A Relic with Your Name on It

A Relic with Your Name on It

“My disposition is in a position for all to see.  Regretless for how it feels.  I got a bullet with a name on it.  Bullet with a name. Because the cause for all, the pause you think you see is really concentration on the steel. I got a bullet with your name on it. Bullet with a name.” – NonPoint

One of the many things I find extremely interesting about metal detecting is the statistical distribution of objects.   While hunting 30 years for silver coins, this was not readily apparent to me.  But since I began Civil War relic hunting, it is obvious, partly because there is a vastly broader variety of possible good finds.    A couple of very recent examples of odd statistical distribution:   Three different rare state buttons are dug by three different detectorists here in Middle Tennessee over a two day period and posted on the TriStar Facebook Group after not seeing one posted for several months.   Or the fact that I typically dig 10 or more silver coins per month, and although I hunted as hard in April as any month ever, and had 52 nice keepers for the month including some monster finds, I didn’t even dig a rosy or a mercury dime.

So contemplating a myriad of similar occurrences over the past few months, my thinking has changed significantly.  You see I used to believe that detecting was purely a numbers game – dig so many holes and eventually you will dig anything you can think of.   I used to believe if I went detecting with a partner and he dug a silver half dollar, then I would have dug that half dollar had I went alone.  I used to believe when you finally find a great site, you beat it to death until it is empty before you move on. After all, it is crazy and irrational to think otherwise, right?

I get a lot of friendly flack from some great detectorist friends of mine here in Middle Tennessee when I’ve hunted a very productive property one time and do not go back.  “Dude you found a freaking Confederate “I” button there.  What do you mean you aren’t going back?”   They are bewildered.  After all, “stupid is as stupid does.”


I’ve hunted hard in 2015, but I’ve only went back to two properties this year:  One because I didn’t get started until late the previous afternoon, and another because I had a headache and didn’t feel like asking for one last permission late in the day while hunting with a partner.

Now if I stumbled on a virgin Civil War camp or a very large productive property with carte blanche permission, then I would certainly hunt it more than once, and bring in my friends, but in general, I currently have a system that works for me:

1) I alternate detecting sessions between different areas that are productive for me.   I hunt in one area of Nashville, then in Franklin, then maybe Columbia, and then a different area of Nashville.   I call this “mixing it up”.

2) I force myself at least once per month to hunt a new area that I haven’t hunted before – without regard to whether I have a better, more likely spot or permission to hunt.   This keeps me sharp on research, and is the only way I’m going to locate new “hot” areas to hunt.

3) In general, I hunt a yard exactly one time.    And yes I am perfectly aware that I leave stuff behind.

The underlying belief behind my system may seem pretty crazy and irrational as well.  I am confident in my research, permission and detecting abilities to the point where I am consistently finding great stuff.   I like to say that the keepers and monsters that I am going to find already “have my name on them”, and the ones that you are going to find “have your name on them”.   And my experiences this year has backed this up.   I’m finding monsters left behind at sites previously hunted out by others, and I’m consistently finding monsters by moving forward to new sites instead of hanging around existing sites – whether they were productive or not.

This system is working for me.  I’m having by far my best detecting year ever.   Why?  Well partly because I am almost always swinging over good new ground, and also because all my eggs are not in one basket:  I am moving between different “hot” areas and also identifying and developing new hot spots in the process.

I’m also happy to report several derivative benefits to this system and underlying beliefs as well:

  • I have many good sites that I can re-hunt in a pinch if need be;
  • I can feel good about now wanting it all as I am certainly leaving things behind for other detectorists.
  • If I’m hunting with a partner, and he/she finds a monster, then I can be genuinely happy for them and not feel like it should have been mine.   That thing just had your name on it.   I find more than my share of great finds, so good for you!   BTW, I notice this same thinking in many of the best detectorists in my area.  If you are a real veteran detectorist – a real “expert” detectorist, then your feathers don’t get ruffled because your partner finds a gold coin or other rare find.   You know you are going to get yours, so just have fun and be happy for them.
  • Because I’m not beating sites to death, or even hitting good sites multiple times, I hunt more properties.    So I get to spend time on more historical sites and grounds.  And to me, the best part of actually detecting is that feeling when you are getting your gear out of the vehicle at a site with great potential that you have never hunted.   I almost hate to start, because that initial excitement is often even better than the finds.

I’m not recommending this system to anyone.  You’ve got to find what works for you and improve on it.    I like to say “The relics never lie”, and as long as you are finding what you are looking for with a frequency that you are happy with, then keep swinging.   For now, I’m going for the new ground.  I’m going to hunt like I don’t want it all, and I’m going to believe that the relics I’m going to find are just waiting out there with my name on them.

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