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Ghost Town Hunting: Part 1... 'How to Prepare.'.

February 19, 2020 09:08AM avatar
Welcome to one of the most exciting, and most challenging, adventures in recreational metal detecting. Most hobbyists get there start using a metal detector by searching their yard or the local park or school. This is what we consider Coin & Jewelry Hunting and it branches out into other places like searching sports fields, parking strips, vacant lots, around wading pools, tot-lots, picnic sites, and we could even include most Beach Hunting at the coast or at lakes and other fun spots.

I got my feet wet when I built my first 'metal / mineral locator' in March of '65 and started enjoying the search for lost coins and whatever else might b out there, and Coin Hunting was 'fun!' There was no Ground Balance, and we didn't yet have Discrimination. They didn't make a detector to work for you, instead, they just assembled some electronics, attached a search coil, and basically said ... 'Here, learn how to use this.' ... so we did.

All you had to do was learn how to keep the search coil at a uniform coil-to-ground relationship; adjust the 'Tuner' control so you heard a proper motor-boating sound with a BFO or a slight audio hum with an I/B or T/R model, then listen for an increase in the audio response; once heard, you located or pinpointed the object an recovered it. Basically we used the 'Beep-DIG!' principle and found a lot of coins, jewelry, trade tokens, buttons, skate keys, 'church keys' aka bottle openers, metal toy soldiers, cars, planes and other small lost things of interest.

Trash? Sure, we found some. Things like small foil from gum wrappers and large foil from crumpled-up cigarette packs, and aluminum screw caps if we were down around the wine-o hang-outs. Most of the annoying 'trash' was modern and made of non-ferrous metal. Smaller-size Iron junk was generally ignored due to the circuitry design and operating frequencies, such as most Iron nails, Iron Screws, and even those crown-type Bottle Caps. Oh, we did find some ferrous-based junk, like those Bottle Openers and even some Bottle Caps, but that was due to the fact they were a man-made, man-shaped object that created problems with the EMF.

But it was easy to audibly 'classify' most of it, like Bottle Caps, just listening to the audio and using a simple search coil sweep technique. Iron Nails were seldom a problem ... early on. You would find some, but very few. Then they developed Discrimination to help us reject the lower-conductive trash, mainly small, medium and larger-size foil, initially, until the Ring-Pull Tabs started to be found in increasing numbers and they let us increase the Discrimination to reject that higher-conductive junk.

However, a setting that high also rejected the US 5¢ and a lot of the lower-conductive gold rings and other jewelry so, at least for me, it was used sparingly. I just wanted to deal with the Nails and other problem ferrous junk. I did learn quickly how to use different detectors by listening to what they did or how they performed around common ferrous trash, and by late '71 I would sometimes get a response to a ferrous object, such as a Bottle Cap, but use a technique I called 'EPR' for Edge-Pass Rejection and just ignore it. I'd move on and find more coins and other desirables and leave that pesky junk behind since it was easily identified.

I also learned that with the coming adjustment feature of Discrimination, it could cause problems by using too high a setting. Not only would it reject lower-conductive coins and good jewelry, but it also caused more good-target masking because the more Disc. you used, the greater the negative reaction or negative bias there was from the much lower objects such as iron Nails and the like.

In the mid-70's we saw the move to the VLF or Very Low Frequency range, between 1 kHz and 30 kHz, and that change was made to introduce the ability to adjust the detector to cancel out the effects of ground mineralization. That gave ease of operation, in that Ground balanced mode, but it brought some difficulties with the traditional TR-Disc. mode at that lower frequency ... We simply had to learn more about how to operate the detector.

In less than ten years from that change we saw the first motion-based Discriminators in '78. These are what lead to what we are mostly using today that can ignore the ground signal as well as the trash signal .... if the settings are correct. And then some major changes in '82 and '83 with the first slow-motion sweep detector from Fisher followed by the new Teknetics brand the next year that introduced visual Target ID displays and soon added audio Tone ID as well. That same year Tesoro brought out their slow-motion and quick-response models that did a much better job of handling Iron nails.

All those newer detector offerings were not a problem for most Avid Detectorists to adapt to, and I am referring to those of us who got an early start in this exciting outdoor sport, and stuck with it by getting out detecting often, and learning all the basic operation and then adapting to and learning the changes that came along to that point. Coin Hunting was still the #1 reason most folks got into the hobby, and that's pointed out by the development of visual Target ID here in the US to offer a detector models that would help visually identify the common coin categories.

Let m back up just a we bit, about 14 years, to '69. I lived "Out West": and had a desire to find older things at older sites, so in early May of that year my brother Ed & I headed out for my first Ghost Town Hunt. That was still the earlier era of the hobby before we enjoyed all those advancement we'd see so detectors were 'crude' b today's standard. Other that the dry climate, wide open spaces and sagebrush, jus what do you think I was about to see??

Well, let me share this photo link, and please, click on it and take a look: 'Welcome to Nails' by 'glabelle'

I want to give a 'Thank You' to George for this photo contribution, that I believe is from recent years on one of our Welcome-to-Hunt Outings. I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong.) This is the type of encounter I saw when I reached what later became my all-time favorite Ghost Town, and about all I could think of at the time was, "Wow, there sure are a lot of nails around here."

Tough challenges like this can face you when hunting a Ghost Town or similar old-use places like Homesteads, Stage Stops, RR Depot and Siding sites, Forts and other long-gone areas of human activity. For the typical urban Coin Hunter who deals with discarded modern trash such as foil, pull-tabs, pry-tabs, screw caps and bottle caps, you have to learn how to best handle these challenges at various old sites where, quite often, there is more annoying trash than you'd like.

If you're newer to this great hobby or have been at it for a while but never ventured beyond your yard, the local school or park, this will be quite an experience! You've maybe heard mentioned or read the expression a "Carpet of Nails" or a "Dense Iron Nail environment" or perhaps "Nail Saturated" .. and George's photo describes it well just by sight.


Part 1 of 'How to Prepare' is simply this:

Be ready to encounter a lot of trash at any old site, both ferrous and non-ferrous.
.
Know that any trash can mask a good, desired target and unless the trash is removed, the target can't be found.

There will be some desired targets that are only partially masked, and they can be found ... IF:
•• Have the patience to take time, to cover such an area well to encounter a good target that is just partially detectable.
•• They use the most efficient search coil for handling dense Iron Nail debris. The key here is a smaller-size coil.
•• Search coil type, Concentric or DD is a matter of their size and shape, and the detector's circuitry they are used with.
•• Use a slow-and-methodical sweep to better isolate any good or iffy response from the offending Iron Nails.

Learn what the performance abilities and limitations of you detector are. Some just do not handle ferrous debris well.

Remember, too, that there are many other Iron Nails in such as site, just ut of site blow the surface.

Use one practical test scenario to learn how well your detector/coil can deal with a 'typical' encounter.

Work a site from different directions for the best opportunity to get a 'hit' on a good target.

You will NEVER get it all. Iron has a devastating effect on the EMF and can easily mask a coin or other good find.

Two options: Work such an area then rake it around to disturb the Nail arraignment to re-hunt.-- OR -- remove all Iron.

......... Now for Part 2 .. 'Selecting Detector & Coil Combination'
Subject Author Views Posted

Ghost Town Hunting: Part 1... 'How to Prepare.'.

Monte 115 February 19, 2020 09:08AM

Ghost Town Hunting: Part 2.. 'Selecting Detector & Coil'

Monte 97 February 20, 2020 01:02AM

Ghost Town Hunting: Part 3 .. 'Before You Get to the Ghost Town'

Monte 75 February 20, 2020 01:05AM

Ghost Town Hunting: ... Part 4 .. Now, are Detectors, Coils and Settings up to the Task?

Monte 79 February 20, 2020 07:51AM

Re: Ghost Town Hunting: Part 1... 'How to Prepare.'.

glabelle 94 February 19, 2020 09:21AM

Re: Ghost Town Hunting: Part 1... 'How to Prepare.'.

Monte 68 February 19, 2020 09:45AM



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