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Friday, March 31, 2017

Level beach hunting

Beach hunting is often a game on inches, unfortunately you never know how close you came to detecting a find of a lifetime. 
This is the reason why I always try to insure I sweep my search coil slow and low and just as importantly level.
I often see people using metal detectors with search coils tilted up at the front, which can certainly cause you to miss targets and walk straight over a find of a lifetime.
One metal detector I see people using at the beach, has a search coil that connects to the lower shaft at the rear of the search coil.
Swingers of this type of metal detector should always be aware of tilting or floppy search coils.
A search coil that is tilted a few inches up at the front, means you are missing any deeper targets by a few inches at the front of each sweep of your search coil.
If you use a large rear mounted search coil, you are getting max depth at the back of the coil but progressively less depth towards the front of the search coil.
The Minelab metal detectors I use, don't have a lower shaft / rear of the search coil attachment, so I don't have to worry about the front of my search coils tilting up.
Although, I do make a point of always making sure my search coils are level and not floppy, by having a nice tight search coil nylon bolt / nut connection.
Nylon search coil bolts do wear out when your a sand scrubber like me, so it's good to keep an eye on the search coil locking nut and bolt, also the rubber washers that are inside search coil ears. 
Beach and water hunters should make a point of making sure their search coils are level after hitting sand or rocks,  and especially after recovering targets as people have a tendency to lean on their metal detectors when scooping targets. 
I always make sure my search coil is level during beach or water hunts, do you ? 
Miss a valuable target by an inch, miss by a mile, unless you remember to always check and keep your search coil level during beach or water hunts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Good target numbers

Although I often use a metal detector with an array of discrimination features, I am still the main discriminator. 
If I'm searching for older stuff at the beach I rarely use much discrimination and I rely heavily on my target depth read outs.
A little discrimination may help you to identify and reject unwanted shallow targets, but if you are not careful, it may also make you miss desirable deeper targets you are searching for. 
People new to metal detectors with screens and target probability numbers, tend to obsess over target numbers too much. 
I get umpteen emails a week from people with target number questions. My response is usually to forget about target numbers and instead check out the number of inches on the target depth read out.
Assuming you use a little discrimination, an iffy signal response from a shallow reading target is almost always going to be your metal detector doing a good job of identifying a bad target. 
An iffy signal response with a deep target reading is worth digging up, or at least scrape a few inches of sand away from the area and double check. 
When a metal detector with discrimination has difficulty identifying a deep target, it will almost always reject deep targets as probably undesirable junk.
The threshold of a metal detector using discrimination, will null / blank over a deep target or give a broken iffy target response,  
That is why the only number I always look at first on a metal detector screen when using a little discrimination is the target depth number.
I rely on my metal detector discrimination to reject the easy to identify shallow targets, then I rely on the help of the target depth readout.
On my last trip to Oak Island Nova Scotia I recovered many musket balls that gave iffy signal responses, using the CTX 3030 with the large 17 inch search coil.
A quick glance at a maxed out target depth readout and moving a little top material with the side of my boot,  prevented me from walking away from deep targets. 

The target depth gauge is  one of the best features of a metal detector with a display screen, when you understand that metal detector target IDs are only accurate to a certain depth.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bad signs for a beach or water hunter

Sometimes, no amount of hardcore pounding can change your fortune at sanded-in beaches.
When I return home early it is for a darn good reason, Im too experienced to just keep pounding away regardless.
Having a wife and kids, I have better things to do than waste my time knowing the chances of finding anything is slim to none and slim just left town.
Two of the worst signs for a beach or water hunter  on the lower beach, are deep footprints and lines of seaweed washed up on shore.
When you sink in the sand past your ankles on the lower beach, its time to hit the dry sand or hit the road.
Deep foot prints and lines of seaweed tell you the same thing, that sand has been moved onto the lower beach, lowering your chances of detecting deep targets and making it more difficult to detect fresh dropped jewelry or coins.
When the lower beach is sanded-in, there is a real good chance the water is also sanded in.
The more days this goes on, the more you are better off hitting the upper beach or going home, depending on the beach and season.
You could also try searching for areas sand has been moved from, but the majority of the time a beach that is sanded-in, is sanded in completely.
This has been one of the best starts to a beach hunting year for a long time, even though my local beaches are sanded-in and the water is not much better.
Instead of going home or just pounding away on sanded-in lower beaches, I have been searching the upper beach on the dry sand.
I go to the beach and see people with metal detector searching in the wet sand and water like never before, but I do not see many people without metal detectors  on the lower beach and in the water.
Being the type of person who is into people reading, I search where the people are using the beach,
I then do my thing which is finding their lost jewelry and coins.
Like good clues on any treasure map, these footprints and lines of seaweed tell me where not to search.

Unless you only search one area of the beach all the time, as you will probably ignore the obvious signs that may help you avoid wasting your beach treasure hunting time.
Which reminds me, why search where there are more people metal detecting than people?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Different ways of recovering good stuff at the beach

If your into finding cool stuff at the beach, you can sometimes recover good stuff without using a metal detector.
I sometimes use some pretty different or unconventional ways of recovering buried jewelry, coins or artifacts at the beach.
Including, trenching, sifting sand, magnet fishing, dredging and fanning. 
Some of these techniques beach hunters use all the time while scooping, digging or recovering targets.
Trenching, sifting and magnet fishing can be very effective when used more often during the course of a beach hunt.
Dredging is obviously a little different and very site specific, as you cannot simply start dredging for jewelry and coins at a busy tourist beach, or do I? 
Some of the ways you can use trenching, sifting and magnet fishing at the beach while metal detecting are quite simple and effective. 
For example, if you recover several good targets in one area, try scooping or scraping away the top sand from the productive area instead of just walking away from the area, as most beach hunters would when no targets are detectable. 
If you remove a foot of sand from an area, you may detect deeper targets in the area.
That is how I recovered these cool old finds at a beach that used to have an 1830s Florida Seminole indian wars camp in the area.

In older areas with a chance of recovering old coins or artifacts, I often dump the removed sand through a home made screen or sifter.  
It's surprising what you can find sifting sand at old beach sites, no wonder it is Archeologists preferred method of screening material. 
Fanning sand off rocks in shallow water close to shore is easier than scooping targets. 
I often use a waterproof pin-pointer to help me locate jewelry and coins in pockets or holes in coral and rocks. 
A magnet in a scoop basket helps you to recover small nuisance pieces of iron while scooping, but I often use a more powerful magnet searching for large iron artifacts. 
I cast the magnet attached to a rope into rivers or marshy areas searching for old weapons or large clumps of iron, that may have more valuable objects fused onto or inside the clumps of iron.
All of these techniques are just an expansion of every day things beach hunters do.
On the last episode of the Travel channel show "Expedition Unknown" I was using a dredge in an icy cold river in England, searching for coins and artifacts from the time of King John.
Another show will air on TV this year where I am using a very different method of searching for and recovering old stuff.  
After all is said and done, aren't we as beach hunters just trying to move sand, shells, rock or iron to get to good stuff? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

EMI at the beach

Another reason I love my Minelabs for beach hunting, is rarely having to worry about EMI when beach or water hunting. 
EMI stands for Electromagnetic interference and there are plenty of sources of EMI at a beach that can effect your metal detector.
You may mistakenly think you have a problem with your metal detector or search coil when you encounter a source of EMI at the beach, especially if you are using a metal detector or search coil you are not yet familiar with.
EMI is one of the first things you should look for if your metal detector suddenly starts acting up. 
There are several things you can do to cancel the effects of EMI on your metal detector at the beach. 
A noise cancel or frequency change often solves the issue of EMI straight away, simply lowering your metal detector sensitivity control is another easy solution.
If those actions don't help, try running your metal detector in Auto sensitivity.
I know Auto sensitivity often reduces target depth, but better to be able to detect than head home early. 
A few common sources of EMI at the beach, are lighthouses, coastguard stations, offshore shipping, high rise construction cranes, other metal detectors, lifeguard towers, buried cable or power lines on the upper beach, piers and cell phone towers. 

A cell phone in your pocket or a pin-pointer carried on your belt, may also cause a problem with your metal detector. 
If you must carry a cell phone or a pin-pointer with you at the beach, make sure they are turned off when not in use.
There are so many more different ways your metal detector can be effected by EMI at the beach, especially if you detect around crowds on the beach.
Imagine how many people are using cell phones, tablets and blue tooth sets at the beach. 
I find it really amusing seeing everyone with their eyes on their smart phones or tablets at the beach, instead of enjoying the sand and surf or the people by their side. 
Several beaches I search, I know where EMI is going to mess with other people metal detecting plans.
Offshore shipping is to blame for one area with large container ships waiting for high tide to come into port and off load. 
It's no surprise to see people scratching heads and checking knobs, before walking away from areas, instead of looking out to sea and seeing a line of EMI anchored a half mile offshore.  
I use a Coiltek AI ( Anti interference) coil at one beach site I recover Spanish shipwreck artifacts at, that has a coastguard station not far away. 

If everyone has trouble metal detecting at certain beach sites because of EMI, you are going to clean up once you figure out a way to successfully search areas known for EMI.
Heres a little tip when encountering EMI from other metal detector users, as you both move away from each other quickly, carefully go back over the area you both moved away from.
I get at least one or two pieces of gold a year from areas I kind of accidentally meander too close to other beach or water hunters, who move away because our metal detectors are talking to each other. 
May the force be with you!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring break beach hunting, outside the box !

I always recover some of my best finds during spring break in the US, but my spring break beach hunting strategy may be a little unorthodox compared to other beach or water hunters.
When crowded spring break destination beaches are in the local news, you can be sure the majority of local beach and water hunters are circling the same beaches like sharks sensing blood in the water. 
Knowing where everyone with a metal detector for miles around is heading is a heck of an advantage during spring break, if you look at the big picture you know where not to search. 
I have a couple of sensible reasons for staying away from beaches full of spring breakers and the local metal detecting crowd.
College age jewelry and several times the usual metal detecting competition searching for that type of jewelry, often means your chances of recovering anything of value is diminished.
In my opinion, less valuable jewelry and more competition means spring break is nothing to get excited about. 
Not to mention the crowds of spring breakers you have to deal with on the beach and in the water. 
Dont get me wrong, good things will be lost but not enough to go around for my liking. 
That is why my spring break beach hunting plans are the same as my regular beach hunting plans, search for the jewelry lost by the people who pay for college tuitions and fund the partying during spring break.
Choices for metal detecting during spring break, are crowds of college kids and people swinging metal detectors, or less crowded beaches with the odd person metal detecting the area.
Chains, ear rings and toe rings, or expensive diamond engagement rings, watches and wedding bands.
College student jewelry or parents jewelry hunting, now that puts a whole new prospective on it for a beach or water hunter.
Dont let crowded beaches fool you,  less is often more when jewelry hunting at the beach.
Usually I make a point of not heading to the same place everyone else is metal detecting, during spring break is one of the only times I really don't have to think about it as I know exactly where everyone will be searching.
While they are baby sitting, I will be meeting the parents and hopefully finding stuff to get appraised.
Finds like this heavy 18K gold ring with quality ice, recovered during spring break.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Find out what your missing

I often spend time testing metal detecting equipment at the beach, an hour spent testing at the beach may save you from wasting many more hours at the beach.
For example, using the wrong type of metal detector settings, search coil or sweep speed.
If you are serious about beach hunting, it is wise to know what your beach hunting equipment is capable of doing and what your equipment is not capable of doing. 
You also have to know what is the optimum sweep speed for the best combination of target depth and sensitivity to a wide variety of targets.
Your sweep speed and even the search coil size can make the difference between success and failure at the beach. 
I look at metal detecting equipment as helping me detect what I'm searching for, so I need to know what it can and cannot do.
I need to know I am not going to walk over stuff I am searching for at the beach.
My love of testing metal detecting equipment is for one purpose only, trying to discover anything I can use to my advantage on future beach or water hunts.
I search a lot of heavily hunted sites with people using the same type of metal detecting equipment, I know settings and search coils can make a huge difference.
Now that's the real advantage of testing to see what your metal detector or search coil can and cannot do at heavily hunted beaches, knowing what the competitions equipment is capable of.
I often see wow moments from long time beach hunters on metal detecting forums and social media sites. 
My first thoughts are always the same, what took you so long and imagine if you found out sooner? 
Almost always the eye opening moment is equipment related, which is the point of today's blog.
If you test and know the capabilities of your equipment, you won't have to wait so long to find out what your missing.
Learn to squeeze every last bit of sensitivity and depth from your equipment, they will get you closer to what you are searching for. 
I started off a metal detector lesson this weekend by telling the person I am going to show you what you don't need to use.
Information from hours spent testing metal detecting equipment at the beach helping someone get ahead of the learning curve.
Another advantage to testing, knowing what you don't really need to use at the beach to be successful. 
This 18K ladies ring with a 2 carat ruby found a new home many moons ago, but it is still one of my favorite ring recoveries because of where and how it was found, using knowledge gathered from testing small search coils at iron infested beach sites.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Iron clues

If you are a beach hunter searching for old shipwreck coins or artifacts iron is always a welcome sight, especially iron nails.
It helps if you know how to identify and date iron nails found at the beach, as that information can be useful in identifying the type of other materials you could possibly recover in the area.
These wrought handmade iron ship nails (Spikes) are from a early 1600s Spanish shipwreck, wrought means they were beaten into shape by a hammer.

They were recovered a couple of years ago on a Florida east coast beach at low tide using my Minelab CTX 3030.
The first machine made iron nails in the US were produced in the late 1700s to early 1800s and are known as "Cut" nails.
Cut nails were produced in large quantities to closely mimic the design of handmade nails, only they had two tapered sides down the shank.
I have found many of these type of nails at early 1830s Seminole indian war camps / forts along the east coast of Florida.
Perhaps readers of the blog have seen the late 1500s iron ship spike I recovered in the swamp on Oak Island Nova Scotia in 2016.
It made me chuckle seeing people on detecting forums and other bloggers saying it was a railroad spike, after watching a recent episode of "The Curse of Oak Island" 
I knew what it was as soon as I held it in my hand and it was nice to see it authenticated by an expert antiquities and antiques appraiser on the History Channel. 
There is the point of todays blog, old iron is often a sign of good things to come for a beach hunter.
It is also a good reason to take everything you find at the beach home with you, if you are not familiar with old iron nails.
I actually go out of my way to try detect iron at beaches known for old shipwrecks, find the iron and silver or gold is often not far away. 
Iron like the ship spikes in the photo, can mask smaller valuable targets like treasure coins or jewelry.
The afternoon I recovered the iron ship spikes, I found a very old copper ring and a Spanish silver one reale treasure coin.
The following low tide I recovered more iron ship spikes, a buckle and a second silver treasure coin.
Now imagine if I used discrimination or iron mask at this beach, I would have left the iron ship spikes in the sand, along with the other cool finds the iron spikes were helping to mask.
Although I often talk about the advantages of using discrimination at tourist beaches, the opposite is my preferred method when searching for older finds.
I hunt in all metal with target depth in mind, with just a subtle lowering or raising of the threshold or even a crab fart being all the justification I need to stop and start digging.
Iron is always a happy sight in my scoop or the bottom of the hole I just dug, its more than a ship spike to me its a trail in the sand to follow.