Dec 29 2006

Guest Post: Research Points


Research is a vital piece of any successful hunt, and follow-up research can be used to enhance your newly found items. Isn’t it great to dig up the history related to an interesting item or site?

I get asked by fellow metal detector friends, “How do you find your areas?” I believe that research is a multi-point system. There doesn’t exist a single point where all of you knowledge comes from. No matter what, your single point will “dead-end” and you will be left holding only a single piece of the puzzle.

I live in Montana, so our historic depth is much more shallow that someone living in Eastern United States or Europe. I like to break down timelines into zones. I look at the oldest time period being between the dates of 1860-1890 for my state. My second zone, which is my favorite, is 1891 – 1920. And the final zone is 1921 – 1964.

Each one of these zones can provide important slots in my local history, and they all have specific “hot” spots related in their zones. This is where I like to start.

The next step I like to take is to determine if I’m going to focus on coinshooting or relic hunting, or both. This is important to determine what type of sites to look for. When I decide to pursue coinshooting, I look towards recreational areas with somewhat heavy traffic. If I decide to look for relic hunting spots, then I like for anything in the outdoors that matches my time line. If it’s both, which is rare, I would look for ghost towns or vanished communities or camps.

To start my “actual” research, I have a loose goal or zone and type discussed earlier. I’m interested in a site where I can relic hunt and coinshoot. I’m also looking for a site that is between dates of 1891-1920.

I head to my local library and immediately go to the newspaper archives. If I’m lucky, they’ll have the actual paper archives, but the micro film will work fine. I want to find a community, ranch complex, or a camp of some sort. These places will give me the best chance for coins and relics.

For this example, I came across a settlement that was on a river and died around 1900. An article in the newspaper gave the name of the community and a rough location. Since, I’m really researching this particular site, I will not give up the name or the location.

With the name in hand, I’m going to see if a past historian might have done the hard work for me, by locating the site and providing a more accurate location on a modern map. This is where I start to look for historical books for that region. In my experience there have been a surge of these types of books in the last ten years or so. They make great coffee table books, and I buy them every time I see one.

I located a book that talks about my area and it did in fact provide some very useful clues. I believe I have it narrowed down to a 50 square mile area. Obviously, this is too large, and I need to get it tightened down further. This is where some nice technology comes in.

Google Maps is a fantastic tool to get an aerial view of an area. Depending on the environment, you might be able to see some landmarks or even structures.

This community was on the banks of a river and was a small railroad stop. This area has only a road bridge, and no obvious railroad signs can be found, but Google Maps gave me a beautiful clue.

In this image you can clearly see the footings from an old tressel bridge that crossed the river. The tracks were replaced by a dirt road that stops at both ends of the missing bridge. This will give me a starting point for asking land owners for permission to detect. Also, this gave me a few other possible sites.

Bridges themselves are often great places to fish or swim, and can turn up a find or two on the banks. But as I was scanning with Google Maps, I came across a grove of trees and clear foundation. I think this was an old farm house. I’m curious as to why the grove was left untouched. I’m thinking it might be a large dump and was easier to farm around vs. cleaning up the area. Again, this is another item on the list to detect.

So far, I’ve discussed having a goal or target before you begin your research to best optimize your research time. I talked about newspapers, historic books and Google Maps as research points, but I did leave off an incredibly valuable point. That point is the human contact!

Don’t forget to talk to people, to ask questions. When you ask for permissions, ask questions about the property. They often know about many more detecting sites, and can make calls to neighbors for you to get permission.

The saying, “success breeds success” can be easily applied to research. As soon as you get some good research in, it’s amazing how more and more sites and leads begin to pop up.

Good luck in your research!

Author: Hank D.

Dec 19 2006

Guest Post: Lumber Camp Rediscovered


I’ve been metal detecting for only a year and it is safe to say that I am fully addicted. I’ve spent many enjoyable hours researching and doing field work. I’ve also enjoyed reading all the amazing stories and articles of finds discovered, hoping someday that I might find something to contribute. Well, now I think I have a story worth telling. Maybe this could give inspiration to some aspiring treasure hunters out there.

Actually, to set the record straight, I have metal detected in the past with my father when I was a child. We had a cheap detector, which had no discrimination and had no pinpoint, what a drag compared to today’s machines, but never the less we use to go out all the time.

We use to go to a small lumber camp in Western Montana near my home town. My father originally discovered it when he was about sixteen hunting and trapping in the area nestled in a draw. He remembered this for many years later, and bullet casing and chunks of iron debris were all I remembered finding. We always thought of the gold coins the lumberjacks had to have dropped, but were never found.

Years later I decided to start the hobby again, but this time with a new hunting partner, my wife. Buying our detectors and going for hours around our local town to parks and private lawns, we felt like we were getting the hang of it.

In the back of my mind I always thought of that old lumber camp, so I gave my father a call. After many failed attempts in trying to relocate the site, I was finally rewarded with the site of rotting log foundations, the only evidence of that long forgotten camp. It was amazing to see how nothing had changed since I last visited it. It was like seeing an old friend.

My wife and I immediately broke out our Garretts and put the headphones on, and set those search coils a swinging.

We pulled many lumber type relics, like axe heads, ox shoes and chain links. There were also numerous old bullet casings found just like before with my father. After we cleared most of the area of large trashy debris, we started to focus the search, looking for more conductive metals like coins!

At this time I received a signal reading in the dime range. A smile creeped up to my mouth and the nervous anticipation began. Digging just below the surface, I uncovered a tie pin, smaller than a dime, and looked to be made out of bronze with silver. On the face of the tie pin were an axe and hammer crossed with the letters M.W.A. I thought to myself that was a good find, because it may help date the site.

After returning home, I began researching the pin. It turns out the M.W.A. stood for “Modern Woodmen of America“, a fraternal life insurance company, which is still active today. I was able to contact their historian and they were able to determine the pin’s time period to be from 1890 to1910, which was the time period we had been suspecting for some time. It also confirmed that this was most likely a lumber camp. We often thought it may have been a mining camp.

Lumberjacks joined the M.W.A. to insure that if something tragic happened during their job, their burial was paid for. You will often see the M.W.A. logo on old tombstones.

After making many trips back to the area, and returning with slim finds, but still enjoyed being in the outdoors, I started to become discouraged. I made fewer trips, and when I would go, I would only stay for a short time. I was definitely burning out. Until one fall afternoon, just on a whim, I decided to return.

Returning to the site, I got out of my car and walked to where I thought I should start, which incidentally was a place that I have searched many times in the past (including the days with my father). Within fifteen minutes I got a good nickel signal. Usually these nickel signals turned out to be spent rifle casings.

I bent over lazyily to “pop” it out, and out came a 1901 Liberty V Nickel! The first thought that came to my mind was, “it’s about time”. I rechecked the hole with the search coil and a solid dollar signal pinged back. “It can’t be”, I thought to myself.

A little nervously, I checked the hole carefully in case the reading was accurate, then out rolled a 1896 O Barber Half Dollar! At this point I was weak in the knees and I needed to just sit and savor the finds.

After recovering my composure I began to search the hole again, but no signals appeared. Just a few feet away I received my next signal. A quarter signal was ringing loud and clear, and to my disbelief a 1892 Barber Quarter appeared!

After these finds, I was so distracted I simply packed up my gear and headed out. Using the logic that I used up all my luck for the day, and I opted to return another time. I know there will be many more finds in the future, and with every find, it is important to savor and enjoy every moment!

I’ve learned some important lessons from that experience.

– Even though you might have thoroughly checked an area, the possibility of missing something is always there. Never cancel anything out.
– Never give up hope. The hours you put out in the field can reward you at any time.
– Do your research

Author: Hank D.

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Dec 15 2006

Guest Post: Stay out of that rut, get a hunting buddy


Lets face it, no matter what you do for recreation, it’s easy to get into a rut. Believe it or not, metal detecting can get monotonous at times. I find myself getting into that rut when I go to the same places over and over again, with similar (slim) results. Some detecting places are like old friends, no crowd, and easy digging, just a comfortable place to go spend the morning. Comfort is nice, but like fishing, if I don’t catch something once in a while, it’s time to move the boat!

Remember that first time you went out in public with those big old headphones, I don’t know about you, but it was a little embarrassing to me. Once I started digging up loot, I forgot about the embarrassment pretty quick.

One thing that I haven’t figured out, is my reluctance to go to a new detecting spot for the first time. Sometimes, I drive up to a new park, see two people sitting there, and turn around drive off, and go to one of my old spots, and find zilch. How dumb is that? I really don’t know what it is, but I can offer a good solution for that problem. Find yourself a hunting buddy. I discovered that if I show up with a hunting buddy, all bets are off. We get out of the truck, and start detecting; no reluctance, nothing, just go for the gusto! A hunting buddy can be a good resource for new hunting places,and a good place to learn new hunting techniques. He/she can be someone to brainstorm with, and to do research with. It is also helpful to have a second person around in case of emergency. One of my hunting buddies is over seven foot tall. I don’t think I have to worry about getting mugged when I hit the field with him!

Metal detecting is a great sport, and going with a good friend only makes it more enjoyable… Now go out and find yourself a hunting buddy!

Author: D. Whit