In the mornin’ you go gunnin’ for the man who stole your water
And you fire till he is done in but they catch you at the border
And the mourners are all singin’ as they drag you by your feet
But the hangman isn’t hangin’ and they put you on the street
You go back, Jack, do it again, wheels turning round and round.
You go back, Jack, do it again. – Steely Dan
When non-detectorists look at my relic displays, they generally have no idea how many hours of detecting each of the items they are looking at represents. I work hard to detect smarter sites, and use techniques to optimize my number of keepers per hour. Still, I hunt many properties that yield little or nothing and spend many hours “swinging for the fence” – chasing crazy ideas and hunting research that just doesn’t pan out. Not to mention the scores of hours driving and searching in the truck and not actually swinging the coil.
So every good detectorist understands that at the end of the day successful detecting is just a numbers game. Keep researching, getting permission, and detecting quality sites, and the finds will come. And we accept that very often, we’ll walk away empty-handed. Tough hobby. So we try to enjoy the history and high adventure and smell the roses, because if it were only all about the finds it would be even tougher.
And every once in a while, we have a particularly brutal outing. Eight to ten hours that seemed to fly by like a giant cluster-screwup. What started out as a good idea went south quickly. And we are physically and mentally exhausted, scratched up and beat up, insect-eaten, drenched/frozen/dehydrated. But worst of all, we are completely or might as well be empty-handed. All of that for nothing. The kind of hunts that cause post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s amazing to note how one great or monster find would have erased all of that, made it worth it. The beating becomes an epic story. But not this time. This time the detecting gods really handed it to your ass.
THE LONG DRIVE HOME
The worst part of a really bad hunt to me is the long drive home. Whether it is 15 minutes or two hours, it is a very long drive. I know I am exhausted, but can’t help but beat myself up a little. I’m kicking myself. “I definitely should have done something different. What the heck was a thinking? How did this seem like a good idea again?” And though I know I’ll be right back at it in a day or so, I’ll even question why I participate in this ridiculous farce of a hobby?
If I’m riding with a partner, usually he’ll try to make me feel better about the whole thing, but at this point, while I might nod my head and say “Maybe you’re right”, I’m pretty much inconsolable.
So what do we do?
1) LICK YOUR WOUNDS/GET SOME REST
I’ll call my wife when I’m ten minutes out, and tell her to run me a bath. She doesn’t even have to ask – she knows I had a bad hunt, as usually I walk in and excitedly and habitually clean my finds immediately, destroying the kitchen sink again in the process.
It is easy to be beaten and negative when you are tired. Administer any necessary first aid, blank your mind and soak in a long bath while listening to some Coldplay or something, take something to knock you out, and get some shut-eye. The carnage and aftermath will not look so bad in the morning.
2) HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR
Regardless of how bad the hunt was, surely the sun will still rise in the ‘morrow. When you first wake up the morning after a disaster of a hunt, you will likely initially have a hard time believing said hunt actually happened. Once you realize it wasn’t a bad dream, you’ll probably shake your head and laugh at yourself, maybe even out loud, at the ridiculousness of the experience, and at yourself for taking it so seriously and so badly.
A little levity goes a long way, but I rarely ever think it was very funny until the next day.
By the way, the fact that you did get upset is a good thing. It says you are highly motivated and take saving relics very seriously.
Go through the entire day again from start to finish, and make notes. Did you stick to your original plan? Was there a point where the whole thing went South and it didn’t have to? Was the original plan sound?
Evaluate your mental state. Were you rested, or tired? Were you following your fundamentals? Did you select the right equipment.
Identify any opportunities for improvement, else just chalk it up to a rough day and bad luck. Often, the culprit for me is not having a good plan, or not sticking with it.
4) REVIEW WITH HUNTING PARTNER
“I’m sorry we didn’t have better luck.” Something I habitually say after a long day of not finding anything with a partner. If we swung for the fence and just didn’t hit a home run, I’ll also say “I wouldn’t change anything.”
If you have opportunities for improvement, discuss with partner and compare notes. Listen to his evaluation of the experience from his/her perspective. Most veteran detectorists realize rough days are just part of the process, but don’t assume that a particularly bad hunt isn’t an indicator that adjustments need to be made.
It is said that “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Swinging for the fence can be an all or nothing endeavor, that’s why we call it “swinging for the fence.” Doing something high risk, high reward literally like hunting the side of a cliff, which was the last beating I personally took. So if the punishing hunt came as a result of such a plan, then that is probably just the price you paid for the high risk part.
5) REGROUP GET BACK OUT THERE
If a break (or extended therapy) is not in order to reset, the best thing you can do is pick yourself back up, get your head on straight and get back out and hunt again as soon as possible. After all, the horror of the hunt is best quelled by the joy of your next big find!