Above are finds from hunting two Civil War camps, one US and one CS, over two days this weekend, about 75 miles apart. Both of these camps are well known and have been hunted heavily over the years, but still produced a bunch of keepers.
Here are some tips for winning when you get the opportunity to hunt a camp that’s been hit hard over the years:
I. Confederate Camps are more likely to have been hunted harder than Federal Camps
Primarily due to the rarity, demand and dollar value of some of the things found there. The bulk of the finds above were found in the Federal camp I hunted on Sunday. In Confederate camps it is reasonable to expect less quantity, but more quality. As a general guideline, in Federal camps you can typically expect to dig more relics with fewer unusual and rare ones.
II. Find and Excavate the Huts
If the soldiers spent the winter at the camp, they dug down 3-5 feet or more, outside the range of detector. When you dig a target and find bricks or squarish stones with a lot of nails, you might have a hut on your hands. Huts were typically evenly spaced apart, so if you find two huts near each other, use simple math to try and find others.
III. Find and Excavate the Trash Pits
Look for signs of broken glass and bones, usually in an undesirable area away from the core area of the camp to avoid spread of disease from rotting meat. Special probes and techniques can be used to find them. A trash pit can be a motherlode of relics.
IV. When you find a good relic, STOP
Especially on a big camp, this is the mistake I make most. The area is so big, I’ll finally dig an eagle button and then just wander away from that spot. Almost all of the relics above were dug in clusters, spots. I waste a lot of time wandering around after I’ve found something, then finally wander back to the good spot and find some more stuff. Both of the eagle buttons and the probably half of the bullets were dug in a 15 square foot area of a square mile camp. So find a good spot and slowly hit it over and over at every conceivable angle!
V. Think Outside the Box
Old timers used to throw lesser relics that we now think are awesome, like shell fragments and bullets, toward the fence rows, for example. So get close to fence rows.
Don’t be afraid to wander “out of bounds”. You might find a great spot everyone thought was outside the camp.
Listen to others that have hunted the area. Hit anywhere they say nothing was found because nothing was there.
Trash and iron are our friend in 2016, because usually they are hiding hard to get to relics. Hone your trash and iron hunting skills and jump in there and get the relics out.
VI. Watch for Site Changes
Any construction on a Civil War camp can clear the way for a ton of new relics to be unearthed. If you see construction on or near a camp, run don’t walk and talk to the Construction supervisor immediately for permission!
Camp sites that are now farm fields might be plowed every one or so years. Hunt it after plowing, as often new relics will be brought to detecting range, or unmasked from iron and trash.
VII. Multiple Properties
Some camps are now neighborhoods or span multiple properties. Treat each property as a separate site, and don’t make the mistake of judging one property based on your results in the one adjacent to it! Find the yard that hasn’t been hunted. Look for recent changes in property ownership, as perhaps a previous owner never let anyone hunt. Happens all the time.
Be patient. Therelics are there even though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. If a site produced a lot of good relics over the years, it is not empty.
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