As many of us wait for the ground to thaw so we can get back out there and hunt productively, now is a great time to prepare to be more productive this year. Setting detecting goals, for example. Most of us track basic goals, like number of silver finds per year. Many clad hunters simply tally a dollar value to every hunt. With a little thought and simple record keeping, you can track the results of each hunt in a method that not only supports meeting your goals, but fosters rapid and continuous improvement.
What do you consider a “Keeper”?
Write down the items that you count as desirable. When your spouse or friend asks did you find anything during a particular hunt, what things do you mention. Each detectorist defines a Keeper in his/her own way. No right or wrong answers here.
For example, I don’t hunt for clad (post 1964 non-silver coins). I don’t consider clad a keeper though many detectorists are perfectly happy to find clad. I consider any wheat cent to be a keeper, but not memorial cents – even 1959s. I love jewelry, and consider even junk jewelry to be keepers. Old matchbox cars – keepers. Any civil war item – duh? Shotgun shells – no. Pre-1960 nickles – yes. Old musical instrument parts such as harmonica or squeezebox reeds – yes.
I may evaluate some odd relics and other items on the fly out in the field and determine whether they are a keeper. Others – careful not to throw anything away if you aren’t sure what it is – go from trash to treasure only after cleaning up and/or going through a process to identify them. A few years ago I found two small approximately 2-3″ round iron spheres buried in railroad gravel near my house. I thought they were used in some time of grinder – they were roughly made and practically new looking. Some time later, a Civil War relic hound going through a box I put unidentified “junk” in identified them as confederate-manufacturered canister shot fired from a cannon, in mint condition – apparently buried and protected by the dry railroad gravel for almost 150 years. He also pointed out a cavalry harness buckle I thought was a piece of a cheap belt buckle. Lucky I didn’t toss them.
Enough about what I think. What do you consider to be keepers?
What items do you consider to be “Monster Finds”?
A monster find is any find that, by itself, immediately makes the detecting session successful. I’m fairly easy to please here. Any silver coin or item, anything gold of course, or any decent Civil War item – even a single nice Minié ball or a flat button – send me home with a smile on my face. Game over. Anything else is just a bonus and I’m where I want to be, enjoying the hobby. I especially love it when the monster find comes early during the detecting session. The rest of the hunt is just marvelous. I’m on cloud nine, and usually the rest of my hunt is more productive because of it.
How Do you Define a Successful Hunt?
In general, I consider a hunt to be successful if I find any monster find, a couple of really good keepers, or at least one keeper per hour I hunt. My expectations are tempered somewhat when I am field hunting, hunting a site that has been “hunted out”, or when I am in a slump. In those instances, I’m happy to find anything. It’s on me to locate and gain permission to hunt new, fresh sites, so if I want to win big, I know I need to research, network, and find those new sites to hunt.
We know that many detectorists keep a running tally of the dollar value of clad found or number of silvers found Year to Date, but other metrics are worth tracking? I’ve tried tracking many different things over the last few years, and in my opinion, here are some easy things to keep up with per detecting session that have a direct impact on productiveness.
– Number of keepers / Number of hours = number of keepers per hour
Just one measurement of efficiency during a hunt
– Number of keepers / Number of targets dug = number of holes per keeper
This is a better measurement for improvement, because it applies to a lot of different situations.
Another useful metric for someone new to detecting or someone learning a new detector is tracking the number of “dead ringers”. A dead ringer is when you flat-out new exactly what the target was before you dug it. I’m surgical with silver quarters on the e-Trac and F75. Seldom do I dig one without knowing “for darn sure” before I break the ground. Silver quarters are my most common “dead ringers”. Attempting to uncover dead ringers both helps your decision-making and facilitates the mental recall of similar signals you’ve previously dug.
Using Metrics to Improve your Detecting Skills
Based on my experience, digging more holes, and smarter holes is how you improve. Some examples:
– I love to cherry pick an awesome, killer virgin site like a church or school yard or lawn of an old stately home. My goal on the first pass is to only dig targets I’m reasonably sure are silver dimes or quarters. I’ve never gone 100% on the first pass, but I have done 5 out of 7 of my holes on a first pass being silver. I know the site is loaded, so I make sure I pick the cherries first by only digging “sure things”. Then I come back and open up my tolerance a little at a time on subsequent passes.
– If you are hunting a site that has been picked over, the remaining keepers are generally going to be deep and iffy, and/or in the “Trash” discrimination range on your detector. In either case, I realize I likely need to either dig a lot of holes, or be able to dig a few really smart holes in order to walk away with a keeper or two.
Simple logic states that the more holes you dig, the better chance you have of getting a keeper. This is true even for an amateur. Where experience comes in, is choosing which targets to dig and digging “smarter” holes. And the more a site is hunted, the more the expert is likely to dig the unlikely and iffy targets, until eventually he/she will dig every target that has a snowball’s chance in Hades of being a keeper.
Keep a Log
I keep a very simple log on my smart phone and log the following items for every hunt:
– Detector and general settings used
– Number of keepers
– Number of monsters
– Number of targets dug
– Length of session in hours
– Assessment of site for future visit (come back ASAP, need to hunt again, backlog, or hunted out) as well as notes on any particular areas I didn’t get to or need to hunt again
Along with your annual goals, I recommend establish your own record book. My favorite record is most silver coins in a single day. My record is 12 and I threw a party worthy of the end of a Star Wars movie.
Detecting is more fun when you win. Taking the time to track simple metrics will help you increase your percentage of winning detecting sessions, and help you realize where you can improve. I’ve had buddies that didn’t find anything during a hunt and though I was lucky to, until I pointed out “No offense, but you only dug about 10 holes. I dug 32.” I wasn’t lucky, I was at least 3 times more likely to have found something than him. And only by tracking the metrics was I even aware of it.
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