Why do I get so few replies to CQ calls?

Over the last few months I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon.  Why is it that I can call CQ on the HF bands and not get a reply for ages?  I’ve noticed that I can call for ten minutes and finally have a reply from someone who gives me a good signal report, “Five and nine plus twenty dB” and then after that QSO it takes another ten minutes to get a reply and I’ll get another similar signal report.

If I tune around and hear [for example] a Special Event station with a big pileup, it very rarely takes more than a couple of calls to break the pileup and I generally get good signal reports back but if I then go and find a clear frequency and call CQ, I don’t get any replies.

I know my audio is good, I know my aerial is good, I know my radiated signal is good.  Why don’t I get replies?  It’s not just down to the callsign because I found the same when I had the GR prefix for the Royal Wedding – I would tune around the band and hear stations with the R prefix with pileups but when I called CQ using GR6NHU I had very few replies.



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  1. Completely agree, Keith. I’ve noticed the same thing. With my random piece of wire for HF, I don’t expect miracles, but I’ve managed to break pileups and, like you, get 59+ reports without problem.

    I think the problem is that a lot of people just use the cluster, and only look where the spots are. From experience when working from the club, once you get spotted on the cluster the calls start coming in at a steady pace.

  2. I got the same experience like Andy. I’ve been on air a couple of years ago with a special callsign and just asked stations to spot me on the cluster so I get my pile-up. It’s a strange thing to ask, but I just goes like that these days. 73, Bas

    1. How can I spot my callsign no the cluster ? in order to pile-up……

  3. It’s because you’re a G, common as m**k I’m afraid. The cluster doesn’t help, but being a G you’re a common prefix and easy to work. The days of the social QSO are dwindling, everyone wants the DX QSO or rare prefix, Island or what have yo. GD,GI,GJ,GM,GU,GW will maybe get you a QSO, but plain old G no way. :0(

    73 Bob

    1. That may be true, Bob and it makes me sad.

      Not much I can do about my callsign though, although I had the same even when using the GR callsign and they were in demand with big pileups working other GRs. I suppose that may have been cluster related in that I was never spotted.

      1. Makes me sad too, but it’s the way the world is going. Everyone wants the latest gadjet now, and it’s the same with callsigns. New prefix, special call, IOTA activation, etc. You’ve just keep plugging away with your CQ calls. I do use the, but still enjoy tuning up and down the bands looking for something that’s not been spotted. But with the point and click software now available I don’t think anyone tunes anymore. Except for old codgers like me. :0)


        1. It is sad I agree, but we don’t all use clusters and, unfortuantely, calling CQ rarely gets a reply these days :-(. The problem with using clusters is that by the time you search for a special call heard in IZ or EA it may have faded into the QRM or never have been audible/workable from your QTH anyway. Call me old fashioned but I would sooner work a station that I can hear rather than try to work a station that I cannot.

          Nigel, M0CVO

  4. An interesting one, and certainly one I’ve found on many an occasion.

    However, if I operate from the G6UW shack, which is very fortunately equipped with a 3-ele Steppir at 60′ and 400w, that problem rarely presents itself for long. So here’s one theory, coming from experience of both operating as the “big gun” and the “little guy”…

    When I’m at home, my noise level on HF is S7 – at least. I can work someone who’s S9, sure, but I wouldn’t want to have a chat with them for chat’s sake. If they’re S9+20, though, it’s an easy conversation. And in this case, although I’m only running a maximum of 100w from home (and often less), it’s easy for the guy at the G6UW-type station as well, because they’ve also got the benefit of S0 noise. (As, I suspect, do many DX’pedition stations.)

    So as I’m tuning around randomly at home, someone who’s workable, but maybe not a very comfortable copy, doesn’t quite seem worth the hassle unless they sound “interesting”.

    Interesting can mean a few things to me: a special event station, a different DXCC prefix, a callsign I recognise, a path I wouldn’t expect to be open, or someone who’s just been having an interesting conversation. If I don’t know that any of those hold true, it might be a bit harder to convince me to stop and wade through the QRM to make the contact.

    That’s one of the reasons pileups generate pileups, aside from the cluster: if you can get the interest going, more people stop by and bother to listen. Better yet if you can be giving out nuggets of interesting information along the way about a special callsign or event!

    But it’s always tricky to get to that stage with “just” a G-call…

  5. Having experienced similar problems on SSB with my less than optimal set-up, I have found that my CQ return rate is far higher on PSK31. OK, so the QSOs may be a bit predictable, but at least you get a response.


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