Are you leaving nuggets and digging trash? I know that early on in my newbie days I was! What was the reason? I just was not digging targets that my detector was telling me were there. The worst part was that I was digging plenty of trash! What the heck is going on? I am finding bullets, nails, tacks, bits of iron, and wire, but no gold nuggets. So I would give up and go back to drywashing or some other method knowing I at least would get some color….. Sound like you? Read on….

The reason I went through this was that when I started detecting in the early 1990s I was listening for that nice clear zip-zip of a target a VLF detector will give you and ignoring the odd sounding targets as being hot rocks or just ground noise or perhaps the detector was just noisy. Yes some were ground noise, but others were nuggets. Sooner or later even I woke up and I began checking out some of those “funny sounds” and yes indeed they were targets and some were gold nuggets!

Part of the issue was simply that I was setting up my detector incorrectly with everything turned way up thinking I would be able to hear targets better and deeper. This also causes your detector VLF or PI to run erratically and miss targets. Never run your detector with settings that do not allow it to run smoothly even if you have the sensitivity, gain, or whatever your detector manufacturer calls it turned all the way down to 3 or so to smooth the ground out. You will hear targets you would have missed at a setting of say 6 if it was unstable there.


Once you have learned how to properly adjust your detector to hunt in the goldfields you will notice right away there are sounds, target sounds you have not heard some very slight, but will repeat and others no more than a flat spot in your threshold. Any time you hear a disturbance in your threshold you really need to identify what is causing it. Yes it can be many things from hot ground (setting need adjusted) to a deep nugget.

Now after learning to investigate all signals as suspect until I see otherwise, I began seeing my finds increase tenfold. I was listening for one sound only all that time and walking right past gold. Now armed with the knowledge that a nugget nugget will give you a sharp clear signal, but a deep or small nugget will often do no more than slightly disturb the threshold I was amazed how many nuggets I found in areas I had already hunted

Jim Straight was a big help to me early on in my hunting days due to the fact he stresses making a target test area and learning your machine along with bench testing. I began then and still do this when I try out a new detector and it really helps you get to know your detector inside and out! I still consider Jim’s books to be a very valuable learning tool for the nugget shooter and I recommend them! Also joining a club like the GPAA gives you access to proven claims to hunt as well as learn from as to where gold in the area and how. Being in a club can really give you an edge.

Now enter the PI detector and it’s already legendary ability to find gold, but talk about really having to be aware of small differences in threshold Sometimes no more than a groan can mean a target! Moving fast is out if you want to find gold on a regular basis because by doing so you will miss a very large percentage of the faint targets. Threshold instability is directly related to faster coil movement so you tend to not even notice what could be a signal. These detectors are a bit more involved, but once mastered the Pulse Induction detector unequaled tool in the gold fields. This is my main choice of detectors as well….

The mono coils are much more tolerant of the quicker swing, but the DD coils work much better for me when I move slooooooow….. Now could that be why some of these guys can go to a pounded area and still find gold when you have been there 10 times without a nugget? YES that very well could be the reason. Having the coil to high is another big problem for many and add that to moving too fast and you have a problem. If you are not rubbing the ground a bit you will again be missing nuggets. After all a coil cover is not costly and the closer to the ground you hunt the more depth you achieve, simple math. Add to that every inch you have your coil above the ground can be losing twice that in the soil.

Ever see the guy that doesn’t seem to get out of a small area for hours when you have already covered two washes and a flat without getting anything but bullets and boot tacks. When you ask how he’s doing he shows you a couple nuggets I am not trying to be a smart ass here, but I like to say work your detector don’t walk your detector. If you already know there is gold in the area slow down and find some of it.

So basically all I am getting at here is to get to know your detector and the sounds it makes and always investigate anything that just doesn’t sound right because something is making the detector act that way and it very well could be a nugget! The sad truth is that many of the clear crisp targets will be in the trash bag….. Just a few lessons learned the hard way.

Good Hunting!

Been a Spell

Wow where has the time gone? It has been a year since my last post here and allot sure has happened over that year. I will be back now and writing again with things slowing down a bit with my work with the GPAA for the season and training also slowing with the summer heat just around the corner here in Arizona. Doing seminars for the GPAA has been a wonderful experience and I can’t thank the whole crew enough for the opportunity to educate hundreds of folks in the art of metal detecting.

This season Kevin Hoagland and I are doing our seminar “Mind Over Machine” together and it has gone very well for the folks coming to hear us speak. We have been doing a different format with you the attendee asking questions of us and guiding the flow of our discussion. This gives folks the chance to get answers to those questions relevant to their own experiences and field issues. The feedback has been great with several folks showing off nugget they said were found with our help.

So now that I have some time to get back to my old flow I will once again get some tips, tricks, and articles posted for you to enjoy as well as just some ramblings to bring a smile…

Nugget Shooter Outing

Yes it is already March and temps here in the Southwestern Arizona desert are hovering around 85 by 3:00pm making it perfect for camping, relaxing, and gold nugget hunting with a metal detector. This weekend Nugget Shooter forums is having it annual spring outing and once again it will be in the San Domingo Placer area near Morristown, Arizona. This is not one of those dealer sponsored things with booths etc. But a get together for forum members to meet, greet, and see old friends. We have been doing outings with forum members usually twice a year since 2001 and with the Saturday potluck dinner it is always a blast with some nice gold finds made in the nearby hills and gulches. This is an historically rich area and was Maricopa County’s largest producer of placer gold with many large nuggets found in the area including Jim Boxberger’s 2.27 pound gold specimen with over a pound and a half gold in it! Jim31803 Jim found this whopper in a small wash only a few inches deep with a metal detector, a booming target many would have walked away from thinking it surly was trash. DIG ALL TARGETS! Jim3180301 Though many say the area is hunted out or very difficult to hunt I say it is a great place to find gold nuggets and spend allot of my time here adding gold nuggets to my poke and YES I want one like Jimmy found as well! But ya know what? If you do not get out to hunt you, you will not find any… So if you have been following Nugget Shooter and thinking that it may just be fun to try this head over to my forums and you will find a map to the camp area and all are welcome to stop in. If you plan to join the pot luck on Saturday evening BRING A DISH to share and the main course is slow smoked pork roast! See ya there…..

The Nugget Hunter #2

This is the second article written by my good friend RD now gone to that nugget patch in the sky. He is missed and his writings are very educational.

The Nugget Hunter #2

by Richard Delahanty

“Can you really find gold with a metal detector?”, I am often asked when a person finds out that I hunt gold as a hobby. Well, why not? Metal detectors detect metal and gold is a metal, ergo, a metal detector can detect gold. Can any metal detector be used to hunt for gold? Yes, but some will do a better all around job than others. Since the introducton of Fisher’s Gold Bug in 1987, all the major manufacturers have come out with their own version of specialized gold machine. This came about because over the years certain attributes of the machines in use at the time proved to be valuable in the hunt for those elusive nuggets while other features were of less importance. Here are those attributes that I feel make for a top notch gold machine:

All Metal Mode: In the quest for gold nuggets, you always hunt in all metal because your targets can, and do, come in all shapes and sizes from tiny sub-grain size to lunkers of an ounce or more. Since most of the gold out there is smallish in size, any discrimination will mask the small bits and cause you to lose the only nuggets that you may come across in that area. If your machine has a discriminator on it, this is an added feature that makes your detector a better all around machine, and in certain very rare instances, can be useful in extremely trashy areas if you’re willing to forgo the small stuff. I have done this exactly once in seven years to give you some idea of how often one uses discrimination. Also, all metal is the only mode you will use because the number one rule of nugget shooting is: DIG ALL TARGETS! Please let me repeat that because, if you’re going to be successful at hunting for gold you absolutely must DIG ALL TARGETS!

Ground Balance: The more you can control the response of your detector to ground mineralization, the better you will be able to hear the tiny variations in the sound of your threshold that can signal a small, faint target under your coil. Manual ground balance was the only way to go until just the last couple of years. Some of the prospectors I hunt with still prefer having full control over their ground balance function as there are times when a slight positive setting can give you a small increase in depth and a slightly negative setting can sometimes null out certain types of hot rocks while still enabling you to hear any targets which may be under or around the hot rock. I used a manual ground balance machine my first five years and found that a neutral ground balance was the best all-around setting for me.

Automatic ground tracking has improved to the point now that there is virtually no ground that it can’t cope with. I’m using two detectors right now that have auto ground tracking on them and find that, for me, they do a perfectly fine job and they are a lot easier to use. What this all boils down to now is that it is really a matter of taste. Do you want full control over your ground balance or are you content to let the machine do it for you? You can’t go wrong either way!

Autotune and Threshold: To the best of my knowledge, all of today’s gold detectors have some means of keeping the threshold tone at a constant level automatically. A good machine will have a threshold control so the operator can set the sound to his or her liking. The best setting, I have found, is just within the range of hearing. Some manufacturers install a fixed rate, the faster the better, some have a seperate control which allows the operator to adjust his or her own rate. If your machine has a variable control, a good rule of thumb is, the heavier the mineralization, the faster you want it to retune. SAT stands for self-adjusting threshold and is the same as autotune.

Sensitivity: A must. You always want to run your detector at the maximum sensitivity that the ground will allow. There are some areas, however, that are so heavily mineralized that a setting of one half or less is the best you can hope for if you want to keep your sanity. Do it! You won’t be giving up all that much depth and the smoother operation of your machine will enable you to pick up those whispers that say ” nugget” which otherwise would be masked by falsing . Believe me, some of those nuggets give just the tiniest whisper of sound..

How can you tell if your Super Duper Sweet Swinger III would make a good gold machine? Try this: Scotch tape a pellet of #7 or #8 birdshot to a three by five card or something similar. Place it on the ground and, after carefully tuning your detector, see if it will pick up the birdshot. If it does than your machine is sensitive enough to find the smallest piece of gold out there. Another good test is to bury a nickel at 6 to 8 inches and if your detector will pick it up with no sweat then it has the makings of a good nugget shooter.


Figure 1 is an example of an excellent auto ground balancing machine, the Lobo SuperTraq, pictured with the kind of find you might make once in a lifetime if all the gods are smiling upon you and you got up on the right side of the bed that morning. The gold pictured was gathered in a period of four hours in the afternnoon of the day I stumbled upon the patch and four hours the following morning when I decided to pack it in and go home to share my excitement with moma. Total take for this eight hour period is about 50 to 60 ounces. I can’t be more exact because a good deal of the take, besides what is pictured, is in dozens of pieces of the vein material. This find was made in the Dale mining district just north of Joshua Tree National Park and south of Highway 62 to the north. Dale is in the desert of Southern California and has givern up numerous nuggets to myself and members of the First Class Miners Club of Twenty-Nine Palms, Ca.

Figure 2 is a more complete photo of all the nuggets from the Dale patch. Four and a half ounces of these went towards purchasing a half interest in a Minelab SD2200d gold detector, another outstanding auto ground balancing machine.


Figure 3 is a pic of the SD with a slight modification that I made shortly after obtaining it. I put the control box and coil on a Goldmaster S rod because I hated that straight rod abortion that it came with. For me, it is very well balanced and I can swing it all day even with the 14″ Coiltek mono coil on it without having to resort to using the bungee cord which came with the detector to take some of the weight of the machine off your arm. Also didn’t much care for the battery holder with all the shoulder straps and stuff so I resorted to using one of my wife’s castoff fanny pack purses to hold the battery and it works just fine for my purposes. Don’t even know the battery is there.


Two fine manual ground balance machines that I have experience with are the Goldmaster V/SAT which I used during my first five years of nugget shooting and, after trading in my beloved V/SAT, the Gold Bug 2 which is a great nugget shooter in it’s own right with some capabilities that the V/SAT doesn’t have. Both machines, because of their higher operating frequencies, will pick up tiny, sub-grain pieces of gold with no strain. Something the SD2200, for all its wonderful depth capabilities, just isn’t able to do. The smallest piece I’ve ever managed to garner with the SD is about two grains with the 14″ mono of all coils. Figure 4 is a photo of the GB2.


Figure 5 a close-up of it’s controls.


Even though the Lobo SuperTraq has a lower operating frequency than the V/SAT and GB2 (17.8 KHz), it will pick up pieces of gold every bit as small as the other two. Keep on walking and swinging and, as Doc says,

“Be careful out there.” RD



Many years ago when I first began hunting for gold nuggets with a metal detector I found it to be quite frustrating at times. It seemed like it took forever before I could finally understand and sort out the sounds my detector was making and when I finally had my equipment mastered I faced the next problem, where to go? Living in Arizona near Phoenix I had already been dry washing in the placer areas near my home and had found a fair amount of gold, both fine gold and several nuggets and I thought this would be a good place to start. I hunted the washes and tailings just like I had learned, but the nuggets were few and very far between.

At that point I began trying to find more information about the placer areas near my home and picked up a book that changed everything. The book was Placer Gold Deposits Of Arizona, by Maureen G. Johnson. In it I found detailed information about all the major placer areas in Arizona. Looking up the San Domingo Placers near my home I discovered that in this area gold had also been found in the shallow hillside gravels and on the tops of the low mesas between gulches. Armed with this new information I began working the hill sides above the heavily worked washes and immediately began finding not just one or two nuggets a month, but several each outing!

The key I think was learning about the placer, location, topo maps, geological map, access, extent, production history, and then the names of the sources and literature are given. All of this information is most important to today’s nugget-shooter and can make a big difference when you are hunting a new state or area. Some of the most important information about a placer is the size, area and where the gold was concentrated. For instance, the gold may have been 10 feet deep and not reachable with a detector, but in a case like this the dry wash tailings may be a worth while bet.

There are many books on the market to help those new to the metal detecting game and my advice is “the more you read the better”. But if I was to recommend a couple they would be the placer deposit books by either, Johnson or Wilson for the state you are interested in. I also spend a lot of time researching hard rock mining areas looking for places “free” gold was extracted. These old abandoned mines can produce gold on the hill sides as float and in the ore dumps. Sometimes, spectacular specimens can be found. Information on these areas again comes from publications.The Bureau Of Mines for most gold producing states will have a lot of this info available. Contact them and they usually have booklets published on the subject.

Another great source of info is the local resident or old timer. This is where you can find areas that are not in the books. Most literature written about placers pertains to those that were economically important. So all those areas that produced under several thousand dollars worth of gold are not listed. Local residents near these smaller placers often are quite willing to share the information with you and may even give directions to the area. Or sometimes you get fed the old bull story and that can make for a day of just plain enjoying scenery.

The local library is a very good spot to get information also, here you will find articles in magazines, books, newspapers, etc. Just the mention of a mine or wash can put you into a good area that another nugget hunter hasn’t discovered. You may follow a couple false leads, but that will all be forgotten when you find that first “patch” of a dozen or more nuggets! My first whopper was found on a hillside above a small wash I found mention of in a newspaper article about a local resident finding several ounces of gold in the wash. You see the old timers could not work the scattered gold on most hill sides with a dry washer and it is still there waiting for somebody to swing a metal detector over it.

The world wide web is also a great place to find info on gold prospecting and there are several sites dedicated to helping in your quest. I would go into how to access that info but if you are reading this it appears you have that mastered. This is the place to find all kinds of access to publications that can’t be found in most book stores and my site is no exception with many articles to help, also Forums like the one at this site can also be invaluable to the beginner and pro!

Now that you’ve decided where you want to go make sure to pick up the topographic map[s] and, if you have one, plan your route with a GPS. You will find that when you get to one of these areas if you don’t have a map it is very hard to find your way in the maze of roads and trails typical of most mining districts. A GPS makes it a sure shot if you pre-set your target location from the map and it also helps to set in landmark’s at turns as you will find that there have been several new trails added or subtracted since the map was printed.

I feel that if this article helps just one person avoid some of the frustration I felt early on in my nugget hunting days it has served it’s purpose. Remember it is unusual for a fellow nugget hunter to tell of a good spot until he or she is quite sure they’ve gotten the good stuff unless they are a very close friend indeed. Doing research can put you into the paying areas and increase your finds.

Good hunting.

The Nugget Hunter #1

Written by good friend Richard Delahanty who has now left us for better placer ground, RIP my good friend your information is ageless in it’s value.

Gold is where you find it! How many times have you heard that old cliche? As with all old saws, there is a lot of truth to it. As with all old saws, there is also a catch to it. You can’t find gold if there is no gold in the area that you are hunting in. All things being equal, the number one factor that will determine the success or failure of your quest for that elusive yellow metal is placing yourself in an area where gold has been found before. But didn’t the old-timers get it all you ask? Not by a long shot! It has been estimated that only about 5% of the available gold has been found which leaves 95% for you and me to find with today’s super-sensitive gold detectors. Seems like pretty good odds doesn’t it? So, now what?

There are two ways to go about picking an area to prospect. The first is to find someone who already has hunted the area and stick to him like glue. You will not only learn a lot about the place but, if you’re a novice at nugget shooting, you will also pick up valuable hunting techniques as well. The second method is to seek out all the “How To” and “Where To Go” books, magazine articles and maps pertaining to the area that you are interested in. The way I go about it is to zero in on a general location and then try to get topo maps of the area. The topos are quite helpful as many of them show the locaton of mines and placer diggings. These are the locations that I’ll seek out when I arrive and then go from there. I’ve used a combination of these two methods over the years and they have worked well for me. On the subject of topo maps, there is a site on the web where you can obtain topos of any area in the U.S. and download them for free, which is great news when you consider that a new topo now runs $8.00 a pop. The site is at

You have done your homework well and picked a promising area to prospect. Now what? You are now on the ground standing beside your vehicle and you are looking at all that vast, wide open space and think, “Good grief, where do I start?” If you have chosen a good spot, there may be some old placer diggings in sight and there isn’t a better place to begin. Look for drywasher tailings piles and start going over them with your coil. You just may get lucky as some very nice nuggets have been found on old tailings piles. Drywasher tailings generally show up as two piles of material, one pile will consist of coarser material from 1/2″ or 3/4″ on up. This is the header pile which came off the screen of the drywasher. The other pile a couple of feet away is the tailings pile of finer material which has been vibrated over the riffles of the drywasher. Gold can be, and sometimes is, found in either or both piles so check them carefully.

If there are no obvious diggings around, you will then have to go by guess and by gosh. Pick a likely looking gully or larger wash and just start walking and swinging. The adage, ‘ Gold is where you find it’, truly applies now. A nice nugget can be lurking just about anywhere. Check behind obstructions in the bottom of the wash, along the bottom edges, the banks themselves or up on the lip of the wash. When you run out of wash, try the next one over or walk some nearby ridges and saddles. There is just no way of telling where that first nugget is going to show up. Or the second one and so on.

If there is a “secret” to finding gold, this is it: Go where gold has been known to be found and get out and walk and swing your detector. The more time and effort you put into it the better your chances will be. The beautiful yellow stuff is out there and you can certainly get your share!


This is a little story I wrote a few years back after a close encounter of sorts….

I’ve been living in the great Southwestern deserts a long time now, 35 years or so, and you know I thought I’d seen most every dangerous critter close up that the desert has to offer, today though I found out I was very wrong.

I was hunting in the Weaver Mountains working my way up a small gulch with my detector. This year has been worse than usual for rattle snakes with all the cover left from the spring rains. I have seen more snakes this year than I can ever remember seeing in years past. So while working I was also keeping my eyes on the ground cover to avoid those nasty reptilian surprises.

I got a good signal in the lower edge of the bank and begun the task of recovering my target. While digging I heard a strange deep growling sound mixed with the normal sounds in my headphones. The first time I didn’t pay attention, but when I heard it again I stopped digging and stood up removing my headphone as I rose up. It was at that moment that I realized the sound was not unlike the sound a mad Tom cat makes and it was coming from directly above me.

When I looked up , there looking down at me from a large pile of granite boulders was a rather large mountain lion!!!

I did not know what to do and we just looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity. All I could think of was all the TV shows I’d seen where the lion was sure to pounce on the poor victim below to tear him to shreds. Fortunately this did not happen and the cat slowly backed of growling as he or she left.

I decided not to finish digging the target, nugget or not and moved out of the area. I have no idea where the cat went it just seemed to vanish. I had never seen a mountain lion in the wild although I have seen signs of their presence in other mining areas. I always assumed they avoided humans, perhaps this one had young and was willing to stand it’s ground.

Needless to say at the time I was writing this I was and still am a bit shook up, I made a half serious attempt to continue detecting, but all I could think of was that big old cat jumping me from behind and ripping out my juggler. Sooooooo I called it a day and will try a different spot tomorrow. Well I guess what I am basically saying here is that I prefer the threat of snakes over cats.

Let me tell you , the thrill and excitement of that few moments was quite the experience and I am thinking I was a little lucky today

Good Hunting and be careful out there….