Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. – Pink Floyd
Consider all of the work that can go into finally getting on a good site to detect. Research. Networking. Permission. Driving around scouting. Hunting sites that are busts or near-busts. Think about this as well: some sites you only get one shot at
It is therefore imperative that we take advantage of every opportunity to the best of out abilities. So in the interest of continuous improvement, I gauge the success of a hunt, or series of hunts, by a simple measurement – Keepers per Hour, or KPH.
I regularly use two terms to talk about my good finds: “Keeper” and “Monster”. “Keeper” is a subjective term, and can mean anything you want. To me, it is simply anything I plan to display in my collection or via sharing photographs on the internet. For me this includes Civil War bullets and relics, silver coins, jewelry, etc. It doesn’t have to be written in stone. If you are happy you found it, it is a keeper – something you personally are happy with bringing home from a detecting session.
A “monster” is one of those rare finds that cause you to dance, fist pump, and post immediately to social media from the field. A Civil War belt buckle, Morgan dollar, piece of nice jewelry, big gold nugget, or a gold coin, for example. Again your definition of a monster does not have to match anyone else’s. A monster doesn’t always have to be valuable monetarily. It can be valuable historically, or personally. Digging monsters is a product of statistics and getting on great sites, so the more keepers you dig, some of those keepers will be monsters, so the more keepers you dig, the more monsters you will dig.
Here it is worthwhile to note the Quality vs Quantity rule. Each of us would probably rather find a single gold coin or rare Civil War relic than a finds bag full of Civil War bullets or silver dimes during an eight hour hunt. The KPH measurement, however, is about efficiency, and the precept is that finding a rare find is a numbers game. If you want to dig something rare, you need to dig a lot of keepers, and dig them as quickly as possible. For example, I find, through studying my monthly find counts, that when Civil War relic hunting, I dig approximately one rare item (monster) per every 25 bullets (keepers).
Keepers-per-Hour is a simple calculation we can all do in our head:
Number of Keepers / Number of Hours Hunted Today
Example: I hunted 5 hours yesterday, and I dug 5 keepers (including a monster).
Five Keepers / Five Items = 1 KPH
I keep it simple. I round to nearest half. If I dig 1.4 keepers per hour, I call it 1 and a half. 1.2 = 1, 2.8 = 3, etc.
WHY BOTHER WITH KPH?
KPH is simply a gauge of how well a hunt is going. I bother with keeping track of it for the following reasons:
1) Being aware of my current KPH while I am actually detecting helps keeps me on track. If I’ve hunted two hours and my KPH is zero, I realize I may need need to get my head in my game, change my approach, check my ground balance or settings, or move to a new piece of ground, for example.
2) Other than digging a monster find, KPH is the one truly objective measure of how well a hunt went.
3) Over time, I can analyze trends in my KPH to make sure my overall detecting strategy is good. Declines in KPH may lead me to do more research and develop new areas to hunt, re-evaluate my overall strategy, or check my equipment to make sure it is functioning 100%.
4) Realize I am in a slump: I hate a slump – such as a long period without finding much over several or many sessions, or months without digging a monster. Unless I am having an awful bad streak of luck, usually my KPH is down as well.
So I use my KPH to tell me how well individual hunts are going, how well my strategy is working over a series of hunts, and as a basis for continuing improvement long-term.
SET A KEEPERS PER HOUR GOAL
My personal goal is to average one keeper per hour during any given detecting session. This goal is based on my personal experience with the type of sites I hunt, which are mostly Civil War sites that usually have been moderately to heavily hunted in the past, and what I feel is acceptable. Your goal should be reasonable and something you are happy with. And you can modify it anytime you want.
IMPROVING YOUR KPH
The primary reasons I fall short of the one KPH are hunting a poor site where nothing is really there, re-hunting a site too much that is played out instead of pressing forward, not following my detecting fundamentals, straight up lousy luck, and/or having a poor state of mind.
Here are ten concepts that help me maximize and improve my KPH during a given detecting session and over time:
1) MAXIMIZE MY RECOVERY EFFICIENCY
Wasting time trying to find a target or repair a hole is a KPH killer, especially when the target is trash.
I try to recover my targets as quickly as possible with a routine so I can move on:
Pinpoint with detector and gauge depth so I dig as accurately as possible
Dig U Shape Plug
Place detector on ground across hole from me
Flip over plug or move dirt from hole onto detecting towel
Pinpoint target with pinpointer
Remove target and place in pouch
Refill and repair hole
The most important thing here is pinpointing the target and knowing the approximate depth, so I don’t fool around trying to find the target, which wastes valuable time. The faster and cleaner my recover, the more time I have to search for more targets. I’ve seen some veteran detectorists do well on recovery without one, but I feel like a good pinpointer is absolutely critical for optimal recovery speed. I’ve wasted too much time searching for targets that I just can’t find in the hole – poorly pinpointed with machine or stuck deep in side of hole, for example.
2) DIG MORE TARGETS
Simple math. Realize that the clock is ticking and time is valuable. And if you average one good keeper for every ten holes, you are going to more likely to dig more keepers if you dig 40 holes than if you dug 30. Quick recovery routine, avoiding distractions, and taking shorter scheduled breaks, and staying off your phone are just some things that will help you dig more targets during a detecting session.
3) DIG BETTER HOLES: SMART TARGET SELECTION
You can further optimize your KPH by digging smarter holes. Knowing your equipment, knowing how to sniff out likely deep falsing iron, knowing how to recognize deep, iffy targets and learning how to pick keepers out of heavy iron and trash are all tantamount to increasing your KPH. Digging 30 smart, higher probable targets based on sound and experience will almost always net you more keepers than digging 40 targets solely based on the detectors display.
4) HUNKER DOWN WHEN YOU DIG A KEEPER
First, always rescan your holes. Can you say “Pocket Spill?” or “Bullet Spill?” or “Soldier’s Hut?” or “Trash pit?” Your keepers per hour explodes when you find a literal honey hole!
I very often hunt large “hunted out” civil war sites on pastures where most of my keepers end up coming from a single small area 50 feet x 50 feet or way less. If I didn’t resist the temptation of the ground I haven’t covered yet, and stubbornly hunker down and focus on that spot, then I would have wandered around the rest of the day digging shotgun hulls.
If you dig a keeper, then you know the spot is good, so you might make sure you take advantage of it completely before you wander off.
5) HUNT IT LIKE YOU WILL NEVER COME BACK
Sometimes you only get one shot at detecting a property. And I’ve learned that no matter how good my permission is, there is no guarantee you will ever get to hunt a site again. So make sure you have no regrets or wish you had done something differently. Maximize your KPH by using the best strategy you can for this site for today versus planning to systematically hunt different areas of the site over many different hunts.
Have a plan. Whether this is your first time at this site or not, what part of site should you logically hunt first? Based on your experience, where are relics most likely to be? What spot might have been overlooked in the past?
I’ve learned that I can maximize my KPH by detecting the ground in multiple passes. During the first pass I’ll only dig solid good targets. Second pass I’ll slow down and go after deeper ones. And on a third and subsequent passes I’ll start digging the iffy stuff. Imagine a large yard that you are only going to get to hunt this afternoon and never again. Your best bet is to make sure you cover the entire yard and get the easy, solid, most likely keepers first, instead of wasting time digging difficult targets up front. After you feel you’ve “Cherry Picked”, you can spend the rest of the session going after the deep and iffy stuff. So when you run out of time, at least you’ve hit the entire site. I use different variations based on the nature of a given site, but in general I try to optimize my KPH via a strategy.
6) COVER FRESH GROUND
A couple years ago, I would hunt the same property repeatedly – my honey holes, and other sites that were producing less and less. Since I had permission, I would more often choose to hit such sites again and again over going through the trouble to get new permission. So my KPH would start high and then decrease on a site due to the law of diminishing returns. Since then I have gotten much more aggressive with moving forward to new sites, and rarely hunt a site a second time unless the site is loaded, which is rare.
There is nothing inherently wrong with hitting a site multiple times, it is just not my primary focus. Unless the site is large and/or clearly producing great finds, I opt to get permission to a new yard or property, whatever it takes. What’s great about this is that you always can go back and hunt a site you’ve already hit in a pinch when you need a quick hunt or a backup site. And I don’t mind leaving relics for others and moving on one bit.
One of my favorite things about detecting are the minutes right before you detect a yard or other site for the first time. The potential of what may lie in ground you haven’t hunted before is extremely exciting. If you are hunting the right areas and types of places that produce keepers, then your KPH will likely be better if you are continually hitting new ground.
7) ACT LIKE YOU’VE BEEN IN THE ENDZONE BEFORE
As tough as it is to dig a monster, you have to stop and soak it in and celebrate a little. Just realize the clock is still ticking.
This is the toughest one for me when I’m hunting with a partner. If I find something cool I feel compelled to stop him and show it to him, and talk about it. I think that is important to motivate each other and makes the hunt more interesting. I just try to make it quick and move on. When detecting, time is a valuable commodity, and you can party later!
Also, I don’t spend time cleaning my finds in the field. Not only can this damage a good find, but it wastes valuable time. Surely you know that rusty screwdriver taste from putting a coin or other object in your mouth to clean it LOL. It’s more fun anyway sometimes to enjoy discovering details of your finds like dates while cleaning them later.
8) GET IN THE ZONE!
This one is harder to explain. If you play basketball, you might know the zone: suddenly the hoop seems ten feet wide and for some period of time you just can’t miss. Bowlers and golfers experience the same thing. I was detecting with my e-Trac one day last year and was experiencing heavy interference, got frustrated and switched to my F75 (which ironically was more prone to interference). I calmed myself down and told myself just to have fun. I held up the F75 up in the air and kidded my detecting partner that “I am surgical with this (detector)!” And that day I went on the craziest tear in recent memory. I dug a trade bracelet, 1930s gold ring, a CW buckle, Indian Head Cent, Silver WWII marksman’s medal, silver coins etc etc. Crazy deep targets.
I was in “the zone”. I just felt I could clearly hear deep targets in the ground like never before. “The zone” kind of comes and goes, and I can’t make myself get into it easily. So when I’m in it, I try to stay in it without interruption, and extend my session as long as I can. Note: Sometimes the zone is simply about Ground Balance LOL.
9) LEVERAGE YOUR EQUIPMENT
Your equipment obviously can impact your KPH. Some quick thoughts:
– Is your detector taking you as far as you need to go? Do you need to learn more about your machine? Do you have a test garden?
– Do you need to upgrade, repair or replace your machine? Do you need multiple machines?
– Is the stock coil or whatever coil happens to be on your machine giving you the best chance to win today on this site? Is your search coil selection optimal?
– How can you improve your settings? If your detector doesn’t auto ground balance itself, are you?
– If you use multiple machines or coils, is this machine or coil the right one for today?
10) HUNT ONE MORE SITE AND DIG THREE MORE HOLES
I find my KPH is better if I plan to hunt multiple sites in the same day. This is especially easy when hunting yards. I’ll plan in advance to try and hit 3 yards today, for example. This increases the probability that I will hit a very good yard. Now if a particular yard is “the bomb” I’m not going anywhere, but when I get ready to move on, I’m moving on to the next yard for a reason – I need to hit X number of yards today. Just be careful not to move on too quickly, because there is no guarantee the first yard isn’t the best and others might be bust.
This crazy idea works almost every single time: Whether I’ve found something or not at a property, when I’m running out of time, or decide to leave because the site is unproductive, I make myself dig three more holes. And one of those holes is almost always a keeper. I theorize that this last ditch effort just brings out the best detectorist in me. I regroup my focus, I carefully select the three targets, and quite frankly expect one of them to be a keeper. And one of them almost always is.
If you’ve read this far, then you are serious about killing it out there. I sincerely hope that KPH helps you find more stuff. Good luck!
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