Successful Metal Detecting: Utilizing a Detecting Routine

Successful Metal Detecting: Utilizing a Detecting Routine

Back in the day, I was a pretty decent basketball player.  I could shoot 3 pointers as good as anyone I played with, and could easily drop 50 or more free throws in a row.    I also at one time carried around a 190 average in bowling, and shot several individual games over 250.  I was always given the honor of being the “anchor man” on my bowling teams – the guy the team counts on to throw strikes in the clutch at the end of a close game.

Anyone that performs anything at an extremely high level realizes that little things work together to make big things happen.  The secret to making an extremely high percentage of basketball shots, throwing a bunch of strikes, or anything – even killer cross-stitching I imagine – is all about the routine.

If you watch a professional basketball player that has a very high free-throw percentage, you will see that he does exactly the same things every single time he shoots a free throw.  Perhaps he carefully places his feet in an exact position, makes sure his shoulders are aligned with the free throw line, slightly bends his knees, dribbles the ball exactly three times, stares at the goal for a couple of seconds, dribbles the ball exactly three times again, and with his shooting hand directly behind the ball and his other hand stabilizing it on the side, bring his arms up so that his elbow is pointing at the goal and the ball is over his head in a perfect figure 4.   Then he smoothly shoots, releases the ball, and follows through with his shooting hand.  Swish!  Usually it doesn’t even hit the rim.  Nothing but net.

Same thing with a professional bowler.   He or she walks up to the ball return rack, picks up the bowling ball a certain way, and spins the ball on his bowling towel to quickly remove excess oil from the lane.  He cradles the ball in his non-throwing hand, and holds his bowling hand over the fan to dry perspiration and/or oil from it, while staring at the pins to make sure they are set correctly.  He has a rosin bag that he then pats on the finger holes to improve his grip.   He then walks up and places his feet extremely carefully with the toes of his shoes in an exact position.   He sets up, generally holding the ball out in front of him with his wrist cocked  a certain exact way, supporting the weight of his ball with the non-throwing hand.   He focuses on the pins for a second, then focuses on his target, which is a board or arrow about 10 feet or so down the lane.   Then and only then, after doing all of that stuff, does he actually bowl.  Starting with the same foot every time, he  takes one or two steps, releases the ball into its swing at an exact instant, take 3 or 4 more steps while his arm and the ball swing pendulum-like behind him, then back toward the pins.    He slides on one foot.    His timing is perfect.  Just as his foot stops inches from the foul line, he releases the ball with practiced technique, perhaps rotating his wrist around the ball to generate spin.    The ball leaves his hand and he follows through, remaining poised as the ball rockets down the lane, seemingly in the wrong direction.  Just a few feet from the pins, the tremendous rotation of the ball kicks in as the ball leaves the oil.   The ball “hooks” – changes directions completely and smashes in between the first 2 pins.  The pins explode in deafening thunder.  There are no survivors.  The crowd roars.  It’s a strike.

Look at all of the little details that have to be mastered in order to make these shots happen.  Hours and more hours and years of practicing, modifying and perfecting these little things – the routine – are what makes the professional a professional.  They are what makes an expert an expert.  Maybe you already know this.  But did it occur to you that the same thing applies to metal detecting?

If you are a successful detectorist, you are already doing most of the things in a routine already.   Maybe you just do them all most of the time.  Or some of the some of the time.  Or do them a bit differently each time.  Some of the things in the routine are obvious – your swing, for example. Others are what I like to call “profound knowledge” – simple things that may seem pointless at first, but once we do them, we realize that they make a whole lot of difference – things like visualization.   A routine requires no additional work really, and once you do it enough,  it will become second nature – it will just be how you detect.

A Word about Visualization
Visualization is simply seeing yourself doing something, and then doing it.  It is basically creating a memory in advance of an event to increase the probability of it occurring.   In the basketball routine I described above, what the shooter was doing while staring at the goal was visualizing himself making the shot – literally seeing the ball pass through the hoop and into the net.   Same thing with the bowler – right before he bowls, he actually envisions himself executing a perfect shot, from his first step all the way until the pins fall.   Then he executes that shot.

I used to think that visualization didn’t apply to metal detecting because we are not performing a physical and mental act of dexterity, like trying to roll a bowling ball 60 feet (19 meters) into a six-inch gap beside the head pin, or throwing a 9 inch (.23 meter) diameter basketball 15 feet (4.5 meters) through an  18 inch (.45 meters) metal hoop.  Then I changed my mind because I was dead wrong.   We are physically swinging the detector and mentally selecting each target to dig.  So visualization helps us to swing better and more consistently and also select better targets – in my opinion of course.  So I include it in my routine.

So let’s take a look at my general routine.  None of these things would appear to make a whole lot of difference, but together, they all play their part in maximizing my finds:

“Suiting Up” –  Preparation Routine

This is simple but very important.  How many times have you got out in the field and had to go back to your vehicle for some reason?
– I check my detector.  Make sure the batteries are good.  Make sure the search coil is the one I want to use.
– I put my lesche holster, my finds pouch, and my pinpointer holster on my belt
– I click the pinpointer on, put it against my wedding ring to check power, turn it off and slip it into the holster
– I apply insect repellent and/or sunscreen as appropriate
– I put my gloves on.
– I put my headphones on.
– I take a few seconds to survey and appreciate the site, take a deep breath, and go

Metal Detecting Routine

Just like a free throw shot or bowling a frame, we do the same things over and over.  We swing, evaluate signals, select a target to dig, and recover.  So my routine goes as follows:
– I envision myself finding a specific item – usually a silver dime or quarter – from the sound I hear on the detector through seeing myself holding it in my hand.
– I begin swinging, careful to start where I left off at the last hole I dug;
– I listen to the headphones and watch the display;
– When a sound, display reading, or combination gets my attention, I evaluate it for repeatability and other clues;
– I decide to dig a signal;
– I mark the pinpoint spot;
– I remove my headphones and lay my detector down with the search coil far away so it doesn’t interfere with my pinpointer (I leave it on).  I  lay it across the hole from me so I won’t risk stepping on the headphones.  If I am using the e-Trac with the Sun Ray probe, I center the detector so the probe will reach the hole.  This simple step speeds up my recovery time.
– I dig a U shape in the ground around the pinpoint spot.  I am careful to keep my digger straight up and down to avoid scratching the target;
– If the site is a home or public place, I use techniques to avoid leaving traces of the hole, such as trying not to remove dirt from the hole, and using a towel to place any dirt I need to remove from the hole on;
– I use the pinpointer and recover the target;
– I use the pinpointer to quickly check for additional targets;
– I repair the hole/plug;
– I put the trash or treasure in the appropriate place in my pouch;
– I stand up and inspect my work;
– I re-scan the hole with the detector and move on, starting at the beginning of my routine.

Final Thoughts
Nothing sticks out there really, other than perhaps the visualization, right?     It just looks like the obvious steps to metal detecting.  I promise you the routine makes a tremendous difference, though.  Develop a routine that works for you.  Start with the good habits that you already do right now.  Continuously improve the routine.  Be flexible.   The routine should not be rigid or limiting in any way.  It is empowering.   I’d like to hear about your routine, and any small thing you do that you feel makes a difference.  Perhaps you can help me improve my routine.

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Photo Credits
Free Throw:  Adapted from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by Keith Allison

Bowler: Adapted from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by Heisenberg Media

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