Detecting Exercise: China

Detecting Exercise: China

“Shape it up.  Get straight.  Go forward.  Move ahead.  Try to detect it.”   -Devo, Whip It (1980)

The purpose of this exercise is to practice maxing out your detectors depth, and to familiarize yourself with how desirable targets on the very brink of your detectors depth capability show up on your detector.     This exercise is a real eye opener for many detectorists, and can change how we think about our so-called “ideal detector settings” and what deep targets we will decide to dig.

Note:  If you live in China, please call this exercise “America”.   If you live in the UK, this exercise is called “New Zealand” and vice versa.

I recover deep dimes and other difficult targets because I have worked with  my machines to learn how to set them up – not only for maximum depth, but for maximum deep signal clarity.  This takes more than just cranking the sensitivity up to 100%.    Real depth comes with both practice in the test garden, and experience in the field, because if we don’t know when to “go deep” and we don’t know what to look and listen for to identify potential deep targets, then we likely only think we are “deep”.   

Most of us get our ideal and deep settings from some of  the detecting juggernauts on the internet, heroes like Andy Sabisch, Goes4Ever, or the mighty PocketSpill.   That’s great, but trust me you need to get out in the test garden with those settings in order to learn to apply them effectively in the field – especially using them to get the deep stuff.

Hard Truth:  A lot of us only think we are “deep”.  If you wonder why almost all of your good finds are between 4-6″, then you are likely one of them.    Even if our detector is hitting 10-12″ deep, our audio, high sensitivity discrimination and other factors may be keeping us from realizing good deep signals.   And perhaps we don’t know what to look and listen for because we “don’t need no stinkin’ test garden”!

If you are an experienced detectorists that can pull 12″ dimes out of the ground regularly, then my hat is off to you.   “China” exercise can still help us, however, to get even clearer deep signals and perhaps squeeze another half inch or two, possibly more, out of our detectors.

I do not feel that it is always appropriate to go around with my machine “jacked up” with the deepest possible settings.   In most sites, this will drive you crazy and is counter-productive as deep trash can interfere with shallower good targets.    I usually only fire up my “China” settings on very hunted out sites, sites with sparse targets in the first place, in fields, in the woods, and also when I choose to hunt in tall grass.

For this exercise, I like to use a silver dime, a wheat penny, and a Civil War bullet.   Choose  2-3 of your own targets based on what you are typically hunting for.

You’ll need a fairly clean , deep piece of ground in your test garden.    Find a yard stick or other measuring device so you can gauge your depth and not estimate it.  I use an old wooden yard stick.   Because it is important to know exactly where the deep target is, grab a golf tee or other good marker.

Set your detector up as your normally would to begin a typical hunt.

Make the Target Unreachable
Start with burying target #1, which for me is a silver dime, at about 8″.       Mark the exact spot above the target with a golf tee.

Now try to detect it.  My e-Trac and F75 can both hit a 8″ dime fairly easily with my  “standard” settings and stock coils.  If you can hit them fairly easy, try 10″ and try again.  Repeat until you canotn hit them.   In the soil and conditions in my yard, my dime I cannot hear is at 11″ with my standard settings.   Keep in mind that depth is with settings I have already worked on.  Don’t be discouraged if you are not quite that deep yet – that’s the whole point of the exercise.  And don’t laugh at me if you can get deeper – you haven’t detected in my yard LOL!!!!

Note:   Note where your detector’s target ID fails.  This is important.   At some point your detector can still hit the dime, but it starts sounding like a nail, then reading like a nail, real jumpy numbers, until you can hear it but it barely is detected at all.   This is important profound knowledge.  When you max out your detectors depth, this is how you will dig targets at depths that sound like complete BS fish stories.  You can work on hitting targets that are super deep at different angles until the sound and jumpy VDI’s (numbers) convince you to dig.

Without changing the settings, you want to be totally unable to hear or see the target.

Now Find a Way to Detect the Target

Now your goal is to detect the deep target,  and make the signal as clear as possible.

Most of us are just going to crank the sensitivity wide open to hit the target.   If you learn one thing…. wide open sensitivity is not always ideal.  For me, the maximum 100% sensitivity on the e-Trac of 30 usually doesn’t cut it.     Sometimes I pick up very tiny targets, but not deeper ones.  And when I do hit the deepest targets, the signals are generally garbage.   I’ll use lower sensitivity and “trick out” the audio and use my favorite channels and other settings to hit deep targets that are discernable signals.

My F75 will allow me to crank up sensitivity to near 100%, but usually only with minimal or no discrimination under ideal conditions free of no interference.  I like 90-95% though for best deep clarity.  That machine is very nice and deep.

If you rely on sensitivity to be your only depth “crutch”, then you are going to be at a disadvantage when you are at sites with poor soil conditions and moderate to heavy interference.  Plus you are going to get way more iron falsing with sensitivity cranked up all the way.

I’m not saying that hight sensitivity is always bad.  Just don’t let it be your only tactic to get good readings on deep targets.

Experiment with any sounds settings provided by your machine to clear up  how deep signals sound.  The e-Trac has a special “Deep” setting, for example.

I find running the volume gain lower (ie 17 of 30 on the e-Trac vs the default of 24) allows me to run a higher sensitivity and hear deep targets clearer.  The volume gain controls how much deeper targets are amplified, so it makes sense in high sensitivity that the deepest targets will be a bit clearer without a very high gain.

I’ve found that reducing discrimination can increase depth by 25-50%.    On my F75, I always run with zero discrimination when I am “going deep”.    In the e-Trac, I run with minimal discrimination (pretty much top and bottom rows only) to reduce falsing and allow maximum sensitivity.

Why does reducing discrimination provide extra depth?   Several reasons, but the primary reason is that crazy deep targets tend to show up all over the place on the display.   The detector just can’t clearly see them.    So with a lot of discrimination, a lot of deep targets are going to be unfairly discriminated out.

Deep Swing /Swing Speed
Practice swinging your coil reasonably close to the ground.  If you are swinging at 2″ above nice ground, then swinging at 1″ should grant you additional depth.  Once you hit the deeper target, try different swing speeds and make a note of what swing speed hits it the clearest.  

Experiment with different frequencies and channels if you detector provides them.  I have found that certain channels on the e-Trac allow me to run at a higher sensitivity and get more depth.

Ground Balance
Work with your detector’s ground balance.   Proper ground balance doesn’t seem to matter to us in general, but it matters a lot when you are trying to get max depth and clarity.

Over-reliance on the Display
Have you ever been hunting in a field or fairly clear ground and heard your detector’s tone change as you passed over a piece of ground, but nothing registered on the display.   I always stop and try the spot at a couple of different angles.  If I feel something is there, and it is very deep, then it could certainly be worth the risk of digging.

Recognize What Works
Make mental notes, actual notes,  and save settings as programs if your machine has that capability.   Determine what your “China” settings are, and use them when you need to.     Make clear notes of what settings made the most difference, so that you can “tweak” them out in the field.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Once you are comfortable, repeat the process for your other target/s.  Make note of the depths you plumbed, and next time you do the exercise try to get an extra 1/2 or 1″.   Don’t settle for anything less than the best depth you can reach.   You are willing to dig to china for treasure, right?

Frustration and Upgrading
If you become frustrated, Read the forums and consult with experts to find tips on hitting deep targets with your specific detector.  Pay more attention to the tips that are not just “crank the sensitivity up, baby!  whoooo!”.   Try different things, but always see for yourself what works for you in the test garden.  Be willing to practice.    It takes time to get there.  Best to work on your depth a little at a time.

If you feel you have done the work, and are not satisfied with the depth you feel your detector gets, think about upgrading.   You could try a larger or specialized search coil for your machine.   Before you decide to upgrade your detector, make sure your depth experiences with your current detector are in line with the experiences of other users.   Trust me.  I’ve done it before:  Upgrade to a more expensive machine and feel zero increase in depth, or feel my old machine was actually deeper.    I’m not saying the more expensive machine won’t be deeper.  I’m just saying don’t count on it just because the machine is more expensive.   Again read the forums.  Get some insight from other users.

Try this exercise with a small “sniper” search coil.    You might be surprised at how much depth you get with the little sucker.   When hunting in trash with reduced depth from a smaller coil, it is even more important to be able to discern signals at the bottom of the coil’s detection depth.

Final Thoughts
In order to be successful digging deep targets, you have to be comfortable with what you are hearing and seeing from the detector – that you feel that the sounds and display readings are corresponding with targets under the ground.   If the sounds and signals feel random, then you do not have control of your machine, so it does not matter how much depth you are getting.  Back off of the sensitivity and other settings to your comfort zone, and practice in the test garden to move your comfort zone deeper.

Once you try this exercise a few times, I hope you unlocked some secrets to not only getting better depth with your detector, but getting clearer readings on deep signals with your detector.   And I hope you snag something really deep and great on your next hunt!

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Photo Credits
Adapted from Flickr:   Some rights reserved by clurr

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Mike 70 at 12:42 am

    I really enjoyed that article, seemed so obvious, yet we don’t do it. It makes sense to really get to know your detector, instead of getting into a rut.. Cant graduate if you don’t go to school. Thanks.

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