I am on the air – now what?

That’s a great question!
On VHF, activity is slightly different then HF.   The first major difference is the size of the bands.  The ham bands above 50 MHz are huge compared to HF.

Six meters  (50.000 MHz to 54.000 MHz) alone has more spectrum than all of 80 -10 meters put together. So if you don’t know where on the band, or when to look for signals, you will spend a lot of time hearing nothing but static. There are specific areas reserved for repeater use on each band with a set amount of frequency space. Other modes share “gentleman’s agreements” with specific areas are used for satellite communication, Earth Moon Earth, (EME), digital modes, CW, SSB, AM, etc. An ARRL band plan, available online or just about any hamfest, will help show these areas.

Each VHF+ band has a recognized SSB calling frequency. Most stations will monitor these, and unless there is a lot of band activity going on, this is where most QSOs take place. For busy bands like 6m, 2m and even 70cm in some parts of the country, you want to not rag chew on the calling frequencies.  This is seen as poor operating.   Call CQ, find someone to talk to, and then move off the calling frequency 5 or 10 KHz for your discussion.  This keeps the calling frequency clear for those monitoring as well as DX who might “pop in” for a brief moment.
For those operators interested in digital modes like FT8 or JT65, there are specific calling frequencies as well. The same applies to Meteor Scatter, FM simplex, AM, and others.

The time of day is not as impacted by propagation as the HF bands are. But in general, nights and weekends are the most active times. There are a number of nets each week that are good places to hear stations from all across Arizona, here are the times and frequencies. Probably the largest group meets on Sunday mornings on 144.250 at 8:30 am MST. There are usually 20 to 25 stations checking in. It is a good place to meet hams and you don’t need a big station to participate.  If you have a beam antenna, point south towards Tucson.  That is where the net net control station resides, and he has a big signal.

Another good place to check out is the AZVHF Slack group. If you are looking for information, or need to see if someone is available for a signal check, then use the group. It is a great resource, with a lot of daily conversations on gear and activity.  If you are interested in joining the slack group, send an email to N1AV or K7EME, we can send you link.

See you on the air!    – Doug, K7EME