AN INTRODUCTION TO COUNTY HUNTING
PURPOSE AND SCOPE.
These guidelines are provided by the Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club, Inc. as a service
for the person who may have beard of county hunting or run across a Net on the ham bands,
and wants more information on how the activity works, and how to get started. MARAC does
not sponsor, provide Net controls, or act as a governing body for any county hunting Nets.
Most county hunting Nets are administered by independent county hunters following the
guidelines given here, more or less, for the common good and efficiency of those attempting
to make county contacts. The procedures described here are recommended guidelines only and
are not intended to define rules for Net operation. These guidelines cannot cover all situations,
therefore good judgment and eon' non sense should always prevail. At all times, the procedures
and Net operation must be in full compliance with FCC rules.
What in the world is county hunting?
County hunting is a specialized interest within the hobby of amateur radio. People in the
fifty states and a number of foreign countries strive toward the ultimate goal of making a
confirmed two way radio contact with another Amateur in each of the 3076 counties in the
entire United States of America, or hearing all counties in the ease of SWL's. Doing so
earns a large, beautiful award certificate and plaque from the publishers of CQ Magazine -
the coveted United States of America Counties Award (USA-CA). It would be hard to find a
more attractive and impressive award to hang up in one's shack, or an award that would
bring more satisfaction and new friends. Not to worn, though, one doesn't have to give up
Monday Night Football to get started in county hunting. The basic USA-CA award is issued
by CQ Magazine at several achievement levels, starting at confirming 500 counties on any
bands and with any mode. Many people would qualify simply by sorting through their present
QSL cards, since any call at any time and in any location can be used for the award MARAC
also issues a number of similar awards and many independent county hunters have created
their own special awards.
Who are county hunters?
Young, old, women, men, paper chasers, rag chewers, mobilers, SSB, CW - in short, a cross
section of amateur radio itself Some people prefer to put counties on the air for others,
especially if their time or work has them traveling the highways and byways. A majority
work the mobiles for counties from their home stations. And some do both. County hunters
have established some Nets for the convenience of meeting with others so inclined, but
it should be emphasized that county hunting can be done anywhere at any time, as either
a group or individual activity. Some people like to strike out on their own, while others
enjoy fellowship of meeting friends regularly on the Nets dedicated to a common cause.
Where does one find this strange breed of hams?
The SSB and CW Nets are active in varying degrees every day of the year. The 20 meter
SSB Net on 14.336 MHz or the 20 meter CW Net on 14056.5 are the mainstays of daily activity,
but operation may move to 40 meters for closer in contacts and difficult conditions. 75
meters is used on winter evenings, particularly in the low part of the sun spot cycle. The
Nets are directed by a Net control station to assist the mobile stations giving out the
counties, and to give everyone, both mobile and fixed stations, a fair chance at working
each count . A verified exchange of signal reports, and written confirmation of the contacts,
are required for the award. But don't be dismayed, as county hunters have an easy way of
The USA-CA Counties Award.
The basic certificate is available for working 500 counties in any of the 50 states, with
SSB, CW, or any combination of modes. Award upgrades in the form of seals are available in
increments of 500 counties with certain numbers of states required, until the goal of all
counties is reached That earns a special honors plaque upon completing the whole program.
All contacts for the award must be two-way (one-way for SWLs, of course) and confirmed,
usually on special county hunter confirmation cards printed especially for that purpose.
A Mobile QSL Bureau is operated to help county hunters confirm mobile contacts. To organize
the record keeping task, CQ Magazine and other vendors listed, offer the United States of
America Counties Award Record Book which lists all the counties, has room for entering
contact information for each county, and must be used for the initial application for the
USA-CA award. The award can be endorsed for all contacts SSB, CW, or other options as long
as the applicant has QSL cards to support the endorsement. Contacts via repeaters, satellites,
moon-bounce, and phone patches are not allowed, but all other contacts using any calls,
locations, or dates are valid. The award is also available on a SWL basis, and several other
sources offer similar awards for working all counties more than once, and even on five bands
for the truly intrepid. The complete rules governing the program are included in the USA-CA
Record Book and should be read carefully. Cards confirming contacts must be verified b two
hams, and any confirmations can be requested for further verification by the CQ Awards Custodian.
Earning the award for working all counties is a major accomplishment, but it should be noted that
the basic award is fairly easily reached, and there are no limits. While a few hams have worked
all counties in as little as a year of intensive activity, a more typical time frame might be
2 - 5 years.
What are the US Counties?
Although we know counties as political - geographical entities larger than cities but smaller
than states, there have been some changes and irregularities in county designation over the
years. A few counties have been absorbed by others, added, or changed to the status of Independent
Cities. Currently there are 3076 counties, but that could change in the future. Both the four
Federal Judicial Districts of Alaska, and the five major islands of Hawaii, are considered to be
counties. Independent Cities may be used for any one of the counties bordering on it. The list of
Independent Cities (primarily in the state of Virginia) may be used for any one of the counties
bordering on it. In addition to a list of the regular counties in each state, a list of the 40
or so Independent Cities, and the counties for which they apply, is also in the USA-CA Record Book.
Sometimes a mobile station will park on a county line and run two counties at the same time. In
that case, a single contact will count for both counties, provided that both are confirmed with a
QSL. The Post Office publication #65, the National Five-Digit ZIP code and Post Office Directory
may be helpful in answering questions about county designations.
What is needed in the area of supplies to actually get started hunting counties? A record book
is needed for a list of the counties in each state, and to keep track of counties worked and
confirmed. Very helpful is a book displaying a map of each State, with the counties outlined
and labeled within that state. Sometimes called a "coloring book", these map books allow the
county hunter to color in the counties completed, and give quick reference to which counties
have been worked and which are still needed in a given state. In addition to a supply of
personal QSL cards for sending the first time to mobiles, a supply of mobile reply cards or
county hunter reply cards is needed. These are usually sold in multiples of 500 cards, and
can be obtained in different color stock, if desired, for tracking bands, modes, or endorsements.
These supplies are sold through the vendors listed. There are several sources of computerized
logging programs suitable for tracking count hunting contacts.