DXing with QRP to a tuner-fed aluminum eaves trough isn't easy. My country count plateaued at 90 countries when the HF conditions turned poor over the past little while. Mind you I am counting from late December when I reestablished a station, not all time with this call, which is well over 300 countries.
I am interested in seeing whether I can work 100 countries with this pathetic station before I finally am able to erect some real antennas. It's certainly possible, but it's been getting difficult as my total rises. In the last 24 hours I had a run of luck working 3 new ones, including two in central Asia. Over-the-pole conditions on 20 meters have been good of late. So now I'm at 93 worked, with many new band-countries.
When I say it isn't easy, I mean it is really difficult. Sometimes I get lucky and some weak and rare (to me) DX station comes back on the first call. Most often I get silence in response: I am just not heard.
In many of the in-between cases I am heard but not at all well. The most common response I get, when I get one at all, is "VE3?". Occasionally this converts into a good QSO though more frequently the other station gives up in frustration. I understand; I, too, get frustrated.
It reminds me of those long graveyard shifts trying to make contest contacts at a multi-single or multi-multi operation on 40 meters SSB. With a beam and a kilowatt there were many that heard me though far fewer were copyable on my end. Hour after long hour I'd repeatedly struggle to pull another call out of the noise, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. The log would fill slowly, too slowly, while waiting for sunrise and the high bands to open. Others would get that thrill as I trundled off for a few hours of sleep. In 30 minutes that lucky operator would surpass my hard-won contact totals.
I could claim this is "payback" time where I get to be the one with the weak signal trying to work the bigger stations, but the reality is that it is no fun at either end of the QSO.
Some operators give up quite easily and will log the first or second guess at my call. I have gone into DX logs as VE3UN, VE7VN, VE3STN (try this on CW and you'll understand), XE3VN, VA3VN, among others. Of course these are all inferior outcomes to being VE3?, since it at least means the DX operator is still trying to get it right.
Alternatively I should perhaps explore getting a special suffix. After all, special prefixes have become routine. Just listen to what was on the bands during the recent WPX contest. How much of a stretch is it to try for a special suffix. I'll bet you've guessed what I'm thinking: my preferred suffix is "?".
Then, when the DX comes back with "VE3?" I can shout back "QSL, QSL!!". This could greatly accelerate my ascension to the DXCC Honor Roll. Or perhaps nothing more than a lot of very confused hams.