Prospecting Tip #1
Hillsides are the best areas for gold prospecting using a metal detector, because hillsides cannot be cleaned out by panning and dredging the way streams can. Also, gold on hillsides, not far from its source vein, tends to be larger, and hence more readily detected, than alluvial (placer) gold which tends to get pounded to pieces and worn away as it rolls along the streambed with gravel during floods.
Even in a good gold producing area, you will often spend an entire day without finding any gold. Meanwhile you will dig bits and pieces of other metal– birdshot, shells and bullets from hunting and target practice, bits of rusted barbed wire, chips off shovels and other mining tools, rusted tin cans, etc. “Hot rocks” — rocks containing concentrations of iron oxides that sound like metal when you pass over them — are also a nuisance in many places where gold is found.
If you have gone many hours without finding gold and are wondering if there is something wrong with your metal detector or how you are using it, the most important clue is this: if you are digging tiny pieces of trash metal, then if you had swept over gold nuggets, you would have dug them too!
When something that sounds like gold has been detected, most of the time it’s iron metal or a hot rock. Smart prospectors carry a strong magnet with them, and stick the magnet into the dirt where the detected object is. Iron will be drawn to the magnet, and hot rocks usually will be as well. Even if you pull iron metal or hot rocks out, always check again with the metal detector to see if there is gold (which of course won’t be drawn to the magnet). A good magnet is what a gold prospector uses instead of “discrimination mode”.
Most gold nuggets are very small, and are most often found in soil which is high in iron oxide minerals. Therefore serious gold prospecting requires a detector with high sensitivity and with true ground balanced motion all metals operation. Run the machine with the sensitivity high enough to hear some noise from ground minerals, and learn the language of the sounds you hear. Most prospectors prefer to use headphones unless consideration for safety (for instance rattlesnakes) rules them out. Using headphones allows you to hear the slightest ping and will prolong battery life. Move the search coil slowly and deliberately, carefully controlling its height above the ground to minimize noise from iron minerals in the soil. If you hear ground noise, your ground balance setting could be a bit off, so perform the ground balancing procedure again. In some areas the ground changes over very short distances and you’ll have to pay close attention to ground balance.
Some “gold machines” display the amount of iron mineralization in the ground. In alluvial (placer) deposits, gold tends to be associated with iron minerals, particularly magnetite black sand. If you know this to be the case in the area you’re working, you can maximize your gold recovery by concentrating your effort on areas where the display indicates higher amounts of iron mineralization.