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Are you walking over nuggets?

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Are you leaving nuggets and digging trash? I know that early on in my newbie days I was! What was the reason? I just was not digging targets that my detector was telling me were there. The worst part was that I was digging plenty of trash! What the heck is going on? I am finding bullets, nails, tacks, bits of iron, and wire, but no gold nuggets. Sound like you? Read on....

The reason I went through this was that I was listening for that nice clear zip-zip of a target a VLF detector will give you and ignoring the odd sounding targets as being hot rocks or just ground noise Yes some were ground noise , but others were nuggets. Sooner or later even I wake up and I began checking out some of those "funny sounds" and yes indeed they were targets and some were gold nuggets!

Then after learning to investigate all signals as suspect until I see otherwise, I began seeing my finds increase tenfold. I was listening for one sound only all that time and walking right past gold. Now a surface nugget will give you a sharp clear signal, but a deep or small nugget will often do no more than slightly disturb the threshold. These disturbances can be very subtle and often take much concentration by the operator to even be noticed at all.

Jim Straight was a big help to me early on in my hunting days do to the fact he stresses making a target test area and learning your machine along with bench testing. I began then and still do this when I try out a new detector and it really helps you get to know your detector inside and out! I still consider Jim's books to be a very valuable learning tool for the nugget shooter and I recommend them!

Now enter the PI detector and it's already legendary ability to find gold, but talk about really having to be aware of small differences in threshold Sometimes no more than a groan can mean a target! Moving fast is out if you want to find gold on a regular basis because by doing so you will miss a very large percentage of the faint targets. Threshold instability is directly related to faster coil movement so you tend to not even notice what could be a signal. These detectors are a bit more involved, but once mastered is a unequaled tool in the gold fields. The PI has become my detector of choice now and I rarely use a VLF unless working mine dumps.

The mono coils are much more tolerant of the quicker swing and do get better depth, but the DD coils work much better for me in very hot ground or some washes when I move slooooooow..... Now could that be why some of these guys can go to a pounded area and still find gold when you have been there 10 times without a nugget? YES that very well could be the reason. Having the coil to high is another big problem for many and add that to moving too fast and you have a problem. If you are not rubbing the ground a bit you will again be missing nuggets. After all a coil cover is not costly and the closer to the ground you hunt the more depth you achieve, simple math. For every inch your coil is above the ground you give up 2 inches of depth...

Ever see the guy that doesn't seem to get out of a small area for hours when you have already covered two washes and a flat without getting anything but bullets and boot tacks. When you ask how he's doing he shows you a couple nuggets I am not trying to be a smart ass here, but I like to say work your detector don't walk your detector. If you already know there is gold in the area slow down and find some of it.

So basically all I am getting at here is to get to know your detector and the sounds it makes and always investigate anything that just doesn't sound right because something is making the detector act that way and it very well could be a nugget! The sad truth is that many of the clear crisp targets will be in the trash bag..... Just a few lessons learned the hard way.

I met a feller at LSD a few days ago and we sat down for a chat about our day so far. During the conversation he wanted to give me a tip or so he said... The tip was to ignore all reverse (low-high) signals your GPX gives because in his experience those targets are always hot rocks or deep trash. I did not know what to say at first as I have learned that these signals often mean a nice sized deep nugget. I tried to explain this but got nowhere even trying to explain how the PI works and why deep trash could also be a deep large nugget. He also told me he has never found a nugget over 3 DWT....


In a area where gold has been found who the heck are you to decide a signal is not a nugget without looking at it?

Just my 2 cents for the day...

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Excellent post! I am not a very experienced prospector but I have had some luck and have found there is always more to learn. I couldn't agree with you more on keeping your detector bumping the ground and slowing down! Those are some things I spent a lot of focus on.

Always appreciate hearing from someone with your experience and success to help us all improve our chances of finding the shiny yellow stuff!



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One of the things I notice most is folks swing the coil too fast then take long steps. This is a sure way to miss targets. That method is fine if all your doing is hunting for a sitting duck that might indicate a patch.

But that rarely the case, the majority of hunters go to a known patch. So my advice is to slow down, sweep twice, take steps that are no more than half the length of your footprint. Listen carefully for any

repeatable sound. I cant stress enough taking the time to sweep the coil more then once over. The PI is a funny machine at times I think it needs to illuminate a deep target with more than one pass. Using this method

I've recovered hundreds of missed nuggets @ pounded areas using these methods. It's not how much ground you cover but how well you cover the ground.

With the GPX detectors the audio is digital the audio has been described as "stepped" so there is good target response or none at all.

With the Gp and prior units you could have a target pause the audio some call this a "groan" the key is any response that it repeatable and you'll never know/hear unless you repeat a sweep. Smooth consistent coil

control will produce more. I'm biased, but the best way to achieve this kind of control is to use a HipStick.

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I had my unit set up for treasure hunting back in PA. I did not expect such a weak response from my unit on a small nugget. Bill showed me the way. I readjusted my unit so I could pick up those little bits along with the big stuff. If you have a older unit and bad hearing adjust your tone to a deeper sound to better pick up those faint sounds. Bill is full of knowledge. When I was out with him couple weeks ago I kept my big mouth shut and listened to what he had to say. He will tell you one time then move on to the next lesson. Listen up! He knows what he's talking about. I learned long ago when a old salt tells you something he learned the hard way. Reminds me of my old Police Sgt. years ago. Watch their hands he would say. The hands move first. Try running without moving your hands first. You know he was right. If there was a sign of danger my old sarge hands would move first before he ran off.

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Welcome back Bill,

Great post the last couple of weeks, its good to again hear what we know we should be doing, this season I'm going to slow way down. Chris - good point on swing distance, I'll have to check what I'm doing there. Thanks.


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  • 1 year later...

Does anyone remember a few months ago, Bill offered to teach a class on the GPX5000 (to all of us ,even if we didn't buy from him) and not enough people signed up. What was that all about ????? He had to cancel it -not enough people. If we're lucky enough to get the offer again I hope it's a class full -wanting to learn from a PRO. Bill ,that was an awesome post, reminding us what we need to remember while we're out in the washes. Dave

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I read all of these posts, and I try to remember your (and others) words of wisdom whenever I go out with my metal detector. I can find small and deep targets, it's just that none of them have been gold yet. I'll go out with that cheap SD2200D that I got on Craigslist within the next week or two.

Hey Chris, I took your advice and managed to find an Excelerator coil for my Sovereign. I'll give it a try this weekend.


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