta wilderness, listening to American country tunes from a station on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

Another memorable radio moment happened one night when I picked up a coast guard station in contact with a ship somewhere in the Pacific. Somebody on board it was hurt and needed a doctor. The radio man could barely speak English and the American on shore could barely understand the sailor’s accent. If it wasn’t a serious situation, it would have been comical.

My uncle Bob, who hunted in a different part of the forest, met us one evening as we relaxed by the fire. When he asked what I was doing with that fancy radio, I showed him by tuning in Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

Uncle Bob gawked at the set and listened in awestruck silence for a minute. “I can understand that,” he exclaimed as a news announcer droned on in German. “I can understand everything he’s saying. How can you pick up a signal all the way from Germany?” he marvelled.

I couldn’t even begin to explain the intricacies of F2 radio wave propagation to him so I said, “Signals like that always come in like that on the short wave bands.”

I felt sad at the end of the week when we packed up and drove toward Edmonton. Though Wayne came back empty-handed, I had the fulfilling experience of listening to far away stations free of annoying buzzes from TV sets and power lines.

Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories, Bruce!

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2 thoughts on “DXpeditions: Bruce remembers “hunting for rare game”

  1. Joe

    I am reminded by this story of something someone said: YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK.
    I had such fond memories of airports our father used to regularly visit that my last time home, some 30 years after the fact, I mentioned to my brother that I should visit the small once-familiar airport on the West side of Chicago. My brother said, “Dont bother, you wont recognize it.” Well, I should have listened. On my way my memories replicated the joy I experienced there, but when I arrived my soul seemed to sink into oblivion. Gone were the fields of corn – displaced by tract homes and mini malls; the old hot dog stand was no where in sight; the little wooden restaurant replaced with a cold commercial steel building; the long line of little private airplanes parked on grass weekly manicured forever displaced with acres of dull grey concrete… and the old hanger with doors ajar and pigeons in the rafters torn down to make room for rows of sterile tin T hangers…. I cried behind the wheel as I continued on my journey to Florida. This, I thought, was the first time my brother was absolutely right… I should not have gone.
    Its a wonderful thing to have journals full of fond memories… its quite another to attempt to relive them. I too have life-lifting memories of Radio adventures, but I have learned to seek out new ones rather than hunt down old ones… While attending various Ham club functions these days I can barely even remind myself of, let alone talk about, my very first field day, which I remember as so filled with perfect joy that I dare not compare. No.. you can never go back – I just don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

    Nice post; thanks

  2. Guy Atkins

    Bruce, I really enjoyed your memories of “hunting rare game” on your DXpedition years ago. My best DXing experiences over the decades have been on DXpeditions, especially the ones which combined radio and camping in the boonies. With ever-increasing noise levels around civilization, DXing trips to RF-quiet areas are my new normal.

    In fact, I’m heading off to a cabin on the Oregon coast next week for this very purpose. Wish me luck, and many new DXpedition memories :^)


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