Chelsea, Mich. resident Joseph Burkhead brought home a gold and two silver medals from the 2019 U.S. Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) National Championship in Raleigh, North Carolina area held August 1st-4th, 2018, hosted by the Backwoods Orienteering Klub (BOK). The event also served as the IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) Region 2 Championship. Competitors from five nations and over ten states including elite athletes and recreational hobbyists alike attended the championship. A delegation of over 40 youth and teachers from China also competed.

ARDF, also known as Radio Orienteering or “foxhunting”, is a multi-skill sport that involves running and navigating using only a map and compass while using a radio receiver and antenna to locate multiple transmitters hidden in a forest. The sport has direct application and utility for important activities such as search and rescue, wildlife tracking, airborne and seaborne navigation, and communications.

Joe Burkhead is an ARDF Team USA athlete with accomplishments to include a team bronze medal at last year’s World ARDF Championship in South Korea, silver medals at previous ARDF national championships, and participation as an Armed Forces Team USA athlete at the 2013 World Military Orienteering Championships in Sweden.

On Saturday, August 3rd, Joe won the gold medal in the 144 MHz (two meter band) Classic M40 race finishing an approximately 11 km run through the intricate and hilly woods of Umstead Park, locating four transmitters in 80 minutes, 23 seconds. It was the second-fastest result of the day across all age classes. The two meter Classic involved steep terrain, intricate navigation challenges, areas of weak signal receptions, and many complicated signal reflections. The 2m Classic is widely considered the most technically challenging ARDF race format mostly due to the reflection of signals.


In two other competition days during the championship Joe earned silver medals for strong performances very closely behind the winner. On Thursday, August 1st, Joe finished a 65 minute “Foxoring” race only 30 seconds behind gold medal finisher Imre Polik of BOK. This event combined “foxhunting” with orienteering by navigating to the vicinity of small low-powered transmitters in the 3.5 MHz band and locating them after picking up a weak signal. Imre and Joe had the fastest results across all age classes in Thursday’s Foxoring competition. On Friday, August 2nd, Joe earned another silver by finishing just two minutes behind Imre in a Sprint race that involved working two series of eight transmitters with each transmitter only broadcasting for 12 seconds at a time.

Before competing in ARDF Joe spent many years volunteering in search and rescue radio direction finding. He currently races and volunteers with the Southern Michigan Orienteering Club (SMOC) which holds orienteering races across the local area for all ages and levels of ability. Joe enjoys providing land navigation instruction and training to many outdoor enthusiasts, youth, scouts, the military, and rescue crews. For more information about ARDF, orienteering, or land navigation training, Joe can be contacted at For a schedule of orienteering events in the local area visit

Related links:
• ARDF Team USA:
• US National / IARU Region 2 ARDF Championship:
• Radio Direction Finding:
• Southern Michigan Orienteering Club (SMOC):• Orienteering in the USA: