Help me buy first scanner

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1dmk3

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i apologize if this question gets asked over and over again here, but I need help getting set up with my first venture in Radio scanning.

I am looking to get a scanning system into my car, the main objective of this scanning system is to be able to tap into communications of the Yellowstone National park area, both biologists and wildlife watching groups and also the Park rangers and Law enforcement.

I am an avid wildlife photographer and would not mind having an extra tool to help me know the where abouts of animals. as reported by the various agency's operating in the park boundaries. Im not out to get in the way but rather use there information to help me be in the right place at the right time.

I have been told that rangers in Yellowstone are using Racal radios and are on a digital band that is mostly unencrypted, I do not know the type of equipment used by the biologists but it appears they have a variety of diffrent styles and types of radios in there vehicles, What type of scanner do I need to purchase to be able to tap into there networks?

My budget is limited, but I would rather buy the right scanner to achieve my objective than get a cheapie that is unable to dial in who I want to listen to.
 

fredg

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First... It is unlikely you will find anything Digital for less than $300.

I would get the PSR-500 http://www.greamerica.com/PSR-500.html

They run about $500 but will do what you need. Plus it has the added convience of being portable so you can carry it while you hike around. It is a new model and has a great reputation.

Short of that there is the Pro-96 http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2036238&cp=2032052.2032072&parentPage=family

Also a radio with a good reputation, and can be found for around $300-$350 used.

I do not actually own either of these but I read much about them. I do however own the PSR-100 which is a very basic model, but it is a nice sturdy radio.

There are mobile versions of these radios that mount in your car, but it sounds like you would be better served with a hand held.
 
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kg4pbd

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You might want to post in the Wyoming state forum. Different systems seem to do better on certain radios so finding someone with experience monitoring that particular system could be helpful.

The PSR500 and Pro96 are both GRE. Uniden's digital portable is the 396. You'll find that each brand has it's aficionados, and each brand's radios have strengths and weaknesses.
 

1dmk3

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May 1, 2008
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Greater Yellowstone Region and the Snake River Pla
Yes thoose frequencys are of intrest to me.
Not included on that list are the biologists that work within the park, usually a group of 10 or 15 cars spread through out the roads in the park monitoring various animals in the early mornings and keeping in contact with each other via a radio system. They do not work for the park and are kind of a 'watchdog' orginization, so they may or may not utilize the goverment system of repeaters.

My knowledge of radio is next to nil, so I cant tell you the type of digital system they are using.
 

hoser147

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It is possible that they have or are in the process of going to digital, with the way the federal government is tossing grants out to agencies for upgrading to digital systems. If you find any freqs that arent listed submit them to the database here. Hoser
 

N8IAA

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1dmk3 said:
Yes thoose frequencys are of intrest to me.
Not included on that list are the biologists that work within the park, usually a group of 10 or 15 cars spread through out the roads in the park monitoring various animals in the early mornings and keeping in contact with each other via a radio system. They do not work for the park and are kind of a 'watchdog' orginization, so they may or may not utilize the goverment system of repeaters.

My knowledge of radio is next to nil, so I cant tell you the type of digital system they are using.
Do you know what frequencies the biologists use? VHF, UHF? Are they truly digital? They maybe using a repeater, or, are on trunked system. The Park Rangers are on conventional VHF, along with, using ctcss(subaudible tones to open the squelch on the radios). Knowing what the biologists use, can help us give you a better idea of what to buy. The PSR 500 is an upgraded Pro96 with extra features like signal stalker, which can aid you in finding the frequencies.
HTH,
Larry
 

radioman12

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Feb 3, 2003
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Location
Chesterfield, VA
scanner

You may want to check out e bay. Sometimes you can find a deal there on a scanner providing it is one that will received what you want it too.
 

emscapt9816

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Mar 24, 2006
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267
Location
Long Island, NY
Ask one of them...

The biologists you wish to monitor may be able to help you out. They could be using any kind of radio, including CB. There's no harm in introducing yourself and simply asking.
 

Airdorn

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Lol, I thought this was going to be a plea for donations. :)
 

wa6ube

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May 4, 2008
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Location
Mount Hamilton, CA
Bc-796d ?

1dmk3 said:
i apologize if this question gets asked over and over again here, but I need help getting set up with my first venture in Radio scanning.

I am looking to get a scanning system into my car, the main objective of this scanning system is to be able to tap into communications of the Yellowstone National park area, both biologists and wildlife watching groups and also the Park rangers and Law enforcement.

I am an avid wildlife photographer and would not mind having an extra tool to help me know the where abouts of animals. as reported by the various agency's operating in the park boundaries. Im not out to get in the way but rather use there information to help me be in the right place at the right time.

I have been told that rangers in Yellowstone are using Racal radios and are on a digital band that is mostly unencrypted, I do not know the type of equipment used by the biologists but it appears they have a variety of diffrent styles and types of radios in there vehicles, What type of scanner do I need to purchase to be able to tap into there networks?

My budget is limited, but I would rather buy the right scanner to achieve my objective than get a cheapie that is unable to dial in who I want to listen to.
Uniden BC-796D perhaps ?

I have this model and it came with the project25 decoder board pre-installed ..
 

flaugher

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Joined
Apr 22, 2006
Messages
3
About Digital

Anyone looking for a new scanner has to consider the digital question, not because of what it means today but for the future.

I'm an FAA tech and we ARE pushing ahead with the program to replace current AM air-to-ground radios with digital (CM-300 radios). Only a few have been installed so far but the program is moving ahead. There'll be some period when our ground radios will have to interface with existing airborne AM radios, giving the industry and privates time to buy and replace equipment. That plus the time for us to complete OUR end of the system means airband scanning has a reprieve ... for awhile.

Several issues face those of us in public service. As with scanners, digital poses a hefty pricetag and and increased future costs on users. I talked to some FBI techs who are hoping to hold off on digital as long as possible because 1) the radios cost so much, 2) they're heavier, 4) they need more and bigger batteries, and 4) you can't just give someone a radio and say, "Here, go use it." You have have training in digital, and schools cost money ... LOCAL money. The Dept of Interior was recently criticized in Congress because they jumped early into digital. DOI smokejumpers and firefighters had some of the above difficulties. Still, digital IS certainly going to come.

In the government there is now a mandate that we WILL start spending the money allocated for digital. For us, the "interoperability" advantage of digital is a big deal. For example, in an emergency a command center will be able to override all other communications and issue a "take cover" or "evacuate" command on ALL talkgroups. This was one of the lessons we learned from 9-11. As another example a sheriff's deputy on one talkgroup can be given the ability to talk directly to a hospital emergency room on another.

All these advantages mean that digital IS going come come, sooner or later, and in time AM/FM scanning of public service bands will probably become a thing of the past.
 

SCPD

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Virginia
Here are my thoughts relative to your situation. First, I would buy a radio that will last a long time. Whether or not you are interested in radio systems that are already digital or not, I would purchase a radio that will handle it. Another factor to consider is if the CPU or central processing unit can be upgraded. The PRO-96 cannot be upgraded as it turns out and when the radio came out it was said that it could be upgraded. The PSR-500 (handheld) and PSR-600 (mobile) radios can be upgraded. The reason this is important is that a new band is being opened up right now, and it is the upper 700 MHz band. The final outcome of how that band will be allocated is not known and GRE, the manufacturer of the PSR radios, is already working on a CPU update that will handle some recent changes in the 700 MHz band allocation. These upgrades can be accomplished by the radio owner using a computer and the Internet, precluding the need to send the radio back to the manufacturer for upgrades.

You might not think you are interested in the new 700 MHz band as it will be used mainly in urban areas, however, you just don't know what is going to happen in the future. I bought a PRO-96 three years ago because I just could not wait to have a digital capable radio with me when I visited metro areas. I held off on getting the PRO-2096, the mobile version, even though it had ten times the memory capacity as the mobile scanner I was using. I waited until the PSR-600 came out as I knew that the purchase of the 2096 was going to cause greater expenditures in the future because it could not be upgraded. The same principle applies to trying to get a radio that is cheaper now. It might be cheaper right now, but because it does not have the latest features and capabilities it will have to be replaced sooner, and in the long run going with the cheapest now will cost more money.

You indicated that you wanted to listen in on National Park Service communications in order to get an indication of where wildlife is being sighted. My career experience and listening to land management agencies while traveling might provide some insight on this. In a National Park it is the law enforcement or "protection ranger" that handles most of the human/wildlife interactions. They will often call in or be called to these interactions and this generates radio traffic. Sometimes wildlife management personnel will be roving and will respond to these types of incidents as they will often want to record data on the animals involved such as size, appearance, or have some animals tagged. Wildlife biologists and other resource management people use the radio far less. They don't usually have a requirement to call in and out of service and don't generally talk with each other on the radio. Resource management personnel often have an aversion to using radios at all. Sometimes this is due to personality but is also because they don't want the information about the movements of animals becoming common knowledge. Yellowstone has experienced a fair amount of poaching for animal parts that are sold internationally, such as elk antlers and bear gall bladders. Most of the time sightings of wildlife are not reported on the radio unless there is a human management need caused by the sighting, such as traffic problems, people feeding wildlife, safety problems caused by people, or similar. It would be very surprised if any park personnel were to announce a particularly good sighting of wildlife if a human problem does not exist because to draw attention to the situation may cause a human problem they didn't otherwise have to handle.

Quite often communications regarding wildlife are very vague and hard to understand. Sometimes locations and species of animal are numbered or lettered and you might only hear something like "I have 53 160's in sight at EF" or something similar. Sometimes they call in locations obtained by GPS but use the "Universal Tranverse Mercator" (UTM) instead of longitude and latitude, and for some people not familiar with UTM it can be difficult to understand how to calculate the location.

There are exceptions to this lack of wildlife related radio traffic, one being the bear management personnel in Yosemite National Park who work all night and call sightings in to each other so they can "haze" black bears. Hazing is a process of using various methods to teach the bears that human encounters are not pleasant. Those methods being loud noises, rubber bullets, unpleasant odors, etc. If such methods are used in Yellowstone on either black or grizzly bears you might hear wildlife management personnel on the radio. Generally this type of activity is done on tactical or simplex frequencies. For a long time 168.350 and 163.100 were used as tacticals in almost every park. With narrow banding making far more frequencies available many parks are now obtaining tactical frequencies unique to that park. These frequencies are getting difficult to figure out as frequency guides, many of which were posted on the Internet, or available to many hobbyists with agency contacts, have become "for official use only." I'm retired from the Forest Service and those guides are no longer available to me, even when I promise to keep the information on a "my eyes only" basis.

Hopefully you have some outdoor experience, and some with wildlife. The wildlife in Yellowstone can be dangerous with the obvious animal being the grizzly, but the bison are also dangerous, given the behavior of well meaning, but inexperienced park users. Yosemite National Park has never had a human fatality from a black bear, but mule deer have killed four people since the Park's establishment in 1890. In the western U.S., some of the worst injuries and some fatalities from wildlife have involved elk. If I had a nickel for every sighting of dangerous human behavior around wildlife I ever made, where the person said "I was just trying to get a good picture," I would probably have a barrel full of nickels, or at least a good size bucket.

You should also be aware that Yellowstone is an "exclusive" jurisdiction, that is state and local authorities have no jurisdiction inside the park boundaries, unless the federal government has given them authority, such as under the Clean Water Law or Clean Air Act. Don't bother trying to listen to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as they have no authority inside the park, nor do any of the surrounding state wildlife agencies (Idaho and Montana).

I show the following frequencies in use at Yellowstone: 166.375 repeater output/169.975 input for Mt. Holmes for the northern portion of the park and 165.5875 output/164.800 input for Mt. Sheridan for the southern portion of the park. With no specified location I show 167.150 output/163.125 input for an "Emergency" repeater(s). It is pretty old information so some changes could have been made, especially after the narrow banding requirements were established in 2005.

I wish I could get back up there this year. I was on a "self-guided, all expense paid tour" of Yellowstone during August - October in 1988. I was a crew boss assigned to the North Fork fire, which burned about 500,000 acres in the southwestern portion of the park. I would like to retrace some of my travels and see how the area has changed since the fires.

Hope this helps.
 

Air490

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Airband monitoring will be around for a very long time yet. Any move to a new protocol has to be agreed to by ICAO and implemented worldwide. This will take quite a bit of time, especially considering the cost of any new system. Any move by a single country to bring in it's own system would lead to it's civilian aircraft being banned from all other countries.

Digital Mode 2 (D8PSK) will be used for data transmissions (as is already being trialled in a number of countries). AM transmissions have clear safety advantages for voice comms in aviation and are not likely to be readily abandoned.

Most importantly for the enthusiast, there will be airband receivers around regardless of whatever change occurs. There are so many aviation related industries that use airband receivers now that it is very likely manufacturers will continue to make them in the future.
 
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