Breaking a Metal Detecting Slump

Breaking a Metal Detecting Slump

One of the most unfortunate experiences an experienced detector user experiences is the slump.   Most of us would be happy to find one or two great keepers on each hunt.  Instead we will find 10 great finds during one hunt, followed by several hunts with zero or one great find,

Before you attempt to take some action to break a slump, make sure you really feel like you are in a slump.  The last thing you want to do is adversely affect your results due to over-adjustments spawned by  impatience.   

But a detecting slump is definitely a subjective concept.   You feel like an inordinate number of detecting hours have passed without finding anything of value.   It doesn’t really matter if it’s a valid feeling or not – you just feel that way and as a result it has started to get in your head and things just aren’t getting any better.  You dig up yet another perfect silver quarter signal that turns out to be a “mystery nugget” blob of melted metal and are leaving the field empty-handed yet again.  You’ve had it.  With all the success you’ve had in the past, you’re frustrated and beginning to wonder what the heck you are doing out there.  It’s an ugly, bad feeling.

The purpose if this article is just to help you run a “system check” and make sure things are in order if you feel you are in a slump.   If all else fails, we will provide an exercise to break your pattern and do something completely different.   More often than not, that slump will be broken one way or another.

Sometimes you are doing everything you should but are just genuinely experiencing a period of just really bad piss-poor luck.  That doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it.  Perhaps we can determine some factors that are contributing to your poor luck – factors that you can control.

Is your thinking while detecting positive or negative?  Are you “burned out” from detecting too much?

Adjustment: Usually forcing yourself to take off a week or so gives you the “fever” to detect again and you will come out of the gate fired up and excited. Envision finding a specific silver coin. Try to have fun and not so much take everything so seriously.

Flickr Robert Deecke Rights Reserved

Secondly, check your “location”.   Are you hunting the same old spots?   Are you hunting poorly chosen spots?  For me, usually its the same problem every time when location is the issue:   I haven’t found anything great in the last 40 hours of detecting because  I am being lazy. I am hunting the same hunted out or easy to access sites instead of seeking a killer place to hunt.

Adjustment: It’s time to some research, and get some permission.

Finally examine your “learning”.  You never, ever learn it all. Sometimes we fall into a trap of thinking we know everything and adhere to certain techniques and/or detector settings that are somehow limiting us.   Think about all of the settings you are currently using.  Is there something you can do different?

Adjustment: Take some time to read what things are currently being successful for others using your machine. Sometimes just trying something new gets you excited and changes things for you.  Alter your detector settings to try and mix it up to get different results. Maybe you switch from conductive audio to two tone ferrous, maybe you try high sensitivity vs Auto Sensitivity or vice versa.   Just do something different to try and get different results.


If you feel your mindset is good, location is good, and your approach is good but you are just not finding anything. As a last resort, you might try to go into “Beast mode”.   On your next detecting session, detect normally for about an hour.   If nothing changes, it is time to act “crazy” and literally try to “will” your  detector to find a silver coin. Think something like “I AM GOING TO FIND A SILVER COIN AND I AM GOING TO FIND IT RIGHT NOW!”.  Abandon your ground coverage pattern, swing speed, and the way you listen to signals in the headphones. Take off diagonally across the property, turning at random, changing swing speeds every few seconds, listening with focused intensity for only the exact type of signal you want to hear. I’m not even going to dissect all of the things wrong with doing this, but often it works.  And remember it’s not crazy if it works.   Once you break out of that slump, however, remember to go back to good detecting practices.

However you manage to do it – when you finally break out of that slump, make sure you let yourself fully feel and enjoy the experience, because those few special moments are what keeps a good detectorist going strong. Remember the signal.    The dig.   That flash of silver in the hole.   That excitement.

A great way to start a detecting session is to put yourself in a winning state of mind by briefly going through the memory of one of your best recoveries in your mind.   Also, remember this hobby doesn’t necessarily be all about the finds.   Sometimes the most rewarding things are being outdoors, beholding the history right there in front of you, imagining what the site was like during its “heyday”, and the people we meet along the way.

DIG DEEPER:  Sometimes its good to get back to basics.   Spend some time in the bullpen as described in these articles:




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