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Maximizing Your Finds

by Allen Morgan

 Like most people, I started out metal detecting with a cheaper unit, in parks and schools, without a clue as to what I was doing.  My first time out, I found all of 1 padlock key, a chain of some kind for a dog, and numerous bottlecaps, pulltabs, and screwcaps.  I didn't find one penny.  In fact, is was only after several times out that I started finding any amount of change at all.  Fifty cents here, seventy-five cents here, twenty cents there, and so on.

I learned about what all a person can expect to find in the various sandpits and wood-chip playgrounds at local parks and schools.  I became quite proficient at hunting these kind of areas, since I started in the heat of summer, and the ground quickly became rock-hard and undiggable.

After the summer heat broke, and the rains moistened the ground, did I venture off into the green, grassy areas of the local parks.  I still found about a dollar in clad per hunt, with the occasional piece of jewelry thrown in for good measure.

I would read accounts on websites where other hunters were find many, many, dollar's worth of clad, or see lots of clad in the display cases my club members would bring in, and I would wonder if I would ever find that many targets.

What I Noticed

 I quickly learned where all the "hotspots" are in a playground, and how to recognize of such places in a playground I have never been to.  I got to the point where I could recover 80% of the targets in a given area in half the time to do a full sweep.

Another thing that I quickly noticed, was that one of the members of my club always had lots of clad in his display.  I quickly learned that all he did was go water hunting.  Being retired, he had practically all his spare time to pursue those elusive targets in the water.

What I Did

 It started slowly, at first, but as I got better, I realized that I was doing certain things that helped to increase my recovery rate:

Spare batteries.  The first time you go out hunting, and your batteries die on you just after you get there, or, in the middle of a good patch of coins, is really a downer.  I quickly learned to carry at least one, if not two, packs of spare batteries at all times.

Easier sand recovery.  I originally bought a hand-help sand scoop when I bought my first detector.  It was nice, at first, but I found myself constantly bending down to recover targets, or worse, making several scoops to recover a deep target.  Digging with this scoop is not easy, to say the least.

After I had been in the hobby for a few months, I bought a different sand scoop, one that while it's hand-held, it is mounted on a shaft 24" long, and is just the right height to reach the ground if I let my arm hang down.  I can pinpoint a target's location in sand, and scoop the target up, in just a few seconds.  Very fast and efficient.

Pinpointer.  I had read that some people could use a pinpointer to help recover targets that were still in the hole.  I bought one, a Vibraprobe460, the same time I bought the 24" sand scoop.  For several months, I really didn't use it that much.  It wasn't until I hit a schoolyard that had coins literally everywhere that my pinpointer paid for itself.

If I had a shallow target, that I roughly had pinpointed with my detector, I would use the pinpointer to scan the area where I thought the target was.  Many times, I would get a signal from the pinpointer as well.  I'd just use the tip of my digger and pop the target out.

If I had to cut a plug, I would scan the plug with my detector, then the hole.  Wherever I got a signal, I would then scan with the pinpointer.  Sometimes I could immediately recover the target, sometimes I had to dig around a bit to find it.

Needless to say, using a pinpointer shaved minutes off of each and every target's recovery.  There would be times where I would recover a target, return the plug to it's hole, find a new target, and when I scanned the new target, I would find that the pinpointer was still on (The Vibraprobe460 automatically turns off after 60 seconds without a target).  There are some times when recovering a target, without a pinpointer, can take me over five minutes.

Better digging/plugging technique. When I first started digging plugs, I was trying to dig a small, circular plug about four inches across, and straight down.  Using that particular digger, I sometimes could get the target, and sometimes it was still in the hole.  Then I bought a really good digger, a Lesche digger.  It looks like a large knife, with the blade offset from the handle.

I basically dig a plug that is five or six inches square, with the digger angled at a 45 angle towards the center of the plug.  I leave one side attached, and just flip the plug up.  This results in a roughly pyramid-shaped plug.  Then I scan to find if the target is in the plug or not.

Bigger coil.  I can cover lots of ground with my large coil.  Granted, it's not as good in trashy areas, but in wide open fields, I can cover ground amazingly fast.

Another thing, since the larger coil throws the balance of my detector off, is that I hipmount my detector.  I was actually able to extend the stem of my detector, effectively increasing the area that I can cover in one sweep.  This is nice, since in some areas it would take me three passes to cover, where with this setup, it only takes two passes, reducing the amount of time in that area.

Time in the field.  More time in the field equals more finds in your pouch.  It's that simple.  Just spending more time out in the field will mean your coil passes over more targets, you have time to recover more targets, etc.

Lately I've found myself arriving at a site just as the sun is coming up.  At the time I originally wrote this, I was single, and didn't have to worry about the "honey-do" list, so most of my free time was available for me to go detecting.

Of course, there are other considerations.  The big one is weather.  If you don't have a waterproof detector, and it rains, you'd better get your machine covered or risk ruining it.  Having a rain cover or a waterproof machine means you can hunt in the rain.  Bring your raincoat!

Frozen ground presents a difficult challenge.  I've seen folks use hammers, pickaxes, etc., to pry a target from frozen, gritty dirt.  After living in Michigan for 4 years, and actually BREAKING a Lesche digger while digging in frozen ground, I just stay at home when Ol' Man Winter blows through the area.  I use this time to do research.

Hot, dry, conditions make digging difficult.  When the weather gets like this, I usually focus on wood-chip playgrounds and sandpits, or I'll head out to a lake and go water hunting.

I've also noticed that when I hunt all day long, and my stomach starts grumbling, I take time away from hunting by going and finding a place to eat.  So, I've started packing a lunch.  This way, all I have to do is go back to my car and get the cooler out, instead of taking 20 minutes to go to a place to eat.  Also, it's cheaper to make a lunch than to go and buy one.

Practice, practice, practice!  There's nothing worse then taking the time and effort to dig a plug, and end up having the target not even in the plug or hole to start with.  Practice is needed in pinpointing to properly locate a target.  Of course, practice in all aspects of target recovery, and practice with your detector, will increase your target recoveries.

In Summary

 These tips will help any hunter to increase their finds.  However, I would like to stress one point.  If you have family, be sure to take the time to be with them.  Finding coins, jewelry, and other goodies is nice, but at the expense of your family.

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