The Great VHF Wasteland


I read articles all the time in QST and CQ magazines about how active the VHF/UHF bands are, all the radio operators hanging around up there, all the fun you can have, the hundreds and hundreds of repeaters out there. Thousands of hams are out there on simplex. Dozens and dozens and dozens are working various VHF/UHF contests.

I’m sitting right smack dab in the middle of repeater heaven. There are dozens of repeaters close enough for me to hear located in Manitowoc, Green Bay, Fond du Lac, the Fox Valley. Even a few as far away as Wausau and Suring Wisconsin. Every club and group, every ARES group, every SkyWarn group seems to have one or more repeaters on the air. I have about 27 repeaters plugged into the FDR-400 that I know I can get into with no problems at all, ranging from local ones just a few miles away, to distant ones like Wausau and Suring.

So I turn on the 400, put it in scan, and hear…

Well, nothing. I hear the occasional repeater ID. I hear the occasional kerchunk (that’s a technical radio geek speak term, btw) of someone probably testing if they can hit a repeater or if their transceiver is working.

And that’s all I hear. Repeater IDs, an occasional kerchunk… And nothing else. Literally nothing else. For hours and hours on end. Put out a call and you hear — nothing.

There are only two times I hear any activity on two meters, during regularly scheduled nets run by clubs and ARES groups, and when an ARES group is doing support for some special event. Otherwise, nothing.

Simplex? That’s even worse. You can put your transceiver in fast scan mode and sit for days scanning the simplex portions of the band and hear nothing.

Given all of the articles I’ve been reading in QST and other ham publications in print and on-line, I was thinking it was just something about this area. I don’t know. Just shy, maybe? Seems like kind of an odd hobby to get into if you don’t like talking to people.

But I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and the more I talk with other hams outside this area, the more stories I hear that are identical to mine. Unused repeaters, nothing on simplex… If you do start trying to call, there’s no response. Only activity is regularly scheduled nets, and once those conclude, it’s back to silence again.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother any more. The only time the FDR400 here in the house gets turned on is when my wife participates in the local ARES net. I don’t even have a VHF rig in the car any more. My own Yaesu was transplanted into her vehicle when her aging Alinco began having problems.

So is it just area? Is this an anomaly? Just curious.

As always, comments are welcome…


P.S. Now that I have the OCFD up again, I’ve been hanging around down on 75 meters, above 3900, often on 3913 during days, so if you get down there, give me a yell.

Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

9 thoughts on “The Great VHF Wasteland”

    1. I’ve been hearing that from other hams as well, unfortunately. I’ll hear new tech class licensees pop up all the time on VHF but they have the same experience. Except during the organized nets, there’s often no one there.

      It’s not a lack of licensees… There are new tech class licensees all over the place.

      HF, on the other hand, seems to be doing just fine. I’ve run into two fellows who just upgraded to general class in the last week alone, and 75 meters is downright crowded around here every night. Odd…


  1. It’s because Ham Radio is on life support. Don’t you know that? And for the remaining conversations that take place…….it’s embarrassing.


    1. It’s really rather odd. I have the V/U rig on almost all day long, with about 28 repeaters being scanned that cover the entire north eastern third of the state, plus the WECOM network which covers the entire state, and there’s nothing. The only activity I ever hear are the same three or four guys chatting on their daily commute. So where are all of the new tech licensees? I have no idea…


  2. The best thing to do is grab a couple friends and have meaningful dialy conversations and have a welcoming demeanor. Stick to ham or non confrontational topics. Doing this I have helped our local club grow from 10 to nearly 100. Oh yea and make YLs feel welcome too !


    1. I certainly agree with that. I got in the habit now when I hear someone do a mic “kerchunk”, which happens all the time from people seeing if they can hit a repeater, of coming back with something like “Hi, this is KC9YGN. You’re hitting the repeater. How are you today?” or something friendly and about half the time I’ll end up having a nice conversation with someone. Alas, I haven’t had time to get on the air much because of other commitments, but it’s a way of drawing out the newbies who just got their tech licenses and are nervous about getting on the air at first.


      1. Yes, that works ! I wish people wouldn’t kerchunk, just say “testing” or something. So we make VHF scheduled conversations just like people do on HF. Even got quite a bit of 220 activity again !


        1. I wish they would say something too, but all we can do is try to encourage people. There are a few nets running on a semi-regular basis, but participation in those seems to be falling off for some reason. My wife did the local ARES net earlier this evening and she said she only had 2 people check in. Used to get a dozen or more people for that. I have to admit I’m almost never active on VHF/UHF these days. I’m mostly down on HF playing with the digital modes. I really need to start turning the rig on more often when I’m home.


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