By: Marlene Affeld
Today I went through my mining supplies, sorting things out and putting gear away for the winter. I noticed my metal detector gathering dust in the corner of the shed. Shame on me. It is a great tool and I have neglected it. I have a Fisher Gold Bug - a few years old. Although several very fine new detectors with great add-on features have come on the market since I purchased the unit a few years ago, it is a reliable workhorse that gets the job done.
I plan to do some traveling this winter, escape the snow for a few weeks and visit friends and fellow prospectors in the desert. My Goldbug is going with me. I am by no means an expert but I have had a lot of fun and found a few treasures. Metal detecting is addictive and I am looking forward to once again testing my luck. The price of gold is skyrocketing and I would sure like to find a nice nugget for my efforts.
Metal detecting is great exercise, another reason to be outdoors and often a financially rewarding pursuit. If you are new to treasure hunting or thinking of becoming a detectorist, I hope you will find these tips and guidelines useful.
Metal detectors can penetrate the earth and detect an object down to about one foot under the surface. Just how far each machine can penetrate is determined by the type of metal or mineral you are trying to locate, the size and density of the target, the composition of the soil and the quality of the detector. Soil which contains a high concentration of minerals can cause interference and will reduce depth penetration.
If you plan to purchase a metal detector, do the research. There are numerous brands and models on the market. Like most forms of technology, you get what you pay for. If you invest in an inferior machine you may find a lot of surface trash and become discouraged. A quality machine is a sound investment that will pay for itself rather quickly. Look for a clear readable dial, clear sound quality, comfortable weight and accessories available. Make sure the unit you choose has a water-proof submersible coil. Does it come with earphones, rechargeable batteries and a carrying case?
There are three different types of metal detectors; motion detectors, pulse detectors and multi-frequency detectors. Motion detectors work best for land and in fresh water usage, pulse units function best in salt water. Multi-frequency detectors are considerably more expensive but offer the best of both worlds and are quieter and more resistant to interference. How and where you plan to use your detector is a major consideration. Do you plan to explore in the desert, at the beach or in the creek? Many top of the line units will work in most conditions, some less expensive detectors will have serious limitations. Many dealers have test plots where you can try out various units, ask questions and find the best unit for your needs. Some dealers have rental units you can try in the field prior to making a purchase decision.
Learn from the experience of others. Many people find it much easier to learn proper technique from those that have already mastered the sport. Metal detecting is a skill and other treasure hunters are pleased and proud to share their expertise. Treasure hunters are friendly folks; listen, ask questions and closely watch someone who has experience. Check around in your local area for a metal detecting or treasure hunting club or group. You will learn much more and in less time from other members than you will going into it alone. Depending on the location or the terrain you wish to hunt, it is often easier and safer to hunt with a group rather than by yourself. If you are looking for a prospecting buddy, you will meet a lot of great people that share your interest.
Research and pre-planning are crucial. A lost sterling ring, an old coin, a gold nugget are the finds that make this hobby intriguing and exciting. If you fail to plan where you want to hunt you will find a lot of trash and little treasure. More than likely, like mine, your metal detector will sit in the shed collecting dust.
Invest some time in researching the area where you want to try your luck. Study the history of the area, visit the courthouse for old maps and records and read newspaper archives. You don’t even have to go to the library, the internet allows you to research locations anywhere in the world. If you can locate the site of old fair grounds, carnivals and concerts locations or perhaps a field where auctions are held, you will often find a lot of coins that were dropped. Another way to find local historical information is to shop local antique stores for old pictures or postcards. Most old postcards have a photo of a significant locale, such as parks, casinos, festivals, important buildings and beaches which can inspire you to hunt in otherwise overlooked locations. You will find as you explore these old sites that while the buildings may have changed the land remains, hiding the treasures beneath. More lost treasures have been found by carefully research than by swinging a metal detector at random.
Many of the new detectors on the market have exceptional technology that allows you to discriminate and bypass objects like foil, brass and rusty nails. Just remember, the more you discriminate, the less depth you are going to have and one can easily miss a small nugget or coin. It is best to dig every signal until you thoroughly understand and recognize all the signals your detector emits and have the experience to wisely decide when not to dig a particular target.
An old timer shared a great tip with me. Take an old gold ring or piece of gold jewelry and glue it to a colorful poker chip. (You can do this with caulking so it can be peeled off easily later.) Have a prospecting buddy go with and have them bury the chip in several different types of soil, i.e. sand, gravel, shale, clay. Also have them bury the chip at different depths. As you practice locating the chip over and over, you will develop a relationship with your metal detector and will then easily recognize a signal for gold at various depths and conditions.
Weather conditions will impact your treasure hunting. Ground that is thoroughly soaked after a rain or spring melt is easier to dig than sun baked hard-pack. Wet ground also has more conductivity and you will be able to find items that are deeper than if the ground were dry. The sands of an ocean beach are disturbed and rolled over by heavy storms and often uncovers targets that were previously too deep to locate. The winds of the desert will cause a similar redistribution of the sands, often offering up a gold nugget that was deeply buried before the storm.
Don't start out in an area that is highly mineralized or so overloaded with signals that it drives you bonkers. Many units are a bit tricky to ground balance, so be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully. When you are first learning to master your metal detector, try a vacant field or your own back yard. Who knows what you may find?
A sandy beach at the lake or sea shore is an excellent place to start your hunt. While you may find items along the waters edge, try thinking as if you were coming to this beach to swim or picnic. Most people will look for shade and place their towel and belongings away from the water and, if available, under a shade tree. This is where most jewelry items, watches or coins may have been lost and are now waiting for you to find. Prior locations of cabanas or concession stands are often productive.
Respect the property rights of others and only dig where you have permission. Always fill in any holes you dig and remove any trash you find. Carry a trash bag and be a good citizen. Pick up any debris you come across or unearth.
Many people have a valid concern about the potential harm that results from indiscriminate and undisciplined treasure hunting. Often artifacts are removed without bothering to document the discovery properly and thus eliminating the historical value of the find.
If you are fortunate enough to unearth something of historical significance, document the time and location. This can be easily accomplished if you mark the spot from a GPS (Global Positioning System) reading or plot the discovery point accurately on a map. You will also find this helpful if you wish to return and rework the area.
Apply basic safety measures and common sense. Wear protective leather gloves and thick soled shoes. When detecting you commonly step on broken glass or dig up rusty metal. Be aware that if your shoes have metal fasteners or cleats, you may mistakenly pick up a signal from your own feet and not the ground.
Metal detector - with extra batteries
Comfortable shoes and clothing - gloves, hat, insect repellent, sunscreen
Plastic Trowel and gold pan or small plastic tub
Map, compass and survival gear
Water and food
If you are carefully searching, you will find treasure. However, don’t expect to just find the good stuff. You will find a lot of trash! Bottle tops, pull-tabs, nails and bullet casings will all give you a reading. Don’t be discouraged, don’t discriminate, dig every target and you will be rewarded for your efforts. Happy Hunting!