Having spent most of my life in New Jersey, I can relate to the winter blues. On those days when it was bitterly cold, there was a foot of snow on the ground, and darkness came early, how I longed for spring and summer, when I could get out and swing the ole detector. I literally counted the days, but nothing seemed to make up for this dismal time of year. After about two years of this self-imposed exile I began to realize that there were indeed things I could do during this down time.
First, I began to keep my detector near the dining room table, and almost every evening I would pass various items over the searchcoil, trying to ascertain patterns on the meter or variations in the audio. It did not take too long to recognize the difference between nails, coins, bottle caps and other metallic items. I didn't become an expert, but I started to become more familiar with my metal detector and what it was telling me. I continued this practice for years, and while I am not faced with harsh winters here in Texas, I still periodically do this just to be sure my machine is in good working order. Instead of a meter I now study the graphic readouts of my MXT Pro.
Next I realized that while it was indeed cold outside, I could still get in my car and drive around the area looking for new sites. It was also a useful time to check out those overgrown sites I had come upon previously and a few times I was actually to detect some. Driving around your town, city or countryside can be a great winter pastime. Also not a bad time to knock on a few doors and make friends.
Winter is also a good time to clean up clad finds and to double check dates just to be sure you haven't overlooked any key or semi-key coins. With all the various error coins it's to do. Even today I have thousands of wheat cents, and I have found a few that were worth a little more because of some such error. Winter is also a good time to roll and cash in those common date clunkers. I used to save that money until I could afford to purchase a key or semi-key coin that would appreciate in value over time.
Take advantage of the winter months to clean your detector and accessories. Not big deal, but keeping it free of dirt, dust and corrosion will pay dividends down the road. Cleaning a metal detector is not an involved process, and usually all that is needed is a wet cotton cloth and a small container of warm water with a drop or two of dish liquid.
Take your detector apart (coil, stem, control box, etc.) then wipe the control box down, being careful not to allow water to seep inside any of the minute openings. Clean all the nooks and crannies, and then do the same to the bottom of your searchcoils. Do not overlook the searchcoil cable itself. They can become extremely crusty and inflexible with daily, in-the-field use. Cleaning your detector along with your digging tools, water scoops and waders, will leave you with one less thing to do when spring arrives and the fun begins.
Winter is also a great time to obtain permission from those landowners you've meaning to contact. You've been drooling over the possibility of hunting that old picnic grove, baseball field or carnival area, so why not make this the year to see if it's going to happen? What do you have to lose? Remember you can't hunt those areas now so a "no" merely means status quo. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Don't be bashful and don't be pessimistic. Plan your presentation and go for it. You might be pleasantly surprised.
If there's a particular site that intriques you for some reason, go online and find out who owns it. Not sure where you live but THIS is what I use here in the Dallas area, and I suspect there's a similiar website available for your locale.
I won't bore you with this one, but you know what it means, and I suspect you know how I feel about it. Read, read and read some more. Whether in book form or online there's always something out there that will help you when warmer weather arrives. Make time to visit your local library. I know there's a great deal of information online, but there's a lot that's not and it's buried somewhere within the pages of a book. I don't care if you think you've found or hunted every possible site in your town, county or state....you haven't!
Google your town or county some, and try out any and all words that come to mind...schools, history, sports, centennial, carnival, circus, grove, railroad, amusement park, and so on. The list is endless and limited only your lack of imagination. Be sure to try out the NEW Google maps. Similiar to Google Earth, but the images are clearer (type in your home address and see how great you house looks). The internet is a limitless source of information, a source that I wish I had access to back in the 70's & 80's.
While I am not a big fan of them, you might want to consider getting involved in one or two of the many metal detecting forums out there. You will find other detectorists there who love the pastime as much as you, and who might be able to answer any questions you may have. Keep in mind however that while most metal detecting forums are well intentioned, there are a few that seem to have an axe to grind, a product or advertiser to promote or an agenda that is usually geared towards lining their pockets.
Look for those forums or websites where "ALL" product lines are discussed, and don't be offended by those who "think" they know it all. Many of those who frequent these forums spend hours and hours there, and as a result feel entitled to say whatever is on their mind. Don't be surprised too to see these same tekkies on other forums. I often wonder if they ever sleep.
I realize that all the above ideas aren't new but I offer them as a reminder that wintertime need not be dreary. Sooner or later the weather will break, the season will begin and if you could be ahead of the competition. It's up to you...