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