When setting up a portable field communication station one of the first challenges is getting your antenna set up. The most common types of antennas used are vertical monopoles, or wire antennas. For this article we will assume you are using a wire antenna. A wire antenna can be designed and used specifically for one frequency without an antenna tuner, or with an antenna tuner it can become a multiband antenna. In either case, you need to get the antenna up in the air as high as possible. This is usually accomplished by the use of trees to suspend the antenna. The performance of a dipole wire antenna is directly related to how high above earth you can hang it. During the peak of the sunspot cycle excellent propagation will compensate for a lack of height above ground. But now is not that time as we are at the bottom of the cycle. Below are some of the methods I have used over the years to get wire antennas up into the trees.
The simplest method is the rock tied to parachute cord. Crude but it can be effective as long as you can tie a good knot. The improved version of this concept is shown below. Using a colored golf ball, drill a small hole and screw and glue in a small eyelet. Then, using carpenters nylon chalk line tie that to the golf ball. The chalk line can be sourced at any hardware store and comes in multiple bright colors.
The cord is wound onto a piece of sheet plastic. The line wrapped vertically is the launching line that is tied to the golf ball. The two wraps wound horizontally beneath it are used as the halyards for the lightweight antenna I have used for portable operation.
To use this method tie the line to the eyelet. Then using either some form of bucket (cook pot) or a foam pad, start laying the far end of the launching line on the pad being careful to stack the line on itself without getting it tangled. This way, when you throw the golf ball the line will not get tangled in the grass or ground debris. The golf ball has enough heft to be thrown easily and it will fall back to earth by its own weight. If you are using an antenna that requires stronger halyards than chalk line, you can tie paracord to the chalk line and pull it back over the branch. A word of caution, you need to tie a low profile knot and it is best to wrap the knot with a piece of electrical tape to smooth over the knot as the knot can get caught in the crotch of the branch.
In the past my friends and I used a bow and arrow with a fishing reel. This is somewhat cumbersome as it does not lend itself to a compact kit. But, it does work well. Same concept as a bow fishing setup with one exception. The point of the arrow is replaced with a piece of copper tubing to add weight so the arrow will fall back to the ground. Then you need to tie chalk line to the fishing line, and then again paracord to the chalk line. We have installed antennas up eight feet with this method. It all depends on how high you can shoot the arrow and how much line is on the fishing reel.
Yet another method that works very well and is somewhat compact is using a “wrist rocket” type slingshot with a fishing reel. These are available commercially but are relatively easy to build from some basic components.
Components are the slingshot, the fishing reel, and a method to attach the two. You can find many different designs on the internet or YouTube. This one has a ¾ oz sinker that is just the right weight to fall back to earth. I have been able to get antennas up 50-60 feet with this device.
Other devices I have seen include a launcher build out of PVC pipe using compressed air to shoot a tennis ball with line attached to it. Again you can find these on the internet. I have also actually climbed trees to hang an antenna. Remember, the most important aspect of a portable deployment is getting the antenna as high above ground as possible.