I have been active in the metal detecting hobby for almost 42 years now, mainly in coin hunting. That being said, I still do not consider myself an expert, and it seems that I learn something new each time I venture out into the field. New sites, new technology, and new obstacles keep me on my toes, and continually cause me to seek ways of doing things, all in hopes of finding older, collectable coins.
I first purchased a metal detector because I wanted to find coins....especially old and valuable coins that would enable me to fill in the holes in my collection, and that would not cost me my life savings. Have I accomplished this? Absolutely, and I wouldn't trade that initial investment for anything in the world. I have indeed found hundreds of old coins, many of them now proudly placed in slots in my coin books, and best of all? I've fouond a pastime that continues to provide me with excitement and fun. What have I learned most from all these many years and experiences? That to be a serious player in this game you have to understand and play by the rules. Here are seven I consider indispensible....
1. UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE YOUR METAL DETECTOR. Get to know it's functions, it's abilities and it's drawbacks. The features used to entice you to buy the detector you now have were put there for a reason. Read the manual that came with the detector and then experiment with each control, adjusting up, down, sideways and backwards. Sometimes one or two small tweaks may make the difference between a good or bad day of detecting, and with today's computerized features there'sno reason for that to happen, or for you to be bored.
2. UTILIZE THE ALL-METAL MODE WHEN POSSIBLE. Yes, discrimination is great, and yes, it's necessary, but learn how your detector reacts in the all-metal mode on any given site, and then decide how to proceed. Note the metered readouts as you do this. If the constant chatter offends, certainly switch to the disc mode. The first search of any site is an investigation, if you will. A chance to get a "feel" for the area. All-metal will let you know immediately what it has to offer. Remember too, that sites used by a great many people over the years will provide you with a great many responses....and not all of them are bad by a long shot!
3.DON'T OVERDOSE ON DISCRIMINATION. Many detectorists set their disc settings much too high. Any increase in this feature generally decreases depth proportionately. Yes, bending over and digging pulltabs and bottlecaps is a pain, but leaving a gold coin or ring behind would be downright agonizing. For years I have used the "notch below nickel" acceptance as the standard for all my detectors, and I can tell you that many of my good finds would have been left in the ground if the setting had been any higher.
4. ALWAYS INCREASE THE SENSITIVITY WHEN POSSIBLE. Not all areas will allow this, but whenever possible, go for that extra advantage, that extra inch. I have also found that by changing to a smaller coil I can usually increase sensitivity where I couldn't do the same with the standard coil. This combination in a trash laden area often makes a great deal of difference, in part because it also necessitates a slower sweep speed. If you are enounter a target that is too deeep to offer any kind of ID, lower your threshold into the silent area, and increase your sensitivity. The purpose? To see if you can coax a numerical readout and get a better idea of what the target is.
5. KNOW WHEN TO CHANGE SEARCHCOILS. Never give up on a site until you've tried searching with either a larger or smaller coil. Like the features on your detector, searchcoils of various sizes were manufactured for a reason. An area seemingly void of any metal targets demands a search with a larger coil, while an extremely trashy area calls for a smaller, "sniper" coil. No matter which you opt for, go slowly. The larger coil may be seeing extremely deep targets and offer only whispers easily missed by a hasty hunter. The smaller coil dictates a tighter sweep pattern to ensure adequate overlapping, and such disciplined detecting cannot be done at a racehorse pace.
6. KNOW WHEN TO SEARCH AND WHEN TO RESEARCH. Weather does indeed make a big difference in your success, as does the region of the country you live in. For example, the hot dry weather that Texas suffers in the summer, makes detecting almost impossible. The ground is as solid as a rock, and fissures appear in parched areas. You will not only get a blister trying to recover a deep target, but you will often find a brand new penny at 12 inches. The time it takes to find this out is better spent researching in order to be prepared for those ideals days ahead.
7. YOU WON'T FIND OLD COINS WHERE THEY DON'T EXIST! Spending two hours in an area void of coins is extremely frustrating. A little more time reading, asking questions, or surfing the web will pay off down the road. There are many productive sites simply waiting to be detected. What makes them difficult to discover is that they are not labeled. There are no big signs saying "I used to be a picnic grove" or "I'm an old ballfield". I recently found a few turn of the century coins in an old field at an intersection I drove past every day. It turned out to be a ballfield used years ago, abandoned when a newer one was built. Do an adequate job of researching, and you will find your productivity going up each time out.
This old saying can apply to a lot of situations, but in metal detecting it really rings true. Sometmes we get caught up in too much sophistication, too much technology, and too much hype, forgetting in the process what got us to this point. A thorough understandng of what you are looking for, combined with a thorough understanding of the basics of effective detecting, still works for me. Add in a pinch of good ole common sense, and you can't help coming out a winner!