Detecting Exercise:  Blind Man’s Bluff

Detecting Exercise: Blind Man’s Bluff

Detecting is easy, right?   Just swing the detector, wait for a good target, and dig.    Right?   Wrong.    Sure you’ll get the easy targets, IF there are any, but if you are serious about detecting, then you are serious about finding the most keepers per session, and the monster finds that you’ll remember and talk about for years.   

Working out with your detector in a controlled environment such as a test garden is how you get better.   This is how you reduce the frustration of working with your particular machine, and make each actual detecting session out in the field more enjoyable and productive.

I believe a big part of becoming an excellent detectorist is learning how to recognize desirable targets in your headphones and relying on the display only as a secondary source of information.   I wonder how many incredible targets I passed up early in my detecting career because the display reading was inaccurate due to weak, deep or poorly oriented targets, or those in proximity to trash.

“Blind Man’s Bluff” is an exercise designed to force you to improve and refine your ability to hear targets versus relying on the display as your primary source of information.  Here is how it is done:

Blind Man’s Bluff

Note:   It is strongly recommended that you use headphones with your detector to properly focus on the audio.  I went without them for years and handicapped myself significantly by doing so.

1) Prepare your test garden or area with several good and bad targets of the types you typically encounter, and those you wish to encounter.    Make note of exactly where each target is located and what each is.   Here are some of the targets I use: 

– Silver dime at 6″ 

– Clad dime at 4″

– Pull tab at 4″

– 6 big nails at 4″ in a rough 8 inch circle with a silver quarter in the center at 6″ 

– Buffalo Nickel at 6″

– Shotgun Shell at 6″

– Wheat Cent at 8″

– Silver Quarter at 12″

– Silver Dime at 10″

– A big, ugly bent rusted nail at 12″

– A U.S. Civil War Minie ball at 8″

2)   Set your detector up as you would for an average hunt, then cover the display so you can’t see the readings.   I use a piece of cardboard to block the window in my control box’s protective rain cover.  You can tape something over the display, or just throw a towel over it.   You can also just promise not to look at the display, but I find myself cheating by habit and need to cover it.

3)   Detect each target.  If you really rely on the display, this will probably feel really weird at first, which is the whole point of the exercise.

4)  Ask yourself the following questions about each target:

–  Can you clearly hear the target and distinguish it as “good” vs “bad” using only the sound?

–  How clean and clear is the sound?   Is it repeatable at different angles?

–  Does the audio help you identify the target in any way?

–  Does it sound deep or shallow?  Can you tell the difference using only the sound?   Can you tweak the audio to help do so?

–  Were you able to pinpoint the target with sound only?

–  Would you dig this target using only the sound to make your decision?

5)  Move back and forth between different targets and note any auditory clues that can help you distinguish them from each other. For example, how does a nickel sound different from a pull-tab or shotgun shell?   How does the audio sound different?  

 6) Keep a notepad handy to write down key observations and commit them to memory.   Here are some of my notes as examples:
– On my e-Trac with my standard setup,  silver has a unique sound that I can listen for.
– Mid-depth  (6-8″)  silver coins and wheats generally sound really clear compared to trash targets that display similar readings on the display.
–  In decent soil conditions, coins at any depth without iron or other objects interfering ring really clear on my Fisher F75 in all-metal mode at 90 sensitivity versus trash at similar depths

7)  If your detector allows, work on tweaking your audio settings to better distinguish good targets from bad.

Experiment and vary the exercise to suit you.  I like to do this exercise in conjunction with others in the test garden.   “This is interesting. Let’s focus on what it sounds like without the display.”

Apply What You Learned Out in the Field

The new detectorist typically watches the display and uses the audio only as a notification that he/she has a target and needs to check the display.   An experienced detectorist learns to distinguish different characteristics of the target sounds as additional clues to assist in determine if a given target is worth digging.  An expert detectorist generally listens first and only uses the display as a secondary source of information, because the expert detectorist knows that the display can be misleading, and knowing exactly what you are listening for leads to finding exactly what you are looking for.

On actual hunts out in the field, work on listening to your headphones more than watching the display.  Always take into account the audio as a part of the equation in determining whether or not you will dig a given target.

Work on deep targets that fail to show up on display.
I love to keep my threshold on my audio such that I can barely hear a constant tone when nothing is detected.   When at hunted out site or a site where very deep targets may likely be good ones, like church yards,  I’ll listen for tiny variations in the audio that barely register or do not register on the display.   I’ve dug some monsters that way.

The Sweet Sounds of Tough Keepers
Make note of how surprise good targets sounded in the headphones.  The type of iffy targets that you dug anyway because of the depth even though you and the display figured it was junk.   The more you do this, the better you will get at listening for similar targets in the future.

Final Thoughts
The harsh reality is that most detectorists will find that their great finds are all at about 4 inches deep or so.   The reason is that if you rely on the display, deeper targets may not display clear readings and may be falsely discriminated out either by the detector or the detectorist when all the time, the audio was telling a different story.

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Dig Deeper
Check out these other detecting exercises to master your detector and increase your finds out in the field:

Detecting Exercise:  China

Detecting Exercise: Easter Egg Hunt

Photo Credits
Some rights reserved by T.Phipps Photography

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