You are frequently admonished to “Listen, listen, listen and listen some more.” Just what should you be listening for? In order to have any chance of working a DXpedition, you must know who you are calling. Spots on the various spotting networks are often wrong. You should determine who you are calling by yourself. You must be able to hear when he starts and stops transmitting, and you must be able to hear and understand his instructions. You must be able to hear if he returns to your call.
It is also important to listen to the pileup. Depending on the situation, you might want to call exactly on the frequency of the last station worked. Or, you might want to call just up or down from the frequency of that station. You might need to pick a clear frequency and call there for a short time. Where you call next depends on the situation, and you need to listen in order to make that determination.
Many spots shown on the various spotting networks are incorrect. The best way to determine the identity of a DX station is to listen for yourself. You should be able to copy the station in order to work it. If you can’t copy the station well enough, you probably shouldn’t call since you might not know if he returns your call. Just how well you should be able to copy is a judgment call. Use your best information.
One of the most disruptive things that any DXer can do is transmit – inadvertently or not – on a DX station’s frequency in a split situation. Everyone does it at one time or another. Learn how to use your radio instinctively. Practice looking at the controls of your radio frequently so you are sure you are not on the wrong frequency. Don’t put your radio on the DX frequency to “comment” about anything. You will likely forget to put it back, and you will become part of the problem.
You should never transmit near the station being worked while essential information is being exchanged. This is interference, and will only serve to slow the QSO process.
Sending a partial callsign should be avoided. Sometimes it may seem that since the DX station is responding to just a few letters of a callsign, and that is what you should do. That is not correct. The DX station is responding to just a few letters – a partial callsign – because that is all he heard. If you wish him to enter your full callsign in his log, give it to him!
Perhaps the best calling scheme is to use full break-in – QSK. Using QSK, you can hear the DX station between your characters and thus you can hear him when he returns to a caller. Using QSK, you can quickly terminate your calling until the next opportunity. If you cannot use full break-in the next best method of calling is to call just once and then listen. If nothing is heard, you can call again… and again. After a few calls, you should list longer as you are probably transmitting simultaneously with the DX station.
Many DXers seem to respond after hearing only one letter of their call. This response is simply not productive: It is almost always a waste of time. If you hear two or three letters in the proper sequence, you should send only your callsign. Do not send a report until you hear your full callsign.
Following up on item #7, if you do hear your callsign correctly, do not send it again unless required by licensing regulations. Many QSOs have been lost under poor propagation conditions because after the DX station had the call correctly, the DXer sent his callsign again and raised the question in the mind of the DX op whether he had it right initially. If conditions don’t improve or become worse during this exchange, the Q may well be lost. Do not repeat your call if the DX op sends it correctly (unless required). He will keep what he has if he hears nothing else.
This would seem to be common courtesy, and most people won’t be discourteous. A problem will occur when the DXer doesn’t listen carefully enough – probably because of poor conditions. Listen to any and all instructions the DX operator is transmitting. On phone it should be no problem to understand what he is asking for. Listen carefully as well on CW, but if you have difficulty copying, be even more careful. Do not call if he is asking another area. Do not call if you are in doubt.
When listening to a pileup, it is very easy to hear DXers who have forgotten how to behave properly. Try to train yourself to operate in a way that you would approve. It can be difficult, but you can succeed!