Increasing Your Detecting Finds: Keepers Per Hour (KPH)

Increasing Your Detecting Finds: Keepers Per Hour (KPH)

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

It can be so tough to get out and research, get permission and finally get to hunt good sites.    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.

A “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 – whatever you are happy with bringing home from a detecting session.

My goal is always to average one keeper per hour during any given detecting session.   Sometimes I fall short.  Sometimes I find nothing for 3 hours and suddenly find 5 keepers at the end of the hunt.

Here it is worthwhile to note the Quality vs Quantity rule.   Each of us would probably rather find a single gold coin or rare relic than a finds bag full of CW bullets or mercury dimes during an eight hour hunt.  The KPH measurement, however, is about efficiency, and the precept 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.   I find, through studying my monthly find counts,  that I dig approximately one rare item per every 25 bullets, for example.

The primary reasons I fall short of the one KPH are hunting a poor site where nothing is really there, not following my detecting fundamentals, straight up lousy luck, and/or having a poor state of mind.

Sometimes I end up with zero KPH.  And sometimes I have 3 or more KPH during a hunt.   Here are ten things that can help you find more keepers during a given detecting session.  By tracking your KPH, you can use this as a basis for continuing improvement long-term:

This is definitely number one.   I don’t detect very well when I am tired or stressed out.  Plus it is harder to be effective asking permission.    I like to be well-rested and fired up.  I listen to ridiculous loud music in the car to pump myself up.   Be in a fun, peak state of mind.    This may be the number one thing anyone can do to “make something happen”.    You are more apt to end up in the right spot, and hit a homerun if you are in a good mental state.

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.  Since, I have gotten much more aggressive with permission, and rarely hunt a site a second time.

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.

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.

This is the easiest way to blow up your finds per session for the beginner, but always worthy of improvement efforts regardless of your level.  I try to recover my targets as quickly as possible.  Dig U Shape Plug – place detector on ground above hole –  flip over plug – pinpoint target – remove target – place in pouch – recover plug.    The most important thing here is pinpointing the target and knowing the approximate depth, so I don’t fool around trying to find a 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, but I feel like a good pinpointer is absolutely critical for optimal recovery.  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.

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 and makes the hunt more interesting.  I just try to make it quick and move on.  When detecting, time is a valuable commodity.

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 LOL.   It’s more fun anyway sometimes to enjoy discovering details of your finds like dates while cleaning them later.

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.

Simple math.  Using the above tips, and realizing that time is valuable, you can increase the number of holes you dig.   And if you average one good keeper for every ten holes, you are going to more likely to dig more keepers if you dig more holes.

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, highly probable targets based on sound and experience will almost always net you more keepers than digging 30 targets solely based on the detectors display.

PHYSICAL AREA ZONE:  I was hunting a pretty good yard and just found a spot in the yard that was full of stuff.  I dug 3 Civil War bullets and a knapsack hook.   I thought I hit it carefully well, but my detecting partner came in after I finished at a different angle and grabbed an eagle button and an Enfield bullet.  I recognized the “zone” and dug several targets, but failed to take full advantage of it.   These were some tough deep targets.

Pocket and bullet spills are great examples of such physical zones.   If you dig 3 coins or bullets in the same hole or in close proximity, you can just about guarantee there are more there.  It is worth hitting slowly, carefully at different angles and with different techniques or even detectors and you will almost always get much more.

MENTAL 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 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.

Some of the finds from that day.

Some of the finds from that day.

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.

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.

Find more stuff!  Good luck out there!

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