Hunted Out?

Man I hear this said allot about everything from whole placer districts to club claims and it makes me shake my head. I wonder if the folks that are saying this realize that it is perhaps their lack of education or skills that is really the problem. For instance have you ever looked at the coil on a metal detector then looked around you at the land and tried to estimate how long it would take to hunt every square inch with that detector? I mean even a 20 acre claim would take years to cover efficiently, many years.

I am not trying to hurt anyone’s ego here and I am just trying to make a point that may get you over some gold. You see the thing is I have never heard a truly successful nugget hunter say that anywhere is hunted out and though it may be harder to tag a couple nuggets they are still there. There are many factors that are involved here such as new erosion, inexperienced hunters before you, new technology, etc.

I have many small washes in Arizona that I can return to after a couple years or after a unusually heavy series of downpours and squeak out a few more precious nuggets due to new material being eroded into the small drainage’s and big ones as well. Also as this material is moving it leaves the ground around it a inch or more shallower than the last time I visited in some cases.

On top of that how in the world can someone know an area is “hunted out” without even going there? Folks if you are serious enough about nugget shooting to buy a $800.00+ metal detector why would you not be serious about hunting with it? Follow your own trail and hunt like you mean it. If you get to an area and already think you will be unsuccessful guess what? You will likely not score if your heart is not into it….

Just saying…..

Good hunting and be careful out there.

Just Rambling

Looking at the economy and gold prices these days all I can say is WOW! When I started this hobby gold was still under 250.00 an ounce and it was allot of work to make 100.00 with a drywasher and that was what got me started in metal detecting for gold nuggets in the first place. Back then we were limited to VLF technology for the most part and the Pulse Induction detectors had not yet really become popular or readily available to the average prospector.

Oh, but how times have changed and over the last 20 years we have seen huge advances in metal detectors with the Minelab PI detectors being king, now with the latest technology once again the newest super detector from Minelab, the GPZ-7000 with all new ZVT technology. This detector has the ability to work virtually any gold bearing ground efficiently and quietly ignoring most ground noise and false signals. These advances have also resulted in thousands of ounces of gold being found if not more in the same time span by pros and hobbyists alike….

Now of course the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 equipped with a 24 bit micro processor on board a killer VLF running at 45 kHz is taking the industry by storm with it’s ability to hear the smallest gold as well as bigger stuff like no VLF detector before it. Folks new to this are very quickly finding their first nugget and with a price of under 800.00 most folks can afford this little beast.

The best part is that gold is still being found with detectors even if it isn’t near as “easy” as it once was mostly because access is becoming more and more limited to someone wanting to begin in prospecting without joining a club or buying a claim. This is mostly due to folks claiming up every bit of ground in most of the known placer areas of this country, why? well with gold around 1300.00 an ounce every flim-flam man, dreamer, sucker, and actual prospector are claiming all ground with any chance of there being a flake of gold in the ground!

There are more claims for sale on auction sites and website these days than I have ever seen and for high dollar with all kinds of promises of riches meant to widen the eyes of those with big dreams and deep pockets. Many buy these claims sight unseen and then want help later when they discover there is little profit to actually be made after investing into equipment and doing much backbreaking labor. Often out of frustration the claim is then dropped and reclaimed by the original seller to again be put up for sale!

These scams have always been around and always be as long as folks will fall for it, but with today’s gold prices it will become more and more common sadly. But the internet can also be a great educational tool and if these folks would do a few hours research before buying a claim and actually visit it to test the ground without the seller’s “help” much of this would simply stop.

For someone new to the hobby part of this education should come from joining one of many prospecting clubs across the country and getting out to see what mining and prospecting is really about. Many folks have never had a long term relationship with a #2 shovel and are amazed at how much hard work is involved in mining gold from it’s host material placer or hard rock. But right now there are places on many of the club claims I can use that I can take the family and camp overnight and run the drywasher recovering a couple grams of flakes and fines with the kids and grand kids. Yup takes some work, but sure is fun!

I have also started spending more time working with the drywasher by myself and have been doing pretty well for 6 to 8 hours worth of shoveling and I do not work so hard as to over do it most times. Heck with gold worth over 50.00 a gram it is fun to see a couple grams after a day in the Arizona desert just a few miles from home.

Yeah I know I was rambling some here, but I do that sometimes….

Good hunting out there, Bill

Pack Rat Gold

After a few months of temperatures well above 105 degrees in the desert it was nice to see it begin to cool down into the low 90s for a high signaling the begin of my quest for the packrat placer. Oh yeah you probably have never heard of this placer so I will lay out a brief bit of history.

It was back in the early 1900s when a lone prospector (Tucker) set up camp at Willow Creek in Southwestern Arizona looking for enough placer gold to keep him in beans, bacon, coffee, and tobacco. After panning some color from the few pools left in the creek in mid June Tucker managed to get a very nice half ounce nugget from a pool below a feeder gulch coming from the small hills to the West of Willow Creek. Following this gulch up and working the gravels in the pools below gradually filled several bean cans with nuggets and fine gold. Tucker was a smart fellow and made a series of small dams with covered pools cut into the bedrock to help him retain enough water to drink and work well past when all surface water would normally be gone. It was now late into July and there was not enough water to pan even in his covered pools so Tucker was fixing to head back into Yuma for the rest of the summer to wait out the heat.

The night before he planned to leave Tucker packed up his gear and laid it out with his saddle and mule packs putting the gold in his saddle bags in buckskin pouches. About halfway through the night Tucker awoke to the sound of a critter going through his gear and fearing his remaining grub was in danger grabbed a stick from the firewood pile poked at his saddlebags startling a large packrat that bolted toward the brush, but a fast and accurate swing of that long stick had disastrous results for the poor rat killing him instantly. Feeling smug Tucker stuffed his messed gear back into the bags and went to sleep.

That morning as the horse and mule were loaded Tucker noticed a hole in his saddlebag with gold dust spilling from it and cussing that rat for chewing into the bag he began unpacking to save his precious gold, but it was gone…Only the fine gold that hadn’t spilled from the pouch into the saddlebag after being chewed apart by the packrat remained. All of the nuggets were gone as well as his pocket watch, and other objects small enough for the critter to haul off.

Now it would reason that a feller could just dig up that packrat’s nest to get his gold back and go to Yuma right? Well there were several nests in the area that Tucker could find and over the following week digging all of them up he was not able to locate his stolen gold nuggets. It was now just too hot to bear and with very little water left Tucker was forced to leave for Yuma without most of his gold. He still had several ounces of fines to get him through the summer in Yuma and he figured to return in the fall to work his gulch and look for that rats nest with almost 20 ounces of stolen nuggets in it.

Two weeks after arriving in Yuma Tucker was thrown from his horse in a freak accident and took a nasty hit on his head cracking his skull badly. After 3 days he died, but he told his story of the gold placer and thieving packrat to the town doctor before he died. The doctor and his two sons searched for tuckers gulch at Willow Creek, but were unable to find it or the packrat nest full of nuggets and eventually gave up the search. You see there was never a claim filed and Tucker was very careful to cover his work going as far as to even cover his man made pools and small dams figuring to re-build them in the Fall. Not knowing what to look for and figuring Tucker was delirious after his injury they simply quit and never said much to anyone. Not being miners these fellows never attempted to work the placer gravels.

Several years later one of the Sons relayed the story to a friend who tried in vain to find this lost placer and the story made it into a newspaper in the form of a short article that I found on the internet way at the end of a search engine results page using key words while searching for such articles. This article got my attention and I began searching for the area and more information about Willow Creek. There was surprisingly little to go on, but I did gather enough info to make a search, but it was late in the spring with temps in the desert well into the danger zone so I waited for fall to begin.

Now there are several Willow Creeks in Arizona and not knowing if it was even named creek really slowed down locating an area to start except for a mention in the article about the area being in a area 30 miles Easterly of Yuma. Not much to go on and with no Willow Creek mentioned on maps it looked like this may be a long search. I began by looking for creeks or gulches that may be able to hold water for most of the year and as luck would have it there were very few with one below an area named Black Willow Springs. This is not on today’s maps, but was listed on an old survey map of the area. This was the best clue I had so I followed up on it.

Getting into the area was not at all easy with no man made roads to the drainage below Black Willow Springs so after setting up a base camp I had to hike about 2 miles over and through some very rough terrain. I made this hike each day for 4 days not finding any gold with my metal detector, but there was visible gold in the dry creek if you cleared an area on bedrock and blew out the cracks with a straw. Was I on the right track? I’ll tell you one thing there was no water at the spring or any moisture in the creek, but you could see that it did carry water throughout part of the year by the dried algae on the boulders and in the dried pools where water had once been. It was one of these pools that got my attention… It looked man made.

I moved the gravels off the area in and around my discovery to find a chain of 5 hand cut basins in the granite bedrock and connecting each was a groove cut into the bedrock to channel the water to the next pool. The last catch basin was cut up under the bedrock where there was a large crack making a sort of natural covered basin ant it had been hollowed out into the decomposed granite into a large covered tank of sorts now filled with gravel. I did not have to wonder if this was what I was searching for, I was here at Tuckers “Willow Creek” There was no real evidence of the area being worked so I began detecting the benches and edges of the drainages entering the creek above and below the water system Tucker had cut into the bedrock. In the second drainage I found my first nugget.

As I worked this drainage as time would allow me to return I managed several ounces of both smooth and somewhat coarse placer nuggets some of which were well over three quarters of an ounce, but the nuggets stopped about a quarter mile from the head of the gulch in the hills above. I then got out of the wash itself and began working the slopes of the small surrounding rises in the dissected pediment. Again I began finding nuggets scattered throughout the area mixed with fragmented quartz and ironstone. With a pattern emerging I branched out into the surrounding area over the next few seasons looking for similar terrain and placer gravels and have been rewarded with many small patches of nuggets making it a nugget shooter’s dream.

Nope haven’t gotten rich in the area, but I sure have dug a lot of nuggets and still can scrape up more there if I work hard enough. Over the 10 years since finding the spot I have hit it pretty hard and have never taken a soul in there and so far there is no sign anyone has discovered my secret, but it is getting real hard to score as most of the good spots have been gone over several times with me always hoping a newer model detector will eek out a deeper prize missed by it’s predecessor. But what happened in April made the game more interesting….

While working an area of the first gulch I found gold in above the basins, on a stretch of well hunted bedrock I got a booming signal in shallow gravels recently deposited by winter flash flooding. Now like I said this wash has been picked clean of all trash of which there was very little in the first place and cleaned out as well were any sizable nuggets. Hoping a nice nugget had fallen in from the banks made up of in some places deep gravels of the same materials the gold was coming from above, I carefully dug the target. I still scraped it with my pick, but what I found made me stop to catch my breath…

I had just dug up a back plate from an old pocket watch!

I had all but forgotten the story of the gold nuggets stolen by a pack rat so long ago along with a watch and other goodies, but now it all cam rushing back to me. Does this mean that somewhere above this spot along this very drainage there is a long abandoned rat nest filled with gold nuggets? So as I write this I am once again dreaming of finding that lost treasure soon as I feel that if the watch back was in the wash all of a sudden that perhaps a recent gully washer caved in a section of bank where a certain pack rat made a home so long ago.

Which also means that perhaps this rats hidden stash is now within reach of my detector. What if…..

Good hunting…..

Detectors and Success

Man what a ride it has been for folks in the metal detecting business/hobby since I started detecting in the early 1990’s with a Whites Gold Master metal detector.  From the earlier VLF technology to today’s super detectors I have changed brands, types, and other equipment many times with Minelab my weapon of choice for nearly 25 years now.

I started out slow in the gold nugget hunting business quickly giving up after digging nothing but trash for several hours and going back to using my trusty drywasher since I could always find myself a little bit and sometimes quite a bit of gold and pickers. During this period of my evolution as a Nugget Shooter I did not know that my lack of success was nothing to do with the detector, desert, old timers throwing trash everywhere, or how I was holding my mouth, it was lack of education, trust, research, and impatience. I was however hungry for knowledge and reading all I could about locating placer gold and metal detecting.

Back then there were not nearly as many in the field detecting and folks using other gold recovery methods thought most of us a little off our rocker so books on actually learning how to detect gold placers were few, but I read all I could find. Then I ran across a book by Jim Straight called “Follow the Drywashers/ Nuggetshooters Bible.


I read it cover to cover several times and quickly realized several mistakes I had been making. One thing Jim said was “always check your header pile for missed nuggets” the reason being the classifier or grizzly that separated the rocks and larger material from material that sifted through to the riffles let any nuggets larger than the 3/8 to 1/2 inch screen fell off with the rocks etc. into the header pile.


The old timers knew they were missing some of the larger gold this way and grabbed up any they saw, but a large percentage were missed all together. So I followed this advise metal detector right on top of my own drywasher’s waste pile. I had been loading my equipment to go home and I swear I looked at that pile several times while doing it and never saw the nugget, but my detector did. Right on top of the pile was a beautiful nugget weighing a few grams or so and I could see it plain as day after the detector sounded off.

I looked around me at the old timer’s drywash piles up and down the wash and began hunting them and was now finding nuggets by the dozens sometimes daily, but easily a few to many ounces a month. On one of these trips I drove by some fellers sitting on the tailgate of a truck eating lunch and they had two metal detectors leaning against the truck. Well I stopped to say hello and met my new mentor Jim Straight in the flesh as well as another well known nugget hunter T-Bone. Jim and I have become very good friends over the years and I always enjoy talking with him when I can.


Over the following years I learned much from Jim, T-Bone, and many other skilled nugget hunters which led me eventually to becoming quite skilled myself sharing the desire to share these skills with others. You see to know I helped others to learn the skills needed to find gold nuggets on a regular basis is something that make me happy and somehow repay friends like Jim, Richard Delahanty and others for what they taught me.

All successful hunters will tell you one thing over and over and that is to trust your detector, to do this you must take the time to listen very carefully to what it is telling you. It is talking to you, yes in beeps, grunts, buzzing, and other sounds that you need to understand to trust what it is saying, but that is a long subject I will address in another article.

I will say “Do not expect your metal detector to find ANYTHING” on it’s own, educate yourself and do research then learn your detector inside and out to help you recover the gold YOU found.

First real Handful of Gold Nuggets

My First Handfull of Nuggets

One of my older writings to share today….

Many years ago when I was still quite green at the nugget shooting game I made my first real find. I already had found some nuggets near my home, but they were only coming in mostly ones and twos. Every now and then I’d find several in one area, but not often. So I decided to hit the books and find a better spot and after some reading decided on the Quartzsite area Due to it’s history for gold nuggets.

So packing up the truck and loading up Ben my loyal companion of the 4 legged variety we hit the road, Ben has since fallen to old age and I sure miss the old boy. Quartzsite is located in west central Arizona along Interstate 10 near the border of California and was about 150 miles from where I lived at the time so I planned on camping out for a couple of days in the area I had targeted for my hunt.

I stopped in Quartzsite for a few supplies then drove the 11 or so miles to my turnoff at Tom Wells Road. Driving through a truck stop and heading into the desert I came to the old Hwy 60 and turned right following it to the first left into the placer area. Following the map through the maze of roads and trails was no easy task as there are usually more roads than are shown and this was before GPS technology was available to us civilians. Any way after an hour or more I managed to locate Goodman Wash and from there I was able to locate the area I planned to start my hunt.

Well plans change as we all know and mine were changed for me by claim markers. So old Ben and I climbed back into the truck and drove a couple more miles and turned onto a old trail following it back a mile or so to it’s end. This would be camp and although not the exact spot I had in mind there was evidence of placer work in the main drainage as well as some of the smaller ones.

Now I had seen no one up to this point, but as soon as I finished setting up camp an old blue Chevy pickup truck came bouncing down the trail to my camp. I knew he had to be coming here because I was at the end of the trail. So I put Ben in the truck and waited, turns out this is the fellow that has the claims at the first spot I stopped and he was just seeing what I was up to.

Well we talked for quite a while over a cold drink and boy did I get an ear full! The old boy even pointed a finger for me and mentioned a small drainage I should try. After he left I realized we never even exchanged names, but I guess that isn’t always important. I waved as he bounced over the hill and went back to getting set up to hunt nuggets.

So I got my Fisher Gold Bug all set up and headed over the ridge to find that spot. As I crested the ridge down below I could see the placer work that had been done in all of the small gulches and this is were I started my hunt. I began by working in the first gulch I came to and my very first target was a nugget of about a penny weight. I thought at that point I was really into it and got right back after it, I got another signal right away and dug a bullet. The rest of the day went like that bullet, wire, rusty metal and every other kind of metal trash you can imagine.

So on my way back to camp I decided to swing a few tailing piles before calling it a day. Again lot’s of trash! Then on the third or fourth pile I got a really good signal after raking down the top 4 inches with my pick. I dug down another 6 inches or so and got the target into my plastic scoop. What a beauty, gold with purple quartz through it and it had to be near 4 penny weight. I hunted until dark finding a very small piece in another pile then called it quits for the day with a new plan for tomorrow. Tailing piles!!!

The next morning I was up with the sun and feverishly raking tailing piles. By noon I was back at camp wondering why I had not found a nugget yet. So after lunch I packed up the truck and walked back over the hill to hunt for a few hours before heading home. I walked a ways to a new area and began raking a few piles and only found trash. Stopping to look around I noticed that the old timers stopped working this little gulch about 100 feet from where it began.

It was getting into mid afternoon so I decided to work this gulch to the top and head home. I began just below where they had stopped working and found several small bits of wire then I got a nugget, a nice one. After 6 hours or so of trash I now felt much better, but I was not ready for what came next. Every few steps I would get a target and every target was GOLD! My old dog must have thought me nuts the way I was dancing around. By the time I got 3/4 of the way to the top it was starting to get late and I had a good handful of nuggets.

Now gold is funny stuff, I didn’t know what to do. I had to go home to the family and had to go to work the next day, but leaving the patch, my first real patch was unthinkable. Common since won out in the long run and I drove home planning on returning the following weekend. Let me tell you it was a good feeling to show the family that long sought after first handful of nuggets all found on one outing. I returned to the area on and off over the years always finding more gold and to this day if you work hard enough in the area you can still squeak one out?

The gold in the title photo is not the handful in the story, but another handful from other stories…..

Good Hunting…..

Tools? You Possess Them From Day One.

So you have over the last few years or months set yourself up to recover gold very efficiently…. Detector, sluice, pans, and other stuff ya found online or heard of others using and you are ready to hunt right? welllllllll maybe where are you going with your new stuff and why? Why what you say? what makes you think the spot you are going is “the one”? There are just a few questions you need to ask yourself my friends.

The thing is that in the year 2018 we have many more options with which to prospect for and recover gold. Yes I said recover, why? Your metal detector, sluice, #2 shovel, drywasher or any other gizmo you own only is able to find gold after YOU have done that yourself. Sorry folks, but ya can’t just “wing it” when it comes to gold prospect, nugget shooting, panning or any way you put it. You must do research like where they been, what they found, what did they find it with, how deep, and on and on and….

NO IT IS NOT EASY!!!!!!!!! sorry I yelled, but if you wans to become a prospector or miner there is allot of work involved and a multitude of was to process material once you feel it is worth time, fuel, equipment, and effort…. whoops I left out profit. Yep, yep I did because for the casual miner doing it for the pure enjoyment of spending time outdoors with friends is no looking for “profit” though it is the topic around many a campfire it may not be why you are even there.

Then you have the big buck miners that invest millions to make millions (or hope to) again the fact remains research and perhaps a tough of luck is the key to success. Always has been always will… You folks get lucky and hit it big tripping over an outcrop of gold, but more hit it big cramming their head full of the info to lead them to the metal they seek. Do you want to depend on luck or a little history, geology, and serious research?

I pick #2

I will save how for other posts or seminars I do, but YOU are the key to success, simple as that.


The Nugget Hunter #2

RIP my good friend….. I have several of good friend Richard Delahanty’s writing and miss him dearly  and his writings are very educational. I can not remember when this article was written, but would guess in late 1990s or early 2000’s, enjoy.

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 introduction 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

It would be so interesting to sit at the campfire and talk with my old friend today and hear what he thinks of the technology we have to use today….

The Sonoran Desert with Mikayla

I have always loved the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and that has not changed for 40 years or more mainly due to my love for metal detecting for gold nuggets. The picture of my now grown and 19 year old daughter at a young age in one of our favorite gold hunting areas brought back a flood of memories as I stumbled upon it while moving files to a new laptop today that she gave me for Christmas.

We used to spend allot of time walking and just enjoying the desert and it’s smells, sounds, critters, and collecting rocks and minerals while I detected for gold nuggets much of the time and yep I still do.

That was a wonderful day, but after detecting for a couple hours she became bored watching me swing the coil, dig a trash target lie bits of wire and other junk the old timers threw around 100 years before and began with the “daddy lets go home” bit. Naturally my reaction was usually “OK, right after I find a nugget” and I would continue on.

I think Mikayla was 4 or 5 in this photo and after my comment she started walking around looking for rocks and doing what a bored child does while chattering at me making it hard to hear signals from my detector in my headset. I finally asked her to please be a bit quieter so I could hunt then go home after scoring a gold nugget.

With that she defiantly crossed her little arms and said “well daddy if you will come over here there is a big nugget under this rock” DADDY, there is a nugget right over here under this big rock” With that I let out a small sigh and walked to where she was standing and said slightly impatiently “where”

She pointed at a large chunk of Basalt and said right here and being a good daddy and to humor her I swung my coil over the rock and got a nice smooth signal mixed with the sound some types of Basalt give us due to mineralization in them. So I moved the rock with my foot and swung the coil back over the spot, it screamed at me indicating a metal target in the ground that was under her rock.

Well I dug it up expecting yet another bullet or bit of trash, but what I found was a beautiful quartz and gold specimen weighing near a quarter of an ounce!


I was dumbfounded and how the heck could she possibly know a nugget that size and over 8 inches deep was under that rock she randomly pointed out? While naturally I was fired up and after we did a little happy nugget dance I got ready to go back to hunting.


“yes Mikayla”

Keeps swinging coil in same general area….



“You said we could go home if you found a nugget remember?”

“Yes I remember”

So off we went to show our prize to her mom at home and tell her how daddy hunted all over until I showed him where the nugget was. Oh my friends believe me when I say I tried to get her to sniff out a few more like that, but it was a one in a million chance that she pointed right there and there was a nugget waiting for me.  This is a favorite memory for both of us and just think if she could do that on a regular basis?

I am sure she will tell this story herself long after I am done with my metal detecting days and it will always make me smile….

Bill Southern



From the diary of the Mad Prospector…….

Man time can get away from a feller and you turn around to find years have passed before you get around to “getting right back” to a potential gold bearing spot and 9 years sure can change the look of the landscape. So I was driving about 3 miles back to the fork in the road where I took the wrong turn to get headed in the right direction. The area was slowly becoming more familiar as we drove, but allot had changed. The roads were very overgrown and somehow my memory was playing some tricks on me. Now back on track Joyce and I were only a few miles from Gurly Gulch.

As I said allot has changed and now DJ my 4 legged hunting partner is gone and I am with my new hunting partner Joyce who is human and one of the best things to ever happen to me. It was her idea that we get back out here to look for more nuggets as well as the source of the “bat cloud” from the mountain side. She was also aware of the legend I am about to tell you about and having been born and raised in Yuma this was a common tale and also sought after by her father. Strange two people can meet and find such an odd thing in common along with everything else and we figured it may be something more than chance so here we were deep in the Arizona desert chasing a rainbow and swarm of bats.

The story goes like this, and is what after locating Trevor’s placer claims and seeing the bats rang a bell in my head, plus realizing this was likely the same area my interest was aroused….

The Lost Vampire Bat Mine is a long, long, way from tropical Yucatan, where vampire bat makes its home. Places like Chichen Itza and Tizimin and eastward, at the Bahia Chetumal on the coast of Quintana Roo.The Lost Vampire is in the stark Baboquivari range of Arizona’s Pima County, west of the Altar Valley and marking the eastern boundryof the Papago Indian Reservation. To Anglo ears, the place-names–Gu Oidak, Ali Ak Chin and Chukut Kuk– are more Asiatic than Mexican or Indian.

The bats in this lost mine story were Mexican brown bats, that hid by day in abandoned adobe buildings, old churches, caves and old mine shafts. These little bats would rather eat bugs than suck blood.

Edward Nelson, cheif of the U.S. Biological Survey, wrote in the National Geographic Magizine of may, 1918, that ” at Tucson, I once saw them, a short time before dark, issuing from a small window in the gable of a church numbers that in the half-light they gave the appearance of smoke pouring out of the opening. At the town of Patzcuaro, near the southern end of the Mexican tableland, I saw two rooms of an old adobe house occupied by as many of them as could possibly hang from the rough ceiling. They are plentiful in caves and may be heard frequently by day shuffling uneasily about and squeaking shrilly at one another.”

The hills and deserts of the Lost Vampire story have a long hostory of mining. There is a tradition and a folklore of Spanish mines in the Cerro Colorado. There is an abandoned mine near Three Peaks in the Baboquivaris. In the hills around Arivaca – a scant dozen miles from the Baboquivari range – are a dozen mines: the Albatros, the San Luis, the Brouse, theLas Guijas, the Amando, the Liberty, the Charles, the Black Princess, the Cerro Colorado, the Ajax, the Colorado Clark and the Edwards.Mabye there is one more, a gold mine that was hidden from the white man by an old Papago Indian.
The old Indian had gold nuggets to trade at Aravica and at the Tucson fiesta long after the placer mines in the Altar Valley and the Aravica hills had played out in the late 1800s. The source of his nuggets was a mystery for years, but in an uncharacteristic episode of talking openly with a white man told the storekeeper at Aravica about it.

Years before, the Indian confided, he had wounded a deer and had pursued it into the foothills of the east slopes of the Baboquivaris. At sunset he sat down to rest, on a long ridge running northward to a high peak. Suddenly there was a great outpouring of bats, hundreds of them, from an opening in the mountainside. He looked, and found the small mouth of a cave that had been widened, he found upon entering, into a timbered mine. There were buckskin bags of gold nuggets and coarse gold, mine tools, a small shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe and several bars of gold.

The bats and the hovering spirits of the long dead Spaniards made the old Indian very uneasy. But as he fled, he stooped to pick up one buckskin bag. This he hid in an olla in his hut.

The Arivica storekeeper was confident he could find the mine. He knew which arroyo to follow and which peak to climb. Then all he had to do was wait for the bats to fly from the mine at sunset. He found a man to mind his store and, three days later prepared to ride out to for the bat cave gold. He had loaded his gear onto a pack mule and was saddling his horse when the old Indian approached “I was afraid,” the old Indian said, “After I told a white man of the gold. So I waited until all of the bats came back to the cave. I then closed the cave with dirt and rocks. The bats will die and they will no longer signal, at sunset, where the mine is. No white man will ever see it.”

So what if those bats did not die? What if those bats found another exit from the old mine, an air shaft perhaps the old Indian did not know about?
Well we were out there to have a look for that shaft or cave to tell us if we were indeed on the track of an actual lost stash of gold. Yeah I know what you are thinking, but we both sort of had this feeling and if we didn’t do this it would always haunt us. Sometimes you just need to drop everything and go for it and Joyce and I had already done it once when we met and fell in love and it is just right to this day so the hunt for this mine seemed the right thing to do.

Once we got to my old camp spot we set up and got busy cooking dinner since we got in after dark and missed the chance to see the bats exit for the night, but there were Brown Bats fluttering around our camp as one often sees at night in the desert chasing insects. It was a beautiful night and the moon would be full in a couple days making for a bright night in the desert. Sitting by the fire that night we talked about how we would go about looking for this lost stash of gold and actually decided to put it off and metal detect for nuggets the next day instead and wait to try to spot the bats in the evening as they emerged to feed for the night.

It was up with the sun for some oatmeal and coffee then back to the area I last hunted to see what I missed with my older detector. It didn’t take long before Joyce found a nugget and a nice one at that weighing in at near a quarter ounce. By noon we had found just over an ounce total and were living the dream. We returned to camp and got ready to wait out the bats and have a bite to eat quite worn out from a full days hunt.

Just as before right at dusk there they were coming out of the side of the mountain near a huge dead Ironwood tree. Looked like right from under that old tree from where we were sitting and we made plans to make the hike to that old tree in the morning. Piece of cake finding this spot since we could clearly see the bats exit near the tree and there would surely be a cave there. Would this indeed be the old Indians lost mine with the nuggets and bars of gold inside?

Morning could not come quick enough for us and we were off hiking at first light and reached the area we saw the bats come from within an hour of hard climbing. No cave, hole, void, nothing, but a huge old Ironwood tree rotted and partially hollowed out standing partially burried up the trunk by a rock slide that must have been the reason it died. Man some wood carver would love this pile of prime steel hard ironwood. We searched the area quite well then worked out around the old tree and found nothing! Discouraged and baffled we worked our way back to camp, rested and went back to detect for the afternoon.

Sitting in camp that evening right on time those damn bats came out by that old tree again in a cloud. How was this even possible? Then going over the area we had explored in my mind I began to wonder about the fact that this Ironwood tree was buried well past the trunk and was very old and had been dead for a very long time. Ironwood will last dang near forever in the desert not rotting or eaten by insects like other wood. Could it be that the bats were coming from the hollow trunk of that tree? Could it be that tree was in the opening to that shaft allowing the bats to enter and exit? We would check this tomorrow unlikely as it seems….

Turns out that is exactly the case and once we got back up to that spot and looked closer it was obvious that there was an opening into the ground one could look into through the hollow trunk of that old tree and we could see a timber in the void indicating a mile shaft. Well let me tell you it was allot of hard work to get enough material moved to safely enter that old mine and the shaft went down about 10 feet and cut into the mountain. We decided I would wait outside with a long rope tied to Joyce as her smaller frame allowed for easier entry into the old shaft.

In she went with a flashlight despite her fear of bats and all was quiet… For a little too long…. Joyce, I yelled then out she came shaking and grinning ear to ear holding a small Spanish style gold bar. There is more she said, allot more…. There indeed was.

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!

Though Richard has been gone many years the educational value of his writings will live on….