Magical Mystery Tour 2017 – Camp #1 Hunt Summary

It had been a long time coming, my first solo road trip and camping adventure since my widow-maker back in February, 2015. On top of this I no longer had the converted van so I was looking at having to do the tent thing for the first time in many years, what to pack and how much to pack, etc.? So this first trip was something of a test run to a moderate distance away from home but not too far away, someplace I could camp either right on the lake or not too far from one or more of them.

I was going water detecting so I needed access to water, old water preferably, someplace that held a good mix of both new and old items and a lot of water to hunt. After a little research and a few quick recon trips I found exactly what I was looking for, a busy lake area that had a history dating back to the late 1800’s, much of the shoreline shallow with an accessible bed of target supporting stone, clay, and gravel.

Hunting smarter, something I have to do now since the widow-maker as I can no longer endure all day hunting so I have to pick and choose select locations that I can comfortably and strategically hunt in a couple of hours and then grid-work those smaller areas as efficiently and as methodically as I can, maybe get away with doing this a couple of times a day until the fatigue starts setting in. This was my plan when I finally pulled away from the house and hit the road towards my chosen destination.

Lake hunting is just like coastal beach hunting, those layers of soft sand just being replaced with layers of deep muck and/or silt and if there’s too much of this soft overburden then I won’t be able to access those firmer layers of stone and clay and gravel where all of the older and heavier goodies reside. No doubt these older and heavier goodies were there but I really wouldn’t know just where or how to go about trying to access them until I finally got in the water. But I was loaded for bear, a selection of coils and the modified Excal so it was just a matter of figuring the lay of the lake bottom and that could only come with a lot of trial and error until I got a little more familiar with the general scope of things.

Setting up camp was a hoot, a lot like taking things out of storage and then redecorating the house with it one room at a time. Picnic tables have to be in just the right spot, as does the tent, the folding easy chair, the grill, the cooler, and the tote marked, “Kitchen.” Inside the tent is no different, the air mattress and sleeping bag has to be in just the right place, another low profile folding chair so I can kick-back indoors, my small tote full of spare clothes serving as a bedside table. The tent I bought was actually a little bigger then I needed but I wanted something I could stand up in and the extra space was rather nice. With all of this now done it was time to start thinking about hitting the water.

The lake crowd, how did it move about the shallows and where do people gather and how long have they been gathering there? I spent much of the first day just observing the weekend lake routine, the day being Sunday with evening sending most of this traffic back to work and back to school and out of my way for the most part. So this is how I spent Sunday, the crowd not thinning out until after 8:00pm, as it turned out. But when they finally started to leave the place quickly became something of a ghost town, nothing but ducks and seagulls and a lone bald eagle hanging around. It was, “Perfect!”

Aside from recent drops and mountains of pull-tabs and bottle caps the trick turned out to be keeping the coil over those accessible layers of firmer bottom, be it stone, gravel, clay, or any combination of these. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t walking in the muck and silt, it just means that I was periodically checking with my scoop to make sure that those firmer layers were still within reach, say no more then about 12” x 18” down depending on what size coil I was swinging. In some places I could wade to chin deep and still remain with reach of those firmer layers, in other places maybe only waist deep, lake bottoms varying like this quite often.

To be perfectly honest I wasn’t trying to kill it during this first trip to this lake, a mistake I think a lot of hunters make when hunting new territory. What I was looking to accomplish was A; get familiar with the lay of the bottom, and, B; I was hoping to hit enough good targets to offer me some idea of the lake’s true potential. I think I was able to accomplish both on this trip as I now have a much better feel for this lake and it’s true potential.

Yes, it is a lot of high-traffic water and bottom and not all of it had much to offer due to the deep layers of muck and silt, however, it does have seemingly endless areas where those firmer bottoms can be accessed and I did manage a few telling recoveries from those locations. To sum things up, give me a small houseboat or pontoon boat and I could easily see myself spending a lot of time on this lake hunting for all of it’s old and new hidden goodies!

(All the signs are at this lake, a vintage 14K diamond ring, an assortment of old coins, and an old sterling silver “Infant of Prague” pendent.)

Cheers! Hope this article helps and inspires, and as always, good luck and be safe out there!

When Threshold Kills

Yesterday I drove north to a large and very popular old beach, my expectations not all that high given the placed is routinely slammed by experienced detectorist using everything from 3030’s to modified Excals and even deep PI machines, but I like the place so I made the drive anyway, Excal and 12×15” SEF accompanying me.

This is a large freshwater beach where swimmers can roam more then 100 yards from shore, the area outside the ropes having a long tradition of moored boats and offshore parties, the participants tossing their bottle caps and pulltabs and whatever else over the side, so it is also rather trashy in spots, though the sand and silt is also deep so much of this trash sinks quite a ways. Out here it is only chest deep water, that depth of water where the adults gather, play and swim, just the type of area I’m always looking for.

So we have deep sand and silt, a lot of trash, a lot of adult swimmers, and this has been going on for at least 80 years or more. Just imagine what is laying on that firmer bottom below all of that sand a silt. This is what I was focused on, those really deep targets. If I had an 15×18” coil I would have certainly brought it, another item that’s still on my wish list but just not called upon enough to justify the expense, at least not yet.

The competition, hardly a scrap left in the first 10-12 inches of bottom, a few starting to show up here and there in that 12-14″ range, “a lot” showing up in 14 to 18” range, especially in those areas where the bottom has become so contaminated with deteriorating debris that these areas send the threshold into immediate and continuous convulsions. Most hunters simply walk away from these areas or they attempt to battle these areas by turning the sensitivity down, both of these practices just being self defeating in the end. There is a better way, a very effective way of dealing with this contaminated bottom. “Get rid of the threshold all together!”

Deep targets generate weak and/or faint returns, their signature being very small, often very-very small, quick, and quite faint. When your threshold is going crazy these very small and faint returns are too easily lost among all the chatter and instability in the threshold, this having the same effect regardless what mode you’re applying, pinpoint or disc. Adjusting the machine sensitivity has no effect on the threshold, all you’re accomplishing here is the filtering out of the those very small and very weak returns that you’re hoping to locate. Turning machine sensitivity down is a big mistake as this will only cost you many of those returns. Instead, just turn the machine threshold down to just below audible, this allowing for those really faint/weak/quick returns to stand out more clearly in your headphones. If you’ve not tried this then, literally speaking, you don’t know what you’re missing?

Nearly all of the targets in the image below were beyond the 12-14” range, this including 1 sterling ring, a 46 Rosie and a 42 wheat. No gold yet but it’s out there and I will find some of it. I’m sure of it. In a prior hunt I nabbed the 1896 Martinique coin in the other image. All of these targets, and more, passed over by those who routinely hunt this same freshwater beach. No doubt the place is still loaded with deep goodies and I’m going to continue to go after them. Here’s a link to the video detailing this strategy:

Hope this article helps, and as always, good luck and be safe out there!

How To Clean Your Really Cruddy Coins

Notice I said “cruddy” coins, as this isn’t something you’ll probably want to do with coins of any value. However, if you’re like me then you have accumulated several cruddy coins that you can’t even see any detail in, the years of exposure to the elements all but deteriorating those details. “V” nickels are especially pron to this deterioration due to their poor alloy composition so let’s use a couple of these as I happen to have a few in this deteriorated condition.

First you’ll need a Dremel tool with a small polishing wheel, some Vaseline extra strength skin lotion, and a bowl of lightly soapy water and a soft towel. Now take the dry coin and put a generous amount of lotion on it, now use the polishing wheel at slow speed over the surface of the coin. This isn’t a quick process and you’ll have to repeat this process several times, rinsing the coin and drying it off between each polishing effort.

The first image is a 1902 “V” nickel that I just cleaned, prior to cleaning it was in pretty much the same condition as the 1905 below that I’ll be doing next. As you can see the 1902 cleaned up pretty good considering just how corroded it was in the beginning, at least now we can easily see the date and what detail was left on the surface of the coin. I have several other old coins that I’ll be cleaning as well that next time I stuck in the house with nothing else to do.

Cheers!….Hope this article helps, and as always, good luck and be safe out there!

I Get Sore Just Thinking About It!

So I just got back from the local Coinstar machine for the forth time this year, my coin count once again right at 2000 coins, so this makes around 8000 coins for the year so far. Sounds incredible, I know, but it’s really not. Now stack the unknown number of other recovered items onto this count and it easily exceeds 10’000 holes in the last 7 months, (since the first of February, or thereabouts.) “Really! I’ve dug that many holes!” It’s a wonder my shoulder and knees and back don’t need replaced….lol

So when we do the math this comes to around 47 holes a day, or roughly 330 holes a week, now it’s not sounding quite so crazy as before as this is only about 6 holes per hour if we put in an 8hr day. But in reality this is more like 4 days a week and 6-8hrs a day, so say somewhere between 10-15 holes per hour, which is starting to sound rather high again, but is it, really?

I guess it all depends on where you’ve been hunting. Me, I’ve spent most of my time either in very populated environments with long and popular histories or in the water at either very busy beaches or over very old and once very busy beaches. So, in other words, I spend a great deal of my hunting time in areas where targets have had either a long time to accumulate or where targets are constantly being replenished. This helps to explain a great deal of the high recovery count.

Per example, tonight we have plans to go to two beaches, the first being a rather expansive beach with deep sand that is typically busy but also quite clean, ideal conditions for the larger coil. However, the second beach is just the opposite, very small, very old, very crowded, and very trashy, the type of place I find myself routinely hunting. At this type of an area I use the smaller coil and I’m often chasing those “might be” and “could be” returns that frequently turn out to be “darn’it digs.” But I have to chase these iffy returns due to all of the trash and the constant masking of potentially good targets, so in these environments I am constantly digging, often chasing and discovering and recovering targets upon targets, the reason why my recovery counts in these type of environments is so high.

Is there anything of value that one can take away from this article? Perhaps there is. I guess it just depends on how each hunter views things. However, I can tell you this much, when we consider all of the gas, batteries, entry fees, etc., my Coinstar counts have been paying for most of it. And what about all of those other recoveries that never see the Coinstar machine? Rings, chains, watches, tokens, pendents, older silver coins, etc., etc.

Cheers!…I hope this article helps, and as always, good luck and be safe out there!

Why Good Coverage Is Important

Nothing but sand and water, and I do mean nothing. When the hunting is slow like this it can feel like we’re aimlessly roaming an expanse of endless desert, “is this thing even working?” A quick check and, yes, the detector is still working. So where’s all the targets?

One inch, that’s really all it takes to hide what we’re looking for, miss that one inch of sand and water and you might very possibly miss out on that hidden gold or platinum ring. I just experienced this again during yesterday’s morning water hunt, after several passes through a small area of water without so much as a bobby pin to show for it I passed through this same area once more on my way out of the water and BINGO! How I had missed the 10k gold and diamond ring during my prior efforts is simply because I had never gotten the coil over it during those prior passes.

Take a collection of desired recoveries and measure them, this should illustrate the importance of good coverage as nearly all of those desired recoveries are under 1 inch in diameter, turn them at an angle and they grow even smaller. This is why good coverage is always important, because it only takes an inch to miss those hidden treasures by a mile.

Cheers!…and as always, good luck and be safe out there.

Hard Targets

It’s been collecting targets for over 100 years, coins and jewelry and also the typical trash. In one area of this beach the tones can change with every scoop, the recovered target in your scoop often revealing yet another. Here there is frequently targets on top of targets, often something old and new in the very same hole. Chirps, barks, screams, tics, pops and little farts, all of these sounds frequently resonating from under, over, and between all of the shallower and fairly modern coins, bottle caps, pulltabs, nails, shell casings, lead fishing weights, old cans, metallic halos, etc., etc. It has taken us many hours of frustrating trial and error to learn how to effectively hunt these places but we’re oh-so glad we stuck it out, the fruits of our labors starting to fill our treasure coffers with greater routine.

Today we were both using small coils, much easier to separate and to isolate targets, much easier to work these coils IN the layers of muck and silt whenever it’s encountered, also much easier to keep working these coils further into the bottom of the holes we dig. Soon what started out as a tic or chirp or a curious bark becomes something else, a solid repeatable tone that we can easily pinpoint in the depths of our holes.

We employ large scoops, large enough to allow our small coils spacious entry into our newly created clay and stony pits. This is generally where the good stuff is found, the typically older and/or heavy. We begin our hunts in silent disc mode, those “edgy” chirps and barks and tics checked out further in Pin Point mode so we can attempt to count the number of those edges, Pin Point mode often allowing us the ability to do this, more then two edges generally a sure sign of a masked target generating the chirp, bark, or tiny tic. It is very slow hunting, methodical and extremely testing at times.


VDI will serve you no purpose here, the platinum diamond ring range up in the 80’s, the three gold rings range up in the 30’s, 60’s, and 80’s respectively. This type of hunting is all done with the ears, the matrix, dark patinas, rust and contamination causing all manner of false readings, this only being compounded as the depth of the targets increase. “Dense” and “sharp” target edges is what we’re focused on, regardless how faint those dense or sharp edges might be. Whenever these dense and sharp returns are encountered, regardless how small or tiny or faint or broken, we always go probing for the source. More often then not it is a target of value, be it a coin or piece of silver or gold jewelry such as a ring, pendent, or even a chain. Sure we also collect our share of junk rings like titanium, carbide, aluminum, copper, etc, but we get far fewer of these here then one might expect to find at today’s modern beaches.

This type of hunting isn’t for everyone and I readily admit that there were many days when we almost tossed in the towel but I’m glad we didn’t. Not everyone can cope with spending six-hours in the same 30′ x 30′ section of water, “for the third time.” However, once you get a feel for the true potential of these places and eventually see the rewards in your scoop, well, it’s much-much easier to bear. One of my early targets today was an early 1900’s “V” nickel and I knew right then that even more goodies were sure to follow.

Hope this article helps, and as always, be safe out there!

Want More Gold? Then Become A Student Of Your Beaches!

We beach hunters tend to toss the word erosion around rather loosely these days but the truth is that not all erosion is the same. Per example, if we see two foot of erosion over an area of beach and that remaining beach is still made up of several feet of deep fluffy sand then that erosion generally isn’t what we’re talking about unless it has invaded those generally dry dune areas, etc. What we are talking about is erosion that has left behind “firm bottoms”…bottoms that are firm enough to support items like dense gold rings, etc. So there is a significant difference in the types of erosion being sought. About the only time this may not be the case is during the height of the summer season when recent drops occur more frequently and even then these denser items sink pretty quickly.

Take a gold ring for example, it is very dense/heavy with little surface area to provide resistance, so unless it encounters something that will support its weight as it’s sinking then it’s generally going to keep right on sinking until it does. So think, “firmer bottoms,” as that is really what we’re after, these firmer bottoms either being dense enough to support the goodies we’re after or at the very least they’ll help to slow the sink rate of those denser items. Find these areas and you’ll likely start to encounter items like old fishing weights, rusty nuts & bolts, and this sort of thing. These are the areas we’re looking for.

If we could do a cutaway of the beaches we hunt we would discover that these firmer layers of beach don’t transcend along a lateral line but rather they appear much the same way as that little red line on a heart monitor that’s attached to someone with an irregular heartbeat. Find these spiked areas along the beaches you typically hunt and you’re far more likely to experience better consistent success there, especially when there is some erosion. And if these places are located behind those popular tourist locations and/or busier areas of beach then all the better. Two feet of erosion over six feet of deep fluffy sand doesn’t hold much promise, however, this same two feet of erosion leaving only a foot or two of soft sand, or less, above these firmer bottoms is quite a different story.

Cheers!….and as always, good luck and be safe out there!

Tis The Season!

Tis the season, and I don’t mean Christmas, though this season can be full of precious gifts. Every summer my longtime hunting partner, Mike, and I head up north in search of adventure and lost treasure, these trips generally starting in late June or early July and continuing into October. Some years we’ll take several trips, just depends on how often we can get away. Typically these are three and four day trips, perhaps the coast of one of the Great Lakes where endless beaches abound or maybe into the northern Michigan heartland or Upper Peninsula where tranquility can be found on the shores of numerous small lakes.

We’ve been taking these trips for about 20 years now and each new trip is still just as exciting as the very first. When we go into the northern Heartland we always take a traveling break at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, sometimes we have pretty good luck, sometimes we don’t, other times we have paid for our entire trips with our winnings. We spend about one hour there, come what may, and then back on the open road again in route to our destinations.

And speaking of destinations, well, usually we don’t really have any set destinations, everything pretty much just following the mood and flow of things, all of our camping gear and other equipment loaded in the back of the van or SUV. This is how we fly and over the years we’ve gotten to know northern Michigan and many of its lakes and campgrounds and beaches pretty well. And the best part, it doesn’t require a lot of expense or gear beyond the typical basics.

I keep all of my camping gear in a single large tote, another smaller tote houses all of my detecting accessories, extra coils, seals, batteries, wet suit, etc. Mike and I both take a camera bag, a duffle bag with a few changes of clothes, we take a large cooler and table-top grill, a tote for the perishable foods and paper plates and things of that nature. Camping is cheap at most places and when gas isn’t too high we seldom spend $300 between us and lack for nothing, a small price to pay for a few days of adventure, metal detecting, photography, and relaxation in the great Michigan north country. When we return we are revitalized, rested, and more often then not bearing precious rewards.

As for the camping gear, we try to keep things pretty simple, but comfortable, $100 worth of gear being all that is required and if cared for it will last you several seasons. I just had to buy a new tent this year, I shopped around and spent $25 on a two person dome tent, also purchased a new bed mattress for under $5 which is actually a swimming pool lounger. The point is to keep things simple and easy and as compact as possible as we often pickup camp and hit the road again at the drop of a hat, a small converter allowing us to keep things charged when required while in camp. Today I’ll be gathering up all of my totes and gear in preparation of the arriving adventure season. It is now the season and adventure and treasure awaits!

Cheers! And as always, good luck and be safe out there.

What We Can Learn From Others 2 – Drayton

Yes, the Drayton method employed with the Excal is in sharp contrast to the OBN style of hunting, and yet, it can be equally as effective in its intended environments. In fact, it’s this Disc mode of hunting that lead me to the employing of the silent mode method of hunting, a method that all but silences all of the typical chatter and threshold noise in the headphones so even the weakest of returns can still be heard. This is the method I rely on now when hunting extremely trashy areas, this method allowing me to better isolate the front edges of all of those quick and faint chirps, barks, and otherwise broken tones.

In essence Mr. Drayton is achieving similar effect in his disc mode method of hunting, with the right settings he is maximizing the potential depth and sensitivity of the disc mode of operation without the loss of the disc mode tonal range. Second, he is increasing his chances of hearing many of those faint and weak returns that other disc mode hunters simply miss due to all of the noise in their headphones, the front edges of those returns being lost in the constant noise and transition, something that happens frequently whenever partially masked targets or extremely weak returns are encountered.

Initially most hunters are “one pass” hunters by nature, that first response typically dictating their reaction to target encounters. However, what they are actually hearing on that first pass may not be accurate because those leading edges I spoke of are frequently never heard. This is where Mr. Dryton capitalizes on his method because he can accurately hear them, this leading to further investigation of the true potential of these weak and faint returns. This is what I learned after employing the method for myself for an extended period of time and in certain situations I have come to rely on it now because it does work with great effectiveness. And if you still doubt this method then it might be worth noting that even Clive Clynick thought enough of the method to reference it in his book, “Advanced Field Methods for the Minelab Excalibur: Theory & Practice.”

Personally, in the environments that I now hunt, I have found both the OBN method and the Dryton method to compliment each other very well, both serving various situations with maximum efficiency and performance and especially when used in conjunction with each other. This combination of methods allows for maximum depth, maximum sensitivity, maximum target awareness, and maximum target separation capabilities, especially when encountering trashier environments where masked targets are more likely. Of course to use either of these methods with the best efficiency it requires that the Excalibur be fully modified, which both hunters readily accommodate.

Cheers!…and as always, good luck and be safe out there.