Covering Area vs. Patch Cleaning

19 Dec 2016

There are a couple basic strategies that can be employed when metal detecting for gold nuggets. One involves covering as much ground as possible as fast as possible looking for larger nuggets. This generally sacrifices some overall depth on large nuggets and also hard to find small nuggets. The idea is to make up for it by finding larger nuggets by processing as much ground as possible.

The other method involves slower, more methodical hunting aimed at finding all the gold possible, whether large nuggets at extreme depth, or hard to find smaller nuggets. This method is often used on well hunted locations where the first method has already been employed.

In my opinion big nuggets generally go to the first coil over them. They are big and so kind of hard for any good detector to miss.

Let's say there is a nugget that a detector can hit at 20". That means as long as any of those nuggets or larger exist in the top 20" you get them. This is where covering lots of ground fast pays off very well indeed.

Now, you go back and hunt with a machine that can hit those same nuggets to 24". The problem is for all intents and purposes you are now detecting only 4" of additional depth, and the odds of one of those targets being in 4" of ground is far less than the odds of one being in 20" of ground. And in fact due to the way many desert placers form, your odds are even worse because many desert placers get leaner the deeper you go. Those big deep nuggets of your imagination may just not be there, as has been proved by many (not all) failed bulldozer pushes.

Large coils such as the 24” x 12” mono can cover ground quickly looking for easy finds.

There is therefore a lot to be said for covering lots of hopefully virgin ground fast with larger coils to go for the larger gold even if you give up some depth doing it. I spent much of my detecting career hunting like that. The problem is pretty simple. It is getting very hard to find virgin ground that has good enough gold for this method. Days if not weeks can pass between decent finds, making this only for people with lots of time and extreme patience.

My method now generally has shifted to cleanup mode. Hunting slowly and methodically chasing smaller gold with the GPZ with the idea that any deeper nuggets I get over will take care of themselves. Oftentimes for most well hunted areas that means only getting small gold but at least I am finding gold, and the GPZ hits about as small as anyone could wish. And if a larger one comes along I have high confidence I will nail it easily enough. As anyone can attest however, those big ones are getting very rare.

Proper coil control is essential – overlap sweeps and keep the coil flat on the ground

Proper coil control

Novices in particular I have to recommend slow and careful, going for the small stuff. Finding gold, any gold at all, is an extremely important confidence builder and essential if the novice is not going to quit the game after only a few outings. If money is no object, there in my opinion is no surer way to get some gold than to get an SDC 2300 and go as slow and as methodically as possible with it. If you can't find gold with a 2300 you are in entirely the wrong locations, or electronic prospecting simply is not for you.

Careful detecting with the SDC 2300 makes finds like these – smallest nugget 0.045 grams.

Small gold found with SDC 2300

Original version posted on 10 December 2016 at 


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