Note: In this series, we have selected 100 metal detecting finds that were extremely difficult to detect and recover, and provide details on the circumstances and techniques that contributed to their successful recovery.
KEEPER: This is a small oval bridle rosette, likely civilian, pulled from a civil war battle site. It is lead-filled and is a beautiful, unusual item.
SITE: One of the trashiest yards ever. The yard was the site of an 1800s college that had been torn down. There were nails, trash, and extremely big iron everywhere.
SITE EVALUATION: 8 of 10 Though this place was a nightmare, I love spots like this because I know awesome relics are here even though I’m going to have to use all my skills plus luck to get them.
PERMISSION: Referral from another detectorist. Said it was a nightmare but he had dug some bullets.
Drop into Iron Mode: If you were running discrimination on this site I doubt you would even know your detector was turned on. Once I verified the site was as iron-infested as I had been told, I pulled out my heavy iron machine, put on a small coil, set up minimal discrimination and optimized sensitivity to try to hear tiny clues of nonferrous objects in the iron. Check this out for more info.
Be Persistent: This type of hunting is mentally exhausting. Felt like I had a Geiger Counter strapped to my head. I could hear low tones for iron, and was listening for the tiniest squeak of a high tone.
Hit at Different Angles: Many of my keepers from that day were only detectable at one angle. I usually check a potential target at multiple angles to sniff out falsing iron, but it was pointless here. I dug this one even though I was shaking my head while I did so, thinking I was wasting my time. And it was only 4 inches deep, practically wrapped in nails.
Pick a Three Square Foot Area: Detecting like normal in super heavy iron is pointless. Pick a small area and act like you are having to scrub it clean with a brillo pad attached to the bottom of your coil. Every angle, small swings. Listen for clues.
Forget the Numbers: Target ID is pointless in heavy iron. Dig every high tone/possible non-ferrous target. Others will tell you otherwise, but set up this scenario in your test garden. Drop a silver dime with a handful of square nails into a six inch hole. Have fun trying to get it to read like a dime.
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