Study: Missing the Easily Detected Target

Study: Missing the Easily Detected Target

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Missing the Easily Detected Target

Chances are if you have detected regularly for years nothing surprises you, but from time to time perhaps you have encountered one or more of the following situations:

  • For some reason you are hunting a site that you and/or others have “hunted out”.   You inexplicably recover something that leaves you bewildered that – as much as the place had been hunted – the target had not been found before.  This find was not particularly deep, nor was anything odd about it.  It was the kind of thing that you would think should easily have been found the first time a decent detectorist hit the spot.
  • You are hunting with an advanced detector that you are surgical with, and your buddy, who is a novice, comes right over ground you have already passed over and recovers a monster find with something like a $50 detector he got at a garage sale.   The worst for me was a Walking Liberty Half Dollar my wife’s cousin hit on his very first hunt  in a small front yard I had hunted 3-4 times.  I had just hit the spot of the find 10 minutes before him and had moved on to the back yard.  I couldn’t believe it.
  • You confidently remarked to a competitor or buddy that a certain place was hunted out long ago, and you sincerely think he must be full of it when he tells you about the great thing/s he found there last week

How the heck did that happen?     What a sick feeling if a great find was within your grasp.

The purpose of this article is not to focus on negative missed targets.  Being aware of some of the reasons such targets might be missed in the future, however, can help us tweak our techniques in the interest of improvement and develop new approaches to hitting sites that have already been searched many times.

Certainly there are others, but let’s talk about twenty-five of the common ways that you or I possibly missed that target.  Or more painfully, 25 ways that you and I have probably missed recoverable targets in the past.  These are in no particular order, and for the purposes of discussion I’ll pick on myself as the poor guy that missed the target.

1)  I missed that target because I Didn’t Hunt the Site At All

I submit to you that your best possible find for the year is out there right now and is in a place that you know you can hunt, but you don’t see how in the heck anything would be there.  My mentor used to tell me “Treasure is where you find it“.  I used to get irritated and tell him to stop saying that.  It sounded like a bad fortune cookie.  One day I finally realized what he meant.   It means that though we can hunt places that are more likely to have “treasure”, we are not all-knowing and cannot dictate where treasure will be found.   Prior to recently breaking it with a seven silver hunt, my previous high count of 5 was at a spot with a trailer on it that I kept at the bottom of my “to hunt” list and finally only hunted it because I was afraid of hurting the property owners feelings because he had offered permission and when he followed up and asked if I had found anything, he was disappointed when I told him “I haven’t got around to hunting it.”

2) I missed that target because of Failure to Re-scan a Hole

I know we think we “experts”  would never do this and it only applies to beginners, but we do forget to re-scan from time to time and lady luck and father statistics love to make those the times that we should have.   We are disciplined enough to understand how important this is and almost always re-scan.    Occasionally, however, we are having a bad hunt and dig up that piece of a tin can we just new was a quarter and are upset and just move on because nothing seems to be going right.  Or we just forget to re-scan because we are excited about a good find we pulled out of the hole and are still happy dancing.  Or we are fatigued late in a hunt or get distracted (more on those below).

EXPERT TIP:  If you recover a desirable target that was a very iffy signal and/or was near the limits of your detectors current depth capability, try pushing down the dirt in and around the bottom of the hole to get a couple extra inches and then re-scanning the bottom of the hole with your pinpointer.   What if you just recovered the only detectable target in an otherwise undetectable deep, old pocket spill?  After finding something great in heavy trash, It’s also worth taking the extra time to pinpoint and remove trash until your pinpointer gets no more signals.

3)  I missed that target because of Poor Sweep Height

Having the coil too high off the ground or too close to the ground can be equally detrimental.   If you are just 2 inches above the grass in a neatly trimmed yard, that is almost two inches of depth you are possibly losing.  If your sweep height is inconsistent or you are raising your coil at the ends of your sweeps, you are losing depth.  If your coil bangs the ground or twigs you get false signals. This is why practicing to develop a good swing is just as important as developing a good golf swing or learning to swing a baseball bat properly.

4)  I missed that target because of Poor Coil Selection

This one is for those of us that have more than one size coil for our detector that we use for different conditions.  I can be admittedly guilty of this when I am on a streak and have had a lot of luck with a particular coil.   I am in love with my Sun-Ray 5″ coil, for example, on my e-Trac.  It gets great depth and is so small I barely have to pinpoint.  But what it is really good for is hitting small “hot areas” extra hard and also to get around heavy trash.  What you are sacrificing, obviously, is ground coverage.  If you have ever tried to field hunt with a small coil you realize that is an exercise in futility, just like hunting a trashy site with 15″ or larger coil can be aggravating.

If you’ve ever forgot to change out your coil and didn’t realize it until you got to the site and had left the right coil at home you know what I’m talking out.  I keep my extra coils with my detecting emergency supplies in a plastic case under the back seat of my truck.

5)  I missed that target because it was a Near Surface Target And I Ignored It Because I Know Everything

I very very often find myself guilty of skipping targets that are showing up near the surface, waiting on something 3-4 inches or greater, especially when in a high traffic area like a park.  I’m after the old stuff, and the assumption is simply if it is not deep it is not old.   More often than not you are right, but if you carry this thought into a historic site or field that is not high traffic, then you are probably making a huge mistake.   Field plowing often brings old stuff right up to the surface.  Everything may be old regardless of depth at old sites with little or no current-day traffic.  And even at the sites with traffic, if the site is not producing much you need to consider getting the shallow targets out of the way to check them out, clean them up, and get under them.

6) I missed that target because I Made Up My Mind It Was an Aluminum Can or Mason Jar Lid

Submitted for your approval is this actual photo submitted by well-known detectorist Boris Priva on a detecting forum.  Boris couldn’t believe that he found his first Morgan Dollar.  But he really couldn’t believe that it was at less than two inches in a park that had been well hunted over the years by many detectorists:

morgan shallow

Photo courtesy of Mr. Boris Priva

It really doesn’t matter why this target was so shallow.  Did a kid just drop it on the way to show and tell for his dad’s coin collection?  Fill dirt?  Doesn’t matter.  “Treasure is where you find it”.  In Tennessee, some old finds simply can be shallow because of stony ground..  The coin can’t move under the large stones in the ground.

I am currently struggling with this issue with the Fisher F75.  It hits some targets harder and louder than I expect which is actually really great.  I will get the right numbers, but will expect large trash because of the “Bang” in my ears but it is just be a nice coin at 4″.   

I employ the “raise coil” method to try and see if a target is probably a tin can or jar lid.   This saves a lot of time digging up cans, but as Boris shows us can be dangerous.

Another thing:  What if that mason jar lid finally is the one attached to a jar of coins in the ground?

7)  I missed that target because It Was in a Transition Area

This one may be hard to grasp until you actually realize what I’m talking during a detecting session.  Watch yourself when you are completing an area and looking forward to the next area.  Maybe you aren’t finding anything in the current area.   Surely there is something in the next area, right?  Most of the times the manageable sub-sections you may have divided a site into to hunt it more efficiently have objects separating them.   “The first section I am going to hunt is from here to that tree.”  You may have an imaginary dotted line in your head where the area ends.  You can miss targets easily that are on the borders of the area, due to not actually walking a straight line, or hastily completing an area while looking forward to moving to the next one, or comically forgetting which tree/object marks the border.   A couple of remedies for this issue might be to divide the property into new sections on subsequent hunts , or to make an effort to actually hunt the borders of the sections again separately as time permits or during a subsequent hunt.  

transition area

Photo from the Detecting365 satellite (we wish – I hate hot air balloons).  A possible transition area is highlighted. (click to enlarge).

8) I missed the target because It Was Next to a Cyclone Fence or Sidewalk with Metal Bars in It

Galvanized fences can be like Kryptonite to a metal detectorist.  You can leave a huge gap, sometimes 2 or more feet next to them because your detector goes nuts near it, especially near the posts.  Using a small coil, low sensitivity, and trying to notch out the fence with discrimination are some of the techniques I use to get as close to that stupid fence as possible.  I’ve encountered certain sidewalks that cause some of the same problems right on their edges.  Don’t worry about it though because everyone knows you’re not going to find anything near a sidewalk.  LOL

9)  I missed that target because It Was in an Area Not Worth Fooling With

Think about this one.  I bet you can think of such an area in a site you have hunted recently.  “That area is littered with car parts/beer cans/pull tabs”, “That creek is snaky”, or maybe just “There is a giant piece of metal in the ground in that spot that would be difficult to remove”.  I can think of a great spot right now that has a 10′ square area with two wagon wheel rims that I need to get out of the ground.

In a well-hunted site, the areas not worth fooling with are your best bet because most other detectorists probably think the same thing.  As they say, anything worth doing is probably not easy.   These sites may take time but your skills will explode as a result.

10)  I missed that target because The Ground Was Too Hard to Dig 

Usually for me this is old, unpaved parking lots and the sites of old drive-in theaters, the kind of rocky, sandy solid ground that takes 10 minutes to dig 6 inches with a shovel.  I can forget it with the Lesche – it might as well be an ice pick.   The only solutions I can offer here is to be persistent if the signal is good, and take heart that usually the hard ground goes down only a few inches and you will hit regular soft dirt underneath it.

Dig Deeper for 15 More ways to miss an easily detected target…

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Missing the Easily Detected Target

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