Looking to get radios for hunting trips in Alberta

Status
Not open for further replies.

altaguy

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2017
Messages
4
Hey all. This will be my first time getting into radios.

I hunt just north of Edmonton Alberta and would like to get radios for us to talk to each other as well as listen to the lease road truckers callouts. This way I can pull over out of their way before we meet up on the road. I would like 1 in each truck (2 trucks) to be able to hear the lease operators as well as to communicate with each other and I would like another in the Argo and 1 in the fifth wheel. The Argo and fifth wheel radios only need to be able to communicate with each other and the trucks.

We don't need to talk on the lease road channels. I was thinking maybe VHF radios in the trucks that scan channels as well as lets me enter the road channel into it (some roads have channel numbers posted at the beginning of the road) and GMRS radios for the Argo and fifth wheel as long as their frequency can be picked up by the VHF radios in the trucks.

Could all 4 radios be tuned to a specific frequency or be programmed to communicate but not interfere with the other truckers in the area?

After reading a few other posts and doing a bit of research I find I am just getting more confused as to what radios are the best for this situation. If I need to get an operators licence that is fine but I would rather not have to pay a yearly fee for a few stations as this will only be used 3 or 4 times a year. So something that allows me to enter the stations in myself would be best.

I am on a bit of a budget so would like to get decent units without spending hundreds of dollars.
 

jonwienke

More Info Coming Soon!
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jul 18, 2014
Messages
10,143
Location
PA
Have you considered CB (27MHz)? It's cheap, license free, and works fine for vehicle-to-vehicle communications. It also refracts around ands over hilly/mountainous terrain better than VHF or UHF.
 

altaguy

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2017
Messages
4
I considered it but thought it might interfere with workers in the area and wasn't sure if I could hear the truckers on the roads. Not sure if this is true or not as I heard that not many use CB's anymore.

Do you think I should use a CB in each vehicle as well as the fifth wheel and the Argo? Could I get or program in the radio channels so I could listen to the operators in the area or should I still get VHF radios in the trucks?
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
11,160
Location
SNCZCA01DS0
For listening to the road channels, get a scanner. A basic analog one will work fine, it'll be cheaper and it'll have a lot more possible uses.

For your truck to truck use, get a CB. There are plenty of channels so you won't interfere with others. Also, if you want, you can listen to the trucks. While I know they use the road channels up there, you'll also hear some stuff on CB.

Best of both worlds, legal and the most flexibility.
Just make sure you use good antennas. Your radios are only as good as the antenna system they are connected to.
 

robertmac

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 6, 2005
Messages
2,160
And don't forget in Canada, the only "frequencies", "bands" that don't require a license to operate are: CB, GMRS, FRS. I agree the best bet is to get a cheap analog scanner for the 150 MHz roads frequencies, and CB or GMRS/FRS radio. GMRS/FRS has fixed antennas so that would eliminate one problem. You don't mention how far apart you will require communications but GMRS/FRS [as do most any radios] are affected by terrain and bush. What ever radio band don't expect more than 4-10 kms unless hill to hill unobstructed then can be 30 kms or more.. CB should be decent now with solar cycle declining [so less interference from skip]. As 40 channels available to you shouldn't be any risk of interfering. And CB use by truckers has decreased considerably. I am a little rusting on this part, but programmable radios are only for use in the Amateur bands. Radios designed for use outside Amateur radio are usually not "front" programmable. Another option is to look at a two way rental outfit to see if they have radios that would meet your needs. You worry about interfering on the CB band, but there are far more serious risks of interfering on the commercial frequencies [VHF and UHF] than on the CB band
 

altaguy

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2017
Messages
4
I never thought about using a scanner. I wouldn't need a digital one up here? Would it be worth getting one with buttons to program in the road channels?

So would you recommend a scanner in each truck as well as a CB in all 4 units? (both trucks, Argo and fifth wheel)

What is an approximate range of a CB in the bush?
 

kayn1n32008

ÆS, I put that shøt on everything.
Joined
Sep 20, 2008
Messages
5,758
Location
In the 'patch
Hey all. This will be my first time getting into radios.

I hunt just north of Edmonton Alberta and would like to get radios for us to talk to each other as well as listen to the lease road truckers callouts. This way I can pull over out of their way before we meet up on the road. I would like 1 in each truck (2 trucks) to be able to hear the lease operators as well as to communicate with each other and I would like another in the Argo and 1 in the fifth wheel. The Argo and fifth wheel radios only need to be able to communicate with each other and the trucks.

We don't need to talk on the lease road channels. I was thinking maybe VHF radios in the trucks that scan channels as well as lets me enter the road channel into it (some roads have channel numbers posted at the beginning of the road) and GMRS radios for the Argo and fifth wheel as long as their frequency can be picked up by the VHF radios in the trucks.

Could all 4 radios be tuned to a specific frequency or be programmed to communicate but not interfere with the other truckers in the area?

After reading a few other posts and doing a bit of research I find I am just getting more confused as to what radios are the best for this situation. If I need to get an operators licence that is fine but I would rather not have to pay a yearly fee for a few stations as this will only be used 3 or 4 times a year. So something that allows me to enter the stations in myself would be best.

I am on a bit of a budget so would like to get decent units without spending hundreds of dollars.
Likely on 'lease roads' the operators will be using cmpany channels, so thats a no go. On the haul roads, there may be road frequencies in use. Most of the time there will be signs that tell you what frequency, and what the road name is. If the road does not have that, they are not rqdio controlled.

For a frequency for you and your hunting buddies, you can apply for frequencies for radio to radio comms from Industry Canada. Its $40-45 )/yr per frequency, per radio, once assigned a frequency, you can have all the resource road channels and LAD and Alberta Open channels.
 

kayn1n32008

ÆS, I put that shøt on everything.
Joined
Sep 20, 2008
Messages
5,758
Location
In the 'patch
Have you considered CB (27MHz)? It's cheap, license free, and works fine for vehicle-to-vehicle communications. It also refracts around ands over hilly/mountainous terrain better than VHF or UHF.
If the OP is going to be travelling on haul roads in Alberta, CB will be useless, as any oilfield/logging road that is radio controlled is done so using VHF LMR. As well, 30w VHF FM radios are going to work much better than CB.
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
11,160
Location
SNCZCA01DS0
Good points,

Altaguy,
You won't be able to us a really decent radio without a license. CB is probably your best bet if you want to be legal.
While CB can have it's limitations, you can overcome some of those by investing in a really good antenna setup. Usually people that have issues with CB performance have cut corners on their antennas. It isn't hard to set up a good mobile antenna.
Plus, it's universal. While CB use has dropped off, it's still an excellent solution. It's easy to add radios for friends and family without having to worry about licensing.

Amateur radio would be a good solution, but it requires each and every user to have a license. While that isn't impossible, not everyone wants to do that, so it can be self limiting.

Programming commercial VHF radios to work on the road/LADD channels isn't as easy as you may think. You'd have to have radio model specific software and programming cables.
A scanner really is a better solution, plus it offers so many other options.
Again, a good external antenna for your scanner will really improve performance. It'll also give you access to weather reports, which can be handy for hunting/camping.
 

kc2kth

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Mar 27, 2004
Messages
410
Location
Toms River NJ
I agree a scanner for monitoring plus CB in the trucks for comms probably makes the most sense. It should be relatively inexpensive to start out and then you can add or change after you determine what works and what doesn't. The rule with CB - and pretty much every radio - spend 20% of your budget on the radio and 150% of your budget on the antenna! Seriously, the antenna makes all the difference. 102" whip or Wilson 1000 would be good choices for optimal antennas. Clearance may be an issue due to the height of these so you may need to make some compromises. A good, inexpensive CB radio could be as small as the Uniden Pro 500 or 510 (don't think they make the 520 any longer). These are (relatively) tiny but talk well.
 

altaguy

Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2017
Messages
4
Excellent info! Thanks all!

I would like the VHF radios but they are a little pricey and for the little use they would get, I can't justify paying for them as well as getting a licence for them all.

So it looks like a scanner in each truck to hear the truckers in the area and a CB in each truck as well as the fifth wheel and Argo for communication between each other.

Now the next questions...

I will take the advice of getting GOOD antennas.

Does it matter if I get a fixed or magnet base? ( I was thinking magnet base for the trucks and fifth wheel and a fixed base for the Argo)

Can (or should) the scanner be hooked up to the CB antenna or just left on its own antenna or should I purchase a separate antenna for it?

Since the fifth wheel would essentially be a base station, should I get a longer antenna for it?

I see some trucks that have the antenna tied down to the back of the box... does this affect reception?

Is a longer antenna better than a shorter one?

I see some antennas say CB tuneable and some list a frequency range? Should I match this up to the CB I get?

I am considering the Uniden Bearcat 980SSB's but will have to look into a power supply idea for the one in the fifth wheel. (Not sure if I want to run directly to the batteries or plug into 110volt). I was thinking of SSB just to help with distance in the bush as the Argo could be 10 miles away from base or someone could be 20 miles from base in the truck scouting another area.

I haven't decided on the scanners for the trucks yet... is analog good enough or should I be looking at digital?
 

robertmac

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jun 6, 2005
Messages
2,160
Well you are going to get a few different responses. And don't take my responses to heart as I have not used CB for years. In the late 60's and early 70's we never used mag mounts. Mag mounts are not very good for transmission, but may be OK for scanners. I am not sure what is available today, but we used antenna specialist base loaded antennas as they were lower than the long whip antennas. And when in the bush, the lower antenna was a pleasure to have. They may not be as good as the long whip but that would only add maybe a 10 kms more. What ever is used it should be matched using a good SWR. I won't touch coax as there are too many available today and I haven't used any for CB for years.

The quickest way to blow a scanner is to connect it to the same antenna as the CB. They should be separated as far as possible as there may be some desensing [blocking out scanner receive when transmitting on the CB]. I generally feel the rubber duck with the scanner is as good as after market as one is not transmitting. But there are longer antennas that may work better on VHF than the supplied rubber duck. If one does not buy the cheap Chinese antennas, the available antennas may set you back about $40-50 per antenna.

Tying the antenna certainly affects transmissions. The antenna is the radiating part so the amount above the box is the critical part. Most antennas you see tied down I think some are just raised when out working and are used more for visibility than using radios. But if using CB don't use it tied down.

You mention 20 miles and this will be a long haul for any radio set up without using a repeater especially in hilly or treed areas. It is easily possible base to base, but base to mobile may be iffy. And if skip rolls in, transmissions will be cut to a mile at the most. But the sun spot cycle is declining so this may be less of a problem this spring but no one can really predict when skip will come in. And it is usually in during the daylight hours and for an hour after sunset.

Not sure what these radios use for power but assume they are 12 volt so would connect directly to the battery. Others may fill you in on the correct way to do this such as having a fuse on both negative and positive wires.

The trucker frequencies and forestry road frequencies are all analog so no digital would be required. KISS.
I don't think Canadian frequencies have been mandated to Narrow band width so any cheap analog FM scanner would suffice. Some cheap scanners scan CB frequencies [AM only] as well. Others will fill you in and clarify some of my comments. I have not prof read these comments so please excuse anything that seems hazy.
 

mmckenna

I ♥ Ø
Joined
Jul 27, 2005
Messages
11,160
Location
SNCZCA01DS0
Excellent info! Thanks all!

I would like the VHF radios but they are a little pricey and for the little use they would get, I can't justify paying for them as well as getting a licence for them all.
I think that's a good plan. Unless you are licensed, there's no need to have a radio capable for transmitting. While they do tend to have better receivers than a scanner, the extra cost and the programming can offset that.

So it looks like a scanner in each truck to hear the truckers in the area and a CB in each truck as well as the fifth wheel and Argo for communication between each other.
I've got a Polaris Ranger, and several others in my extended family have them, or Polaris Rzr's. As long as we've had them, we've had permanently mounted VHF radios with permanent antennas. Being able to communicate easily while on the trail is a huge benefit. Usually while riding in groups, we tend to get spaced out on the trail due to dust. Makes it really easy to get separated.
Even being able to talk back to camp can be really handy.

I won't ride without a helmet and a radio, ever.

Now the next questions...

I will take the advice of getting GOOD antennas.

Does it matter if I get a fixed or magnet base? ( I was thinking magnet base for the trucks and fifth wheel and a fixed base for the Argo)
First off, I'm not a fan of magnet mount antennas.

A permanent mount antenna will outperform a magnetic mount antenna by a bit.
Magnet mounts will damage the truck paint.
Big issue is routing the coaxial cable into the cab. Routing the cable through doors or windows will result in the cable being pinched. Pinching the cable will cause a couple of issues:
1. It deforms the cable and this can cause issues with how well the signal flows through it. The spacing between the center conductor and the outer shield is critical.
2. If the outer jacket gets damaged, water can get in. Water and copper corrode, and that will cause more issues.

Permanent mount will work better, last longer and look a lot nicer. It takes extra work, but it really is worth it.
Done right, it'll outlast the truck.
Best place to mount the antenna is right in the middle of the cab roof. Anything else is a compromise. There are other options, but the come at a cost. Some mount them on brackets off the side of the hood channel, off mirrors, etc. Center of the cab really does work better.

Can (or should) the scanner be hooked up to the CB antenna or just left on its own antenna or should I purchase a separate antenna for it?
It has to be separate antennas. There are ways to split the feed, but it introduces loss into the system. That loss can impact reception and transmitting. Plus, it's expensive. Two separate antennas will work better.

Since the fifth wheel would essentially be a base station, should I get a longer antenna for it?
So, what a lot of guys do is get a base antenna that can be broken down. When you set up camp, assemble the antenna and use a mast to hold it up above the trailer. Often they'll use the ladder on the rear of the bigger trailers as a mounting point. Route the cable inside to the radio.
There are companies that make a small metal platform that goes under one of the tires. The weight of the trailer holds it in place and it has a socket for the mast.

Other option is to mount an antenna on the roof of the trailer.

I see some trucks that have the antenna tied down to the back of the box... does this affect reception?
Yes. Signals transmitted by the radio/antenna will reflect off the cab and will increase the amount of transmitted signal reflected back into the radio. This means less of your signal gets transmitted out. You really do want them on top of the cab if at all possible.
Mounting them on the toolbox will work, but just not as well.

Is a longer antenna better than a shorter one?
Longer is better. Antenna length is related to the frequency in use. There are ways to trick the antenna into thinking its longer than it really is, but they come at a bit of a cost.
Ideally, the 102 inch long whips are excellent performers, but the 8 foot length can really get in the way. Plus, you need a really substantial mount to support it.
Shorter "base loaded" antennas can work well, especially when installed on the top of the cab. They are about 4 feet long, so while they will hit some low tree branches, they are flexible enough to absorb it.

I see some antennas say CB tuneable and some list a frequency range? Should I match this up to the CB I get?
A lot of that is just marketing. Since antenna length is relative to the frequency, the antennas need to be a certain length to work best. A good commercial antenna will come with a cutting chart to tell you how long the antenna needs to be. That usually gets you pretty close, but ideally you want to follow up by testing it with an SWR meter. This meter looks at how much of the transmitted signal is radiated by the antenna (transmitted out to other radios) and how much gets reflected back towards the radio (basically wasted).

A good CB shop, if you can find one, can do the tuning for you. If not, a basic SWR meter is cheap. Some higher end CB's will have them built in, but they tend to not be very accurate. Maybe good enough, though.

I am considering the Uniden Bearcat 980SSB's but will have to look into a power supply idea for the one in the fifth wheel. (Not sure if I want to run directly to the batteries or plug into 110volt). I was thinking of SSB just to help with distance in the bush as the Argo could be 10 miles away from base or someone could be 20 miles from base in the truck scouting another area.
Been a while since I owned a CB, but I've heard people that say they like those.

SSB can give you some more range, but a lot really depends on the antenna. You can spend $500 on a radio, but if you hook it up to a $20 antenna, it's going to work as well as that $20 antenna. On the other end, get a $50 radio and a $50 antenna, and it'll outperform the other.

Keeping range expectations realistic would be in order. While it's certainly possible to get those sorts of ranges, a lot depends on the terrain. Mountains will block your signals. Vehicle ignition noise can cause issues. Atmospheric interference will cause issues.
Line of sight, as in you could see one antenna from the other will really help. Get in a valley, canyon, etc. and things are not going to work too well.

Hook the CB up to the trailer battery. Battery power is cleaner, so you won't pick up interference from the power supply. Also, you won't want to have to run your generator all the time. A CB just sitting there not transmitting doesn't use much power. What little it does use can be offset by a small solar panel.

I haven't decided on the scanners for the trucks yet... is analog good enough or should I be looking at digital?
For what you are doing, analog is good enough. Unless you really want to get into scanner listening, you don't need a digital scanner. Instead of spending the money on a digital scanner, put the money you save into antennas.
10 years from now, yeah, you might need digital, but by then you'll probably want a new scanner anyway.


A couple of things I've learned from doing what you are planning:
1. I've never driven an Argo, so I don't know what the noise level is. I know from the Polaris machines we have it can be difficult to hear the radio without a good external speaker. I'd strongly recommend getting a good waterproof external speaker for your Argo. It'll make it a lot easier to hear.

2. Always run the radio power off the vehicle battery. Never tap into any existing wiring and never, never use cigarette lighter power feeds. Modern vehicles have so many computerized things in them that all generate radio noise. Feeding off the battery directly will get cleaner power with less noise.

3. The antenna is the most important part of your setup. Don't cut corners with the antenna setup.

4. Don't buy cheap consumer grade CB antennas. High quality commercial stuff works better and lasts longer.

5. Don't rely on your radio as your only source of emergency communications. Cellular coverage might be tricky, we always carry a personal locater beacon with us when we ride. Consumer units like the Spot! units are a good option. Dedicated PLB's work out cheaper in the long run.


Picking all the individual components really takes some time. When you decide what you are going to do, let us know and we can make some recommendations. I think you are on the right track. It might cost a bit to set this all up right, but if you do it right from the start, it'll save you a lot of headaches later on.
 

kc2kth

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Mar 27, 2004
Messages
410
Location
Toms River NJ
I completely agree on everything mmckenna stated above, I couldn't have explained any of it better myself. Solid advice.
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2013
Messages
3,382
Location
Texas
As Mckenna said, commercial quality antennas are the way to go. Many of us really enjoy LMR low band antennas tuned for CB. They work well, are rugged and there is not manufacturer voodoo behind them.

For CB my personal favorite is the Larsen NMO27. Note, this antenna needs a little cutting/tuning to work properly but Larsen includes a sheet which will inform you where to cut given a specific frequency.

For VHF all you'd honestly need is a 19" whip. Larsen NMOQ is usually what I go with when I need a semi-rugged VHF whip.

Both suggested antennas are NMO which is the commercial standard antenna mount. Ideally you'd want both antennas on the roof of the vehicles however, may not be practical. I prefer hood channel (fender) mount for one antenna (CB is usually what I put there since it is the longer of the two). However, doesn't mean it's what has to be done as there are minuses and pluses to putting an antenna anywhere, especially with CB.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top