Winning Anyway: How Being “Late to the Party” on a Construction Site Can Benefit You

Winning Anyway: How Being “Late to the Party” on a Construction Site Can Benefit You

“We’re off to the witch. We may never never never come home but the magic that we’ll feel is worth a lifetime. We search for the truth we could die upon the tooth but the thrill of just the chase is worth the pain.” – Ronnie James Dio, The Last in Line

I obtained permission to hunt a construction site last year, but was out of town for a couple of weeks when it started.  By the time I had returned, many of the other detectorists in the area had hit it hard and recovered some great finds.    Although I should have known better, I didn’t detect it.  One of my buddies went and hunted it two weeks after that and absolutely killed it.   I’ve also made some of my greatest finds on sites where I was the “last in line”.

Here are just a few reasons why hunting a construction site late can actually be better than being the first one out there.  These apply  to all types of construction sites from a major development to a single house teardown and replacement.


Many construction sites are extremely trashy, often causing me to break out my tiny coil for one of my detectors in order to hunt it effectively.  Depth doesn’t seem to matter, because the place is littered with shallow targets.   Those that got out there before me certainly may have got some good keepers out of there, but they also removed a lot of trash.  The amount of trash removed is often a function of how good the site is.  If others are finding things, or if a monster find is recovered, often they hunt hard and remove a ton of trash.   They can’t remove it all, however.     This phenomenon “opens up the ground” for me to get at some of the deeper and tougher targets that may be partially masked by some of the remaining trash.   I’ve recovered many items from “hunted out” construction sites in this manner.


Because you are “late to the part”, you are not going to enjoy cherry picking the good stuff.  It’s already been done.  Often you and I are relegated to going after the tough stuff – picking keepers out of heavy nails, or super deep, iffy signals.  These iffy signals are my bread and butter – over half of my monster finds shock me when they come out of the ground because I was expecting a deep falsing nail or another shotgun shell


Contractors often move dirt around in phases.  This is especially true of big sites.    Sometimes all of the best finds are at a certain level in the ground, which is reached at different times for different parts of the site.    I’ll wander around trying to find these “sweet spots” on big sites and focus on them when I find them.

Sometimes many detectorists will consider the site done with for the purposes of detecting, only to find someone went out there weeks later and killed it with a ton of new finds.

How wonderful it is when you get to hunt a construction site perfectly graded where the great finds are on top of or just under the surface of the ground!


Often after the initial tearout work on a site, the site is re-landscaped for the new property.  Trees and shrubs and hedgerows may be subsequently removed, offering new ground to hunt that was previously not huntable.  Sometimes they move big piles of dirt or rock around, clearing the ground under them for hunting.

Sometimes the construction equipment, dumpsters or other things are the obstacles.  Last year on a site that had been good, I went back a month later and hit the spot the dumpster had been standing after it had been removed and found three nice dropped Civil War bullets and an Indian cent.

I drove by a construction site I hunted a couple of weeks ago and noticed it looked completely different.  It had been graded down just in the past couple of days.  I think I’m going to get back out there and hit it again right after I finish this article!


If awesome finds have been made on a construction site, I’m going to focus harder, strategize harder, and bring all of my skill and weapons into the fold to try and save some relics!     I’ll try different coil sizes, think outside of the box, and swing for the fence – trying every trick in the book I can think of.   Though I should approach all sites objectively, in the same manner, the truth is that actually knowing that the site is good is extremely beneficial to me and has resulted repeatedly in finds I otherwise would have left behind.


Weather conditions seem to affect detecting success sometimes in ways we might not completely understand.  Sometimes after a light rain, for example, the good targets seems to suddenly start popping out of the ground.

Sometimes it is just your day, and a monster find or group of good keepers just have your name on it.    We’ve all seen it or heard about it.   But that doesn’t matter if you decide not to get out there because you are too late.

Sometimes your equipment and skill make all of the difference in the world.  Maybe your small coil, or oversize coil is perfect for the conditions.  Maybe your experience, settings and adjustments allow you to dig a signal others would have passed over.


My advice is to hunt every opportunity you can.   It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are too late and everything that can be found has been found.  This is almost always not true, without regard to whether you actually find something at the site.   Hunt like many great relics that need saving are there and you’ve got to find a way to get to them.  And often you will.

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