Cold Weather Detecting By Grant Hansen

  Now that the holiday season is upon us, colder weather is starting to blow into much of the country. For many, this means going into detecting hibernation as we wait for spring temps to thaw the earth. For me, it simply means layering on as many clothes as I can move in, while hoping the ground isn’t too frozen to chisel through. I’ve had days where only the first inch of frozen crust reveals warm-butter-like dirt below it. I’ve also had days where, despite my best efforts, my spade won’t make a dent.

  A few years ago, my friend James and I spent a cold January day at a farm field in New Jersey, braving the low temps and occasional gusts of winds. While the ground was only frost covered, it was still diggable – even muddy at times. It was so cold that my XP Deus coil was soon encrusted by a thin layer of ice – and it still worked great!

  With frost on the ground and winds in our backs, we spent a full day detecting, looking for colonial and 19th-century coins and artefacts. Navigating through the corn stalk stubble, I started out slow and dug up a lot of modern trash. But things started to heat up when I unearthed a 1765 half real. It’s such a thrill to find old Spanish silver, and I was hoping that this was a sign of more things to come.

  I went on to find some 19th century flat buttons, a thimble, musket balls and shot, and then found a 2-piece button that I hadn’t seen before. After cleaning it up and doing a quick Google search, I learned that I had found a mid-19th century musician’s lyre button. I love the design and it’s in very good shape.

  Oftentimes I find a whatzit. I’m not sure if this copper piece is a pin or served another function. Do you know? If so, please comment below or email me at xpteamusagrant@gmail.com.

 

 

  Before James and I sought refuge in the heat from my car, I managed to find another silver coin – a somewhat modern 1940 mercury dime.

  Cold days and rough weather can be daunting, especially if you get skunked. But when you find good stuff, no matter how cold it is, you itch to get back out there!

 

COLD WEATHER PREP TIPS

  • Layer up! On my legs I wear thermals and fleece-lined pants; on my upper body I wear a long-sleeve thermal, t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, sweat shirt, and winter coat. I can always take layers off if I’m too warm.
  • Wear a winter hat! Keep your noggin warm and sharp.
  • Wear mittens! Mittens are superior at keeping your hands and fingers warm. I wear surgical gloves under my mittens to keep my hands clean as I have to take the mittens off to retrieve targets.
  • Get a good pair of winter boots! While they may not be cheap, there’s nothing worse than being out in the cold and feeling like your toes are going to fall off.
  • Use heat-warmer insoles. These are thin foot warmers with adhesive that you stick to the bottoms of your socks. You barely notice them and they keep your feet toasty. Or should I say toe-sty.
  • Wear a turtle neck or other scarf-like garment to keep your neck warm. I often pull it over my mouth for extra warmth.

 

Hudson Valley Hunting, Part 2 By Grant Hansen

  After spending the morning at a mid-19th century home site (read part one of this story here), my two friends and I journeyed to a nearby nearby permission where the home was built around 1790. Ordinarily, any home site from the 18th century gets us amped with excitement; this home was perched atop a hill with a beautiful view of the Hudson River. My imagination went wild thinking of Washington and his troops sailing up and down this river during the Revolutionary War, perhaps docking and scaling the hill to get to a nearby headquarters.

  We got our XP Deus coils to the ground as quickly as we could, just waiting for the good signals to pop through. I started on the side yard, and there were plenty of signals. My XP Deus got solid high tone after high tone, but unfortunately the targets were mostly memorial pennies with the occasional wheatie. I then found something that I dismissed as a modern whatzit, but it was really a rare bottle seal closure/stopper that is marked “Sultan NO. 1 Pat. June 18 ’95. Never dismiss a find!

  Shortly after the bottle stopper, I found a vintage dog license from the 1960s, but things got quiet. I moved on from the side yard to explore a small area behind the house. Almost immediately I found not one, but two large copper coins – hooked to each other! Upon inspection, I saw they were two Queen Elizabeth II African coins that someone fashioned into a bracelet or other type of jewelry. A very cool discovery!

 

 

  After the Queen Elizabeth II coins, I went a while without a decent find. And although I found my second mercury dime of the day, it was not as old as I was looking for – but hey – I’m always happy to find silver. All I could seem to find was modern coinage. The sun was beating down on an already hot day, and I was getting discouraged. A small spark of hope ignited in me when my friend James found a beautiful, ornate silver thimble – but it was getting toward the end of the day, and I only managed to find a few more modern pennies.

  Prior to leaving, my friend secured me permission to come back since I don’t live too far away. I don’t like when a property defeats me, and I was determined to return to find more of what this property had hidden beneath the surface. And within a week, I was back – on another scorching day.

  I started my search in an area we didn’t focus on – the small front yard. I quickly resumed finding memorial pennies scattered about. Nothing old was coming up; not even old garbage. I then found something that I haven’t been able to identify… below is a photo and details. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or email me at xpteamusagrant@gmail.com.

 

  More modern coinage and trash were interrupted by a little hope – I mason jar lid. Finally! Something somewhat old. Not as old as the house itself, but it was a good sign. However, the mason jar lid was the only mid-19th-century find for the day as I continued to unearth modern pennies, foil, and scrap metal.

  With time running short. I decided to try a different area of the property. Slowly scanning my HF coil over the ground, I got a very nice high tone – low 90s. I looked down to see a beautiful vintage silver ring sitting right on top of the surface! I was surprised and delighted. I asked the owner if anyone had lost the ring, but no one had to their knowledge.

 

  I ended the day on a high note (and tone), but still felt like I should be finding older artifacts. I decided to give it one more try a week later, this time using my HF round coil. I started my search at the top of the hill, overlooking the beautiful Hudson River. I was unearthing quite a bit of rubbish, and then a solid high tone revealed a crotal bell. Yes! Something old! Not crazy old, but old enough. I knew this property had more treasures hidden within it. And as a bonus, the bell still rings!

  I decided to focus on this area a bit, thinking more oldies would come up. They didn’t. So I went back to the area where I found the vintage silver ring. I was rewarded with both a mercury dime and a war nickel.

  I then found something that looked like a tag. I couldn’t determine exactly what it was, so I pocketed it and would figure it out when I got home. Upon cleaning, an ASPCA New York dog license was revealed, with a date of 1919. Almost 100 years old, and the oldest dog tag I’ve ever found! While not the 18th-century relic I was hoping to find, I can’t lie that I was quite pleased with it.

  Shortly after the dog license, I found what I thought was a Buffalo nickel, but I was wrong. It was a V nickel! With a date of 1909.

  I haven’t been back to the property since that last outing, but I think about it often. While I never submit to defeat, I’m just not sure I can scrape out anything more. My guess is the property has been filled over time, even though I didn’t see any real evidence of it. All in all, it definitely produced and the home owner and tenant have been super nice and accommodating, which is treasure in and of itself.

  If you’d like to watch videos of these metal detecting excursions, I invite you to my YouTube universe:

 

Happy wife… Happy life. 5 minutes with Deus Saves the Day. By Josh Kimmel

  Sometimes it’s not always just about the treasures that we can keep or the awesome relics that many of us like to display. Another fascinating part of our great hobby that I particularly enjoy is often over looked by some. Don’t get me wrong, I love to get out there and recover coins, jewelry, and relics just like the rest of you; however, many times I also enjoy taking the time to help put a good light on the hobby by utilizing skills and equipment to do great things for other people. I’m talking about the good deeds that many of us out there do for others. Recoveries and returns. In the past I have been called upon to locate or recover various items, property markers, lost jewellery or keys, and once I was even asked to locate a titanium barreled dart used in dart leagues. sometimes its even been just checking an area for dangers that other people may be injured on, such as needles, knives, rusty nails and etc. The universal factor in all of these is that no matter how big or small it was a task for a good purpose. Many times these items meant more sentimentally to those that have lost them than the actual cost of the items. Even though some of these items can be replaced its just not the same. With the Deus being such a versatile machine it is an asset in many of these tasks of recovering lost items. 

  A while back I received a phone call from a good buddy of mine. He wanted to know if I still do metal detecting and ring returns for people who have lost their rings. My answer was short, “absolutely, what is going on?” He said “I was out doing yard work and planting some bushes in my yard when at one point, after just planting a bush, I looked down and noticed that my wedding band had slipped off of my finger and was laying on the ground. I picked it up and slipped it into my shirt pocket and continued on with my yard work. After planting the last of the bushes I headed back into the house and that’s when I realized that my ring was no longer in my shirt pocket. That was almost a week ago and now the yard needs mowed but I’m hesitant to mow with fear of damaging my ring. I have looked in my yard, priced replacement rings online and they are not cheap. Is there a chance that you can help me?” I asked him a few more questions and after finding out that the target was a 14 K, white gold wedding band, and not knowing what the environment was like I knew that the Deus was the right machine for the job due to its ability to change settings on the fly, to adapt to your environment in any given situation.  I was very confident that the recovery and return would be successful! So we made arrangements to meet up. 

  When I arrived at the location, my friend walked me around the yard and pointed out what he had done the day he lost the ring so that I could establish my search area. With knowing that the target was gold and most likely on the surface, I turned on the Deus and quickly checked my sensitivity, switched to 18 khz, and changed the audio to pitch. I began my search retracing his steps. I stopped along the way to investigate a target and quickly determined that it was not what we were looking for. Continuing on along the path I suddenly hit a very clear and consistent signal. I thought to myself, “that sounds just like it’s right on the surface”. Since it was in the right area I reached for my MI-6 Pin-pointer as I crouched down on the ground to investigate the signal. Before I even had the chance to activate the pin-pointer I could feel something under my hand in the grass. As I moved my hand away I could see a white gold wedding band peeking out of the grass. The Deus had located the ring and my friend was very happy to have his ring back! As for his wife, she had no problems taking this picture…You know what they say…Happy Wife, Happy Life! 5 minutes of work with the Deus saved the day! 

 

 

Hudson Valley Hunting By Grant Hansen

  When my friend told me he got a couple metal detecting permissions in an historic town in New York state, I was excited at the possibilities. The excitement grew when he informed me of the two properties: one built in the mid-1800s and was up the hill from the Hudson River, and the other built around 1790 and overlooked the Hudson. Game on!

   My two friends and I started our day at the mid-1800s house. Set beautifully on a hill leading down to the Hudson River, it offered about an acre of land for us to search. The ground was saturated with metal, old and new; ferrous and non-ferrous. My Deus seemed to handle it with no problem, calling out to me good tones worth investigating. After a few pieces of scrap copper, I got a solid, repeatable high tone. Digging through the ground was challenging as it was chock full of rocks; and of course, when on a private lawn, I aim to be as precise as possible with my plugs. I retrieved what I thought was solid silver fork, since it had such a nice luster to it. However, it turned out to be just plated. But I was on the board with a decent find.

Silver-plated fork.

  The plated theme continued to the next target, and I pulled out a gold-plated ring. It’s pretty corroded but at one point in history was probably quite nice.

Gold-plated ring

  The direction I was swinging led me to a very junky, but productive little area. By little, I mean about 15 square feet. While this may sound miniscule, I probably spent an hour retrieving solid signals amongst the irony chatter. The first good find in this area was a Fatty Indian Head penny. My Deus gave a perfect signal for it even though it was nestled next to a rusty nail, which came out of the same hole.

Fatty-Indian

  I also got on the board with some silver in the form of a 1945 Mercury dime which is in great shape.

1945 Mercury Dime

  The finds continued to come. I found an old spoon, a flat button, a pocket knife and about a dozen memorial pennies. The memorial pennies were daunting, but I persevered. I’m glad I did because in this junky area I found a beautiful dandy button with a GILT back mark. After the dandy, button I found a smaller flat button with a lot of the gilt left on it. I’m always happy when the gilt survives.

Dandy Button

 

Flat Button with Gilt

 

  Sometimes we find things that we simply have no clue as to what they are. Facebook groups and forums are often very helpful. This item, however, I’m stuck. It looks to me as if it might be part of a canteen or other small vessel. If any readers have thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Mystery Item – Do you know what it is?

  Perhaps my most intriguing find from this property was a very old, hand-forged spike, which was broken just above the tip. While I can’t say with one-hundred-percent certainty, there’s a chance it was used on a ship and then re purposed for a land-based structure. Being so close to the Hudson River, and the history that has sailed up and down its shorelines, imagining where it came from keeps the treasure hunter spirit alive in me.

Old Spike

  We packed up not too long after I found the spike, and headed over to the 1790s house. The three of us in no way scoured this property, so I’m hoping to have the opportunity to return to see what else I can find. As for the 1790 house – that will be a story for another time!

If you’d like to watch the video from this outing, check out my video!

 

Returning to the Michigan Cavalry camp By Don Westbrook

 

 

  I struggled knowing that this camp still had much more to offer I couldn’t get it out of my head. There was no doubt in my mind that this cavalry camp had to be holding more than a few bullets and common general service eagle buttons. My mind was set on recovering a sword hanger, martingale, maybe some spurs, sword belt plate, or a nice Eagle C. After a 45-minute drive I arrived at camp and was ready with the Deus in hand along with the 11” coil. Since I spent most of my time previously working the heavy iron patches, I decided to hunt along the edge of the camp where the iron wasn’t as pronounced. The GMI was showing low ground mineralization and I was not hearing much trash in the ground. This prompted me to raise my sensitivity and lower my reactivity level down to 2.

  The first few targets were modern trash, shortly after that I located a nice pocket of Spencer carbine bullets. The XP Deus had no problem locating them roughly 10” deep and spread across an area roughly 10’x10’. Digging a handful of dropped U.S. Civil War bullets is always fun, but I was after the uncommon stuff, the brass. Once I finished cleaning up the bullet signals I began to make my way towards another section of high ground. Then it happened, a large brass signal that nearly blew my ears off. I cautiously sunk my Predator Tool shovel into the ground, tracing out a nice wide plug so I wouldn’t run the risk of damaging the target. I rolled the plug over and saw that awesome color every relic hunter loves to see, GREEN! Right there in the bottom of the plug was a complete U.S. Cavalry spur! Instantly I let off a loud F&^% YEAH! Excuse my French but I’m a U.S. Army Infantry combat veteran, and that’s just how we roll, haha.

  Once I finished recovering my freshly dug spur I continued to search the immediate area in hopes for the other spur that might have been left behind. Camp lead, bullets, and modern trash was all that remained in the area. I had a feeling that there must have been something I missed so I decided to go back over the entire section I had just detected, this time with a different frequency. At the time I was running 7kHz, so I went ahead and shifted up to 12kHz and covered the area from a different direction. After 30 minutes of searching I heard a deep faint signal about 25 yards from where I dug the spur. The signal was clean and repeatable, just a bit faint. Signals like this always get me excited because they typically end up being something good.

  Once again, I cautiously dug down until the signal was out of the ground and in the loose dirt on top of the grass. I swung the coil over the loose dirt and a very loud and sweet tone came through, I knew it wasn’t a bullet and I knew it was small. Upon moving the dirt around I saw it, a beautiful Eagle C (Cavalry) coat button. This celebration was silent but involved a jersey shore like fist pump. Someone just happen to be driving by while I was celebrating and slowed down to see what I was doing. I just waved and smiled, they shook their head and kept driving, lol. I’m a firm believer in keeping the mood as light as possible while digging, especially when it comes to relic hunting. If you head out to a site with the wrong mindset, you will likely not have a very productive day. Metal detecting can be a mind game at times, keep your mind clear and your mood positive and I promise good things will happen.

 

Battle of Pocotaligo 1862. By Don Westbrook.

 

  I have been fortunate enough to travel to multiple states with my XP Deus in search of American Civil War relics. This specific trip landed me in South Carolina in search of relics from the Battle of Pocotaligo. In 1862, Union Brigadier General Brannan and just over 4000 men boarded 15 transport ships at Hilton Head, SC. His mission was “to destroy the railroad and railroad bridges on the Charleston and Savannah line”. Traversing up the Broad River and arriving at Mackay Point, less than ten miles from the objective. Two Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments headed for Pocotaligo. While two companies of engineers and the 48th New York regiment headed up the Coosawhatchie River with their sights on the Coosawhatchie bridge and later turning towards Pocotaligo destroying railroad tracks while in route.

 

  Located in Pocotaligo were Colonel Walker and his Confederate forces. Walker called for reinforcements from Savannah and Charleston, then deployed his force to intercept the Union forces on two fronts. One at the bridge and the other along with The Beaufort Volunteer Artillery on Mackey Point rd. Brannan’s troops engaged the Confederate forces near an abandoned plantation, as well as contesting against two Confederate cannons. Once Brannan’s forces returned artillery fire, the Confederate forces retreated back to their defensive positions in Pocotaligo. Brannan’s troops pursued but were held up on the edge of a muddy marsh for roughly two hours exchanging small arms and artillery fire against the Confederate forces. Once the Confederate reinforcements arrived and night fell, Brannon while under the cover of darkness, ordered a retreat and returned to Hilton Head.

6lb Solid shot Confederate cannon ball, fired by the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery. It was recovered near the “muddy swamp” with my XP Deus.

New York staff cuff button & Eagle Overcoat button likely dropped by the 48th NY and recovered with my XP Deus.

Lunch break in the muddy marsh.

 

The rise of the balloon fight! By Jon Tetreault.

 

  A few months back, I was out hunting a early colonial village that had been abandoned in the woods of central Massachusetts. The site has been a popular location for metal detectorists over the years. Targets are few and far between. I had to get smart and started moving brush and logs out of the way stepping down on barberry bushes to get my coil over the ground. I decided to take a walk into the woods to see if I could locate another cellar that may have been missed by others detectorists over the years. 

  To my surprise, I came across a very small shallow cellar depression in the ground. I started swinging the DEUS with my 11″ coil over the ground on the outer lip. Running the Hot Program I was getting a lot of low iron signals and some high 98-99 iron signals as well. I usually go by sound mostly so decided to notch out 98-99. After a few minutes I got a faint high tone in between some iron. I dug down and popped the plug out. When I began to pinpoint the hole I pulled out 3 nails and some scrap metal but there was still something there! I swing my coil over to re confirm. Started pinpointing around the hole again and it was driving me crazy because i couldn’t find the target! 

  Finally after all the nails and junk I narrowed it down to a small pile of dirt. To my surprise I pulled out a complete cuff-link!. Is I cleaned it off I began to see a fancy design that looked like what appeared to be a pineapple. Thinking no more of it I placed it in my pouch and moved on.
Returning home to clean up my finds I realized that the cuff-link design was not a pineapple but in fact a hot air balloon! As I normally do I posted my finds to one of the Facebook groups that I am a part of.

 

  One helpful member was able to shed some light on my hot air balloon cuff-link. Turns out that this cuff-link was made to commemorate the first hot air balloon flight in 1783 (On October 15, 1783, Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d’Arlandes were the first human passengers on a Montgolfier balloon. The balloon was in free flight, meaning it was not tethered. On January 19, 1784, a huge Montgolfier hot air balloon carried seven passengers to a height of 3,000 feet over the city of Lyons.)”

  The public was fascinated by balloon flight, and a craze for all things balloon was firmly established. The rage inspired clothing, jewelry, and just about every conceivable form of adornment for home or person. It illustrates just how momentous the development of flight really was and how the ability to fly has changed our world. That is my story of the finding of the 1780s commemorative cuff-link and my research into understanding the “Balloonania” craze that inspired the design!

~ Jon Tetreault

Michigan Cavalry Camp By Don Westbrook

 

 

  I have dedicated allot of time to researching Civil War period maps. The best maps you can obtain are those that have been hand drawn by the soldiers or officers that served in the Civil War. Every so often you get lucky and come across the maps by doing an online search and digging deep into the results. Although my favorite and arguably the best way to come across these hand drawn treasure maps is to discover them hidden in a soldier’s journal. Once I acquire a map I upload it to google earth and began the overlay process. Utilizing main roads and nearby water sources as reference points, by doing so I am able to triangulate an area of interest to begin my search. This is where I typically start when locating new spots.

  Once I had permission to search the area I set out with the XP Deus in hand. I adjusted my settings to my general search mode. I like to start out with my general search mode and make adjustments as I gain a better understanding of the current ground conditions. As I worked my way up the side of a gentle hill within the first five minutes I heard a very faint but clean repeatable signal. Roughly ten inches below the surface was a dropped Spencer Carbine bullet. Instantly I was amped and knew that I was on the correct path to the camp I had been searching for. Dropped Civil War bullets are an excellent sign, along with melted bullets or (camp lead) as we relic hunters like to call it. These items are typically your first find when searching for a camp.

 

  Continuing my search along the hillside I came to a nice level area that was easily accessible from the nearby period road bed. That’s when it happened, the awesome sound of iron in the ground. Listening for iron pockets is one trick that relics hunters will use, concentrated areas of iron signify previous civilization. Understanding the ground conditions have changed from relatively clean to heavily iron infested. Making adjustments to my settings was crucial to squeezing the most performance out of the XP Deus. I dropped my TX power down to 2, Reactivity was raised to 4, and Sensitivity adjusted to 85, I confirmed that my ground balance was accurate. This camp was loaded with Spencer, Merrill, and Smith carbine bullets. I even recovered a pistol bullet that still had a piece of the paper cartridge attached to it! Along with a few other goodies that I recovered at a later date, but that’s being saved for another story. There were so many targets in the ground, this lead me to believe the camp had not been discovered by past relic hunters. Thanks to the versatility of the XP Deus I was able to capitalize on the changing ground conditions and the results were truly impressive.

Westbrook’s XP Deus General Search Settings

Disc: 5.0

3 Tones, breakpoint 30

Tone 1: 100hz, Tone 2: 100hz, Tone 3: 775hz

Sensitivity: 90

TX Power: 3

Frequency: 7.8khz

Iron Vol: 3

Reactivity: 2.5

Silencer: -1

Audio Response: 4

Overload: 1

Notch: 00-00

Ground Balance: manual

 

 

Horsin’ Around for Colonial Relics By Grant Hansen

   I’m blessed to share so many of my metal detecting experiences with the person I consider to be my best friend. We both caught the detecting fever and decided to pursue the hobby at the same exact time – unbeknownst to each other. While that will make a great story for another day, I’ll now tell you about one of our most recent adventures.

   James, my aforementioned best friend, told me he had gained permission at a horse farm. It was a few acres of pasture that dated back to at least the 18th century. While we didn’t know much of its history beyond its age and the fact that it was in an old area of New Jersey, “18th century” is enough for us to get excited. We both planned a vacation day and anxiously waited for it to arrive so that we could see what this farm might be holding.

   It just so happened New Jersey and the rest of the east coast was experiencing torrential rain for what seemed like weeks. Since we are all-weather detectorists, we prepared for the worst and made sure we had all our rain gear. The property owner warned us that most of the property was flooded, but that the perimeters were accessible. We were game.

   The day of, it only rained for periods, and not too heavily. But the ground was saturated. We quickly realized that we weren’t mucking around and sliding around in just mud – this was a horse farm after all. We did our best to stick to the high spots, knowing that about 80% of the property would have to wait for another day. Conditions were tolerable since the XP Deus is so light; therefore, caked-on mud (and other stuff) didn’t really weigh me down.

Grant covered in mud and, well, it was a horse farm.

   Finds came slowly. The first area we focused on didn’t yield much more than modern garbage, until I found an Indian Head penny, and shortly after a gold-plated hair clip. Since it was mostly quiet we worked our way to another field. There we started to find flat buttons, so we started to get excited. The problem was we just couldn’t access most areas… it was so muddy and manure ridden that we’d risk losing our boots.

King George II half penny with 5 Indian Head pennies.

Vintage gold-plated hair clip.

 

   We stuck it out, finding a few more buttons. Toward the end of the day I got a great high signal on my Deus and dug optimistically. It was deep! When I finally retrieved the target, I was delighted to see a round copper disc. “Colonial!” I shouted. James came running over to share in my excitement. It wouldn’t be until later that I would ID it as a King George II half penny. Shortly after that, James found his colonial coin snagging a beautiful 1772 half real. Our two good finds got us very excited and we couldn’t wait to plan a return trip on a dryer day.

Buttons from day one.

   That dryer day came about two weeks later. Some parts of the field were still muddy, but most had opened up to us. We started on the field where James found his half real and quickly found more flat and ball buttons, Indian Head pennies and horse tack (mostly modern). The horses were very curious and friendly, following us around as we detected. At times, it was a little intimidating. One horse actually grabbed my Deus as if he wanted to find treasure of his own. Luckily I wrestled it back with little effort.

   Not too long into the day’s hunt, I got a solid high tone. I dug it up to find a thick, quarter sized, copper looking coin. I couldn’t tell what it was. James suggested it was a 2-cent coin, but I dismissed the idea thinking the tone would have sounded lower. But he was right – after cleaning I saw that it was a semi-key date 1870 2-cent coin.

1870 2-cent coin.

   Because it’s often difficult to properly ID something in the field, I never throw anything out unless it’s obvious garbage. I found what I thought was a beat up, mangled piece of odd-shaped metal. I couldn’t remove any of the hard-packed dirt from it, so I threw it in my tumbler with the clad I found. (Note to reader: I don’t suggest you put unknown finds into your tumbler as you’ll risk ruining something valuable.) In this case, the tumbler worked great and I was shocked to see that I had found a thimble. I got lucky with that one!

Thimble revealed by the tumbler.

   We wandered onto the adjacent field and started exploring. After about an hour, James found a colonial copper. I then found two flat buttons in the same area. It seemed like a little hot spot so I gridded it carefully. I then got a banging high tone, and once again, dug optimistically. My eyes lit up when I saw a large copper coin – a large American copper coin! I called James over and pointed to what I knew was a large cent. For some reason, I haven’t found many large cents. In fact, I have found more half reals, so this made me very happy. It turned out to be the oldest large cent I’ve found so far – 1816.

1816 Coronet Head large cent.

   By day’s end we were exhausted. It was a long, hot day of digging and swinging, starting in the early morning. We both had great finds, and that is a key ingredient of a good day. You want to share not only your own good fortune, but in the good fortune of your buds. We both share the struggle, the excitement, the effort, the passion … so we should both be rewarded equally. It’s magic when that happens!

Group photo from day two.

Hunting Lee’s Retreat with the XP Deus By Don Westbrook

   Ask any Civil War relic hunter to name their top two states to recover relics in, and I promise you Virginia will be one of those top two. A while back I had the opportunity to meetup with a Virginia local that claimed he lived right off of General Lee’s retreat route. This route stretches from Petersburg to the Appomattox Court House, which is where Lee surrendered to Grant on April, 9th 1865. He also told me that he was interested in learning how to metal detect. Before heading over to the Virginia I called him up to give him some history on the area. I hopped on google earth and located his house to see exactly where he was located. He truly lived right on one of the main retreat routes! I dug around and managed to locate some old period maps to overlay on google earth. After I finished playing around with my map overlays and doing my research I dropped pins on every piece of property that I believed would hold relics. I told him since he was the local it would be much easier for him to get the permission. I don’t know how many of you have tried gaining permission in Virginia, but let me tell you it isn’t easy, especially when you’re from out of state.

    Luckily he was able to secure permission to nearly every site I had flagged on google earth. I arrived at my hotel late Friday night and decided to drive by his house and do some scouting from the truck. Instantly I noticed sections of the old period road beds paralleling the current road. I also noticed the Civil War trails signs everywhere, this was truly exciting! The next morning we linked up and discussed a battle plan. The plan was to leap frog along the retreat route hitting as much property in the limited amount of time we had. I explained to him that we needed to walk a pattern over each field. It would limit the time on a piece of property that isn’t producing. The first location was a nice gentle rolling hill that was located close to a water source. With the XP in hand I did a quick ground balance and checked my general search settings I use. I always start out with my general search program and make adjustments that best suit the location I’m detecting. We recovered a couple bullets here and there. The only problem was that there wasn’t a very high concentration of relics. So I walked over to him and said that we can come back to this site but we need to go to the next spot. We were on a time hack, lunch time was rapidly approaching, and I had a good feeling there was something better out there.

    We jumped into the truck and headed to the next location, which was only a couple minutes down the road. This was a perfect location for soldiers to rest and water their horses. Again we walked our pattern and pulled a few relics out. More bullets and a couple J-hooks that fell off of soldiers ruck sacks, along with a thin gold ring. After we finished our pattern over the field I mentioned that we should keep moving. The fact that we were finding relics was good, but we were not locating pockets of relics that signal a camp. The relics we were recovering were to spread out, suggesting they were dropped during travel. Due to the amount of troop movement that was on this route back in 1865 we should be locating condensed pockets of relics. Not to mention this is Virginia, where relic dreams come true, haha! Once again we were on the move to another location marked on the map. This specific location looked to be the best yet. It was the perfect location for troops to rest. It was a natural bottle neck due to the fact they had to cross a small bridge. With the XP in hand, we began the search. He decided to check the high hill and I went low. Knowing how many miles these troops had to cover. I had a hunch that the last thing those troops wanted to do was climb a big hill just to sit down for a short rest. After roughly ten minutes I began to recover more bullets. But there was something different about this site. All of the relics were in a small area roughly the size of a football field. This is exactly what I was looking for! The site was located right off of the period road bed, there was a water source nearby and the terrain was friendly.

     The dirt was a nice damp sandy soil mixture, really easy to dig in. There wasn’t much trash and nearly every hole dug produced what we were looking for. The damp conditions helped magnify the target responses. Most of the relics were roughly 11-13” deep in the ground and they were plentiful. My 9” coil was picking up the deep bullets fairly well. Obviously when you are digging small targets down to and past a foot in the ground, your target signals weaken. Having years of experience with this machine I knew what to listen for. Most people assume that the small 9” coil doesn’t have depth but under the right conditions it will detect deep. Knowing that the targets were deep I dropped my reactivity down from 3 to 2, frequency down to 4khz, TX Power 3, and ramped up the sensitivity to the max. Bullet after bullet and j-hook after j-hook came out of the ground. We also found percussion caps, pistol balls and grommets. We were digging fast since we were running out of daylight. After a couple hours passed it was time for a much deserved break. My friend asked to see how many relics I had recovered so far, so I dumped my pouch out on the tailgate of the truck. So far I had recovered over fifty bullets, a small army of j-hooks with some other odds and ends. I asked to see how many he had recovered; he replied with not that many. Mind you he wasn’t swinging an XP that day, and he was new to the hobby. That being said he still recovered a very respectable amount of relics for being new to the hobby.

    After a short water break we were back at it. By now the sun was starting to set and there were still allot of targets left to be uncovered. Minie balls and Williams cleaner bullets were coming out of the ground like prairie dogs at Yellowstone. For those of you that don’t hunt for civil war relics… A Minie ball is a type of muzzle loading bullet that has 3 distinctive rings and a conical base. These are commonly found in a .58 caliber. A Williams cleaner bullet is also is a .58 caliber. It was designed to be fired through the barrel to clean it. It removes excess black powder build up and lead residue in the barrel. This day had proved to be the best Civil War bullet day I have ever had! Once it was all said and done I managed to recover over 70 bullets, 13 j-hooks, 7 buttons, a gold ring, and a mixture of percussion caps and hardware. After I returned home my new friend contacted me a few days later and said after witnessing what the XP can do, he was going to purchase one as soon as possible. I told him, “I was going to come back and setup my tent in his back yard, lol.” Ever since then he has been relic hunting with his new XP Deus, utilizing the knowledge I shared with him. He has proven to be a very good relic hunter. I am glad I was able to help him along the way. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again… Dreams come true when you’re relic hunting in Virginia. Especially when you’re armed with the XP Deus!