“Blinded by the light. Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” – Manfred Mann
Do you know what the most least read articles on Detecting365 are? You may or may not be surprised that they are the detecting exercises we’ve put together. They literally lay untouched, gathering virtual dust sitting here on the shelves at Detecting365. Why do you think that is? The answer is simple: It is because almost everyone, including me, wants to get out and detect and find stuff. If we have time to detect, we do not want to waste it in our backyard fooling around like a rookie.
When people ask me how I’m so lucky, or how I consistently pull great finds out of the most pounded out sites, their eyes glaze over and they become really disinterested when I tell them why. I don’t tell them it is because I have over 30 years or thousands of hours working with my machines. I don’t tell them it is because of the detectors I use. I don’t tell them it is because of research and permission. I tell them that it is simply because I force myself to spend at least one hour per week in my backyard working in my test garden. This is what I credit 100% for my ability to recover difficult desirable targets lying very deep or in heavy iron and trash. I admit I have been extremely fortunate, even extremely lucky on occasion, but luck is indeed the meeting of preparation with opportunity, and I believe almost religiously in intense, serious preparation. Something my mentor said years ago still rings clear in my head:
“What a profound tragedy it is to be presented with the opportunity to detect a golden site that holds the find of a lifetime, yet not have the skill to recover it. The horrible, perfect truth is that you and I have both been there, swinging right over that magnificent find, yet didn’t dig.” – Charles F.
Most detectorists picture a test garden as some silver coins buried six inches two feet apart out in their backyard. While this is great for getting started, this is not what I’m referring to. My test garden is my sandbox. I continually bury desirable targets such as Civil War bullets, coins, and relics in ways that I cannot detect them at all, or have a hard time recognizing their auditory and display feedback on my detector. Burying them deep. Burying them with nails and near iron and trash. Simulating situations I’ve seen out in the field. My goal is not to go out in the backyard and swing over easy targets. My goal is to work and get frustrated because, for example, I have a silver dime at 18 inches that I can’t reach with my detector, or a silver quarter at six inches that I can’t recognize because of the trash or iron I’ve set up around it or on top of it.
By doing this for years, I realized the most amazing thing. No site is hunted out. Sites that are considered pounded to death have only had the easy targets removed, as well as some or maybe even most of the difficult ones.
We are arrogant to think that any site is hunted out just because we can’t find anything. The stark reality is that only the items that we are capable of finding with our current skill level and equipment are hunted out. This is why we love construction sites. Dirt has been moved and we can find things we couldn’t before.
And the epiphany is this: Great targets are always still there. And they are obtainable. And I am continually working on the skills necessary to obtain them.
You might be thinking what I used to think: “I can learn everything I need to know out in the field actually detecting.” It took me a while to realize it, but that is just not true. Sure you can improve your skills detecting out in the field. It’s just that working in a test garden, you can do it one hundred times faster.
How is a test garden different than a detecting site out in the field? Two words: “Known Targets”. In both instances, let’s say a great find that is lying in the ground underneath your coil, and for whatever reason you cannot see or hear it in a way that would cause you to dig.
Knowing that an undetectable target is under your coil because you buried it there yourself is much more constructive than being unaware that it is even there out in the field.
Imagine your favorite sports team not practicing at all. Do you think they would win a lot of games? Or what if a basketball player stopped shooting 1000s of free-throws per week to keep himself in top form? Do you think his free throw percentage during games would stay the same?
So if we don’t practice, we suffer. And the funny thing is we don’t even know it. The damage is something we can’t see: lost potential finds out in the field.
So do yourself a favor, join me in setting up a test garden and work in it when you can. And please help us dust off the detecting exercise articles on that menu over there to your left….
Thanks for reading and best of luck on your next hunt.