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.

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…..

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


It Took me About a Year!

When I picked up my first gold nugget detector back in the early 1990s I was expecting big things and had dreams of handfuls of nuggets. Thing is it wasn’t quite that easy and I got off to a slow start and spent most of my detecting time digging nothing but crap you know nails, bullets, wire, boot tacks, etc. I would get easily frustrated and give up to run my trusty drywasher which would always at least get me some gold for my effort. Each time I went out it seemed to get worse and I became more impatient giving up earlier and this I would learn later was one of my biggest mistakes.

I sold my first detector after several months of this and then bought a Fisher Gold Bug because it was proving itself as the “next big thing”, but I met with the same results and once again quickly went back to other methods. But I am not one to give up easily and began to read everything I could find about metal detecting. This is how I cam across a book written by my now good friend Jim Straight called Follow the Drywashers, The Nuggetshooters Bible and this book changed everything.


After reading this book through a couple times I learned there was much I was simply doing wrong with first and foremost being lack of patience. Now I still spent some time digging nothing but trash and went back to running my drywasher, but one thing I began doing was checking my header piles with my detector and then it happened. I found my first nugget almost exactly a year after buying my first metal detector in my own tailing pile.

It weighed just over a pennyweight and was right on top of the pile and was just too big to go through the grizzly into the hopper and ended up in my tailings. As I sat there with my hard earned prize I remembered “Follow the Drywashers” and started looking at all the drywasher piles up and down the wash. I began hunting them and started finding nuggets almost every day, many in the 1/4 ounce and above range.

But the book said more and I began studying about the areas I intended to detect and learned about the gold deposits and how they were worked by the old timers. I learned that they simply took the easy gold from washes and hillside deposits leaving much behind because it was just impracticable to work many yards of material for just a couple handfuls of gold nuggets. Yes they knew they were missing them, but was not worth the effort so they would move on to easier pickings. This left allot of gold to be found when metal detectors were invented and refined to work gold deposits.

Well I was now on my way and had learned what to look for, where to look, and to slow the heck down and dig EVERYTHING my detector told me was there. Yes everything! I mean when I am in an area where I know or am dang sure there are nuggets why in the world would I walk away from a target because I think it is trash? I can not see into the ground, I can not be sure by the sound even if I do guess correctly 60% of the time before I dig. The only way to be sure and avoid leaving gold behind is to dig all targets and look at them with your own eyes, if not you leave nuggets behind. Yes it takes much patience, but this is not easy simple as that.

Trash has also shown itself to be a useful tool when I am out in new areas looking for evidence that perhaps long ago there was placer activity in an area even though there is little evidence left due to erosion erasing it. You see those big headed tacks we find were often used to hold the canvas material used as bellows on old drywashers and would pop out while working. Those old cans sealed with lead solder are pre 1921 and tell of folks being there early on, square nails were used to hold wood items together, etc. I have actually found spots where the old timers simply walked away leaving their drywasher to rot and can tell by the assortment of old nails and hardware left long after the wood has rotted away.

These are a few of the things that have helped me become successful as a gold nugget hunter (Nugget Shooter) and to be able to consistently find gold nuggets and new areas others will likely never see. But anyone can actually do it and by reading articles and studying like I did you can get a big jump on the crowd if you apply what you read. I will continue to add information here and at my website as well as Facebook mainly because I really enjoy sharing information that may help you be as successful as I am.

Gurley Gulch Gold

A story I wrote in 2004 truth or fiction? “FROM THE DIARY OF THE MAD PROSPECTOR” This is a short tale that will begin a new series at my site, some will be true, some will be fiction, and some will have a few names changed to protect privacy and claims. I have spent some time while on trips sitting in camp and just writing and this story and the ones that follow are the results. So here is #1 and I hope you enjoy it!

Gurly Gulch Gold

It was finally cooling off in the deserts and I was sure getting the itch to get out there to go camping trip for a weekend, just the dog and I. Late October in Arizona is perfect for prospecting with cool nights and warm days of the kind that just make a feller happy to be alive. I had told the boss on Thursday that I would like Monday off and with his blessing I was now packing for a 3 day weekend metal detecting and enjoying some well deserved rest and relaxation. During the hot summer months I like to spend a lot of time reading and researching new areas to prospect when the cooler months come around and a little spot called Gurly Gulch was at the top of my list.

This is where I planned to spend a few days nugget shooting provided I could get into the area as planned. Many times when “going in blind” so to speak I have run into locked gates, washed out trails, no trespassing signs, and other obstructions so I try to have more than one route in planned just in case, but most times it’s one way or no way. I think about half of my leads and hard work end up meeting this fate and it’s back to the old drawing board so to speak. Gurly Gulch was a location I found mentioned in a small town newspaper article from 1901 and the story went something like this: An old fellow name of Trevor Gurly prospected the area and would come to town for supplies and was often loaned money by the local grocery to keep him in grub. Trevor would simply come in pick up what he needed and promise to pay as soon as he could and this went on for a year or so. Then one day Trevor came in with a big grin and a nice handful of nuggets to pay off his grocery bill and get supplies for his next trip and the nuggets were described as “goodly sized” by the writer of the article.

Trevor then filed a claim that he worked and lived on until his death in 1922. Now I followed up this story with some good ol’ research and could not find mention of Trevor Gurly or his claim. There were some placer claims in the area, but none in the general area of my search. All this time there was a nagging feeling that I had heard the name Gurly Gulch before, but I could not remember where. There was a general description of the area and how to get there from town, but it was pretty vague. I continued researching through my other channels looking for info to guide me to this old placer area with no luck. After exhausting all my resources I simply gave up and went on to the next location I was interested in and put Gurly Gulch and it’s nuggets on the back burner.

Then one afternoon in late August I was puttering around and came across an old treasure hunting book I had purchased at a thrift shop several years ago for about $4.00. The book is a very limited edition from 1933 and only has 69 pages, but the second story was from the same area that I had been researching looking for Trevor’s old claim and believe it or not Gurly Wash (not gulch) was mentioned in the story I was reading as a landmark of sorts for a lost treasure that was also reported to be in the same area. The best part of all this was that along with each story is a hand drawn map by the author and it showed the exact location I was looking for about a half of a mile from where the lost gold mine is possibly located. That was why I thought the name was familiar, I had read it in this book a while back and put it on the book shelf forgetting all about it.

Taking my newly found hand drawn map I went to my pile of topo maps and quickly located the trail and wash known as Gurly Gulch or Wash back in 1901. The wash is not now named on any map I looked at and that had made things difficult or even impossible without this hand drawn map. Arriving at the turn off from the highway at just about sunrise on Saturday morning I headed into the desert for an 11 mile drive into what I hoped would be Gurly Gulch with high hopes of being able to locate Trevor’s old placer workings. The drive in was somewhat rough with a few washed out spots, but a easy trip relatively speaking. I could see that the road got a fair amount of traffic, but that was to be expected with all the old mines in the area.

The drive in proved to be very interesting and I found myself stopping to look around and scan the hills with binoculars more than once. According to the topo map there were many mines in the area and this was very true with many small mining operations long closed dotting the rough mountain terrain. Man those old boys were tough judging by the location of some of those mines way up the side of a steep mountain with a trail going almost straight up. Taking a load up would be one thing, but coming down would be very dangerous. I was very close now to the wash listed as Gurly wash on the treasure map from the old book and was keeping an eye out for a trail or road exiting from the main one I was on and I found one going off to the South. I was exactly where I was supposed to be from what I could tell and matched the topo map also. So I continued on the trail until it came to a camp area near the wash and finding some level ground I parked my truck.

Now normally I would set up camp first off, but I was not sure yet if I was even where I wanted to be so I gave DJ a drink and we headed off hiking up the wash for a look see. Right away we found where someone had thrown their cans and bottles into a small dig hole and some of the broken bottles and tin cans with the lead solder were from the right time period with some newer stuff mixed in. Further up the wash I found a small tributary that had very old drywash header piles showing along the bank and that was enough to send me back to the truck to set up camp, any more exploring would be done with my detector in hand. Setting up is very quick for me and in no time DJ and I were feeling right at home and while he was content to just lie around all day I wanted to get after that wash with the old workings. Now I had no way of knowing if these were Trevor’s workings, but according to all the facts I had been able to put together I was darn close.

So with that in mind I got my gear together and went to work on that feeder wash up from camp. I began as I always do in a previously drywashed are by checking some of the header piles for missed nuggets and after about an hour without digging anything but trash from the piles I decided to work the small wash and its benches. About ten feet up the wash from where I started I got my first nugget, very small and well worn. Now with spirits high I slowed way down and began thoroughly detecting the little wash from side to side and up the banks. By late afternoon I had managed to snag several small shiny well worn bits from the wash itself and a couple from the bank, but none were over a penny weight. Nice gold to be sure, but not what I was here hoping to find as the source of Trevor’s gold was rumored to have produced bigger nuggets.

I decided to do a bit more looking around before supper this time taking my detector with me and I tried several little feeder washes and managed a couple more small nuggets for my efforts. This was sure getting to be fun and gold is gold no matter what the size! The sun was just beginning to go over the mountain when DJ. and I decided it was supper time and we walked the main wash back to camp. The main wash and the one I think is Gurly Gulch is about 15 feet across in it’s widest spots and narrows here and there with exposed patches of bedrock, just what a fellow with a detector likes to see. On the way back I was swinging some of the more obvious spots that would trap gold and kept pretty busy digging trash all the way to camp. Just before leaving the wash and calling it quits for the day I got a booming signal about 2 feet up the bank that stopped me in my tracks.

I began to get that butterfly feeling in my gut that I always feel when a target has that special sound that is somehow just a little different than that last booming trash target. Well I didn’t have to even dig because when I scraped away the topsoil, sticks, rocks, etc. with the side of my boot out pops a very nice slug of gold, smooth and shiny that would go at least a third of an ounce. What a way to end the first day in a new area and I was thinking I may have found exactly the spot I was hunting from my desk top during the hotter summer months. There is just no bigger thrill for me than to actually score after all the research and planning involved in finding such a spot. It was just starting to get dark with the sun setting somewhere behind the towering mountain to the West of camp that it had hidden behind a couple hours ago. This camp area had been well thought and placed close to the base of the mountain to supply afternoon shade in the heat of the summer, Trevor perhaps?

As I was sitting there looking at a canyon up the mountain a strange shadow emerged from the side of the mountain startling me and it took a minute for me to figure out what I was seeing in the fading light. It was bats! Thousands of them coming out of the side of the mountain from a cave or mine shaft, but I had seen no shaft on the face of that mountain with the binoculars. Perhaps I’d hike up there tomorrow and have a look around since the canyon below was part the wash I was camped next to. Well the rest of the trip was just what a nugget shooter dreams of with a good supply of new well worn smooth nuggets added to my poke and yet another spot on my list for future hunts. I didn’t find any more of the bigger nuggets, but did score several in the one to three penny weight range to go along with the smaller stuff that seemed to be fairly plentiful though a fellow had to work pretty hard to get them.

Funny thing though is that I hiked all over that rough slope where I thought I saw those bats come out and couldn’t find a cave or mine anywhere, but those bats came out each night I was there. Problem was they didn’t come out until the side of the mountain is just a dark shadow well after sunset and the bats show in the failing light filtering through the canyon making it almost impossible to see where they are coming from. Now I didn’t give the bats a whole lot of thought until on the way home I guess because treasure hunting and lost mines are not something I spend a lot of time doing, but what if those bats were exiting a mine that was hidden many years ago as the story goes.

I still have not found the time to get back to the area as it is quite a drive for me to get there from my home and well I have always had places closer to home to find nuggets, but something about those bats and that story keeps nagging at me. I think perhaps this Fall when it cools down a bit I will spend a few more days in Gurly Gulch.

Copyright 2004 William E Southern Jr

Just Pick a Spot

So what do I mean by “Just Pick a Spot” ? Well I run into lots of folks every year that are flustered not having found much if any gold and have been running from placer deposit to placer deposit doing quick 2 day hunts and heading off once again to a place they heard has “greener pastures”. This short article will try to get folks to focus on one area at a time and for good reason.

Even after doing research on a claim or open area you plan to prospect and learning all you can which ups your odds of success greatly you still are in, well, a new area! It is one thing to read and study at home, but getting boots on the ground to learn an area and it’s golden secrets is yet another. There are very few places I have spent hours and hours researching that I have scored a jar of nuggets first time in the field though it has happened.

Just finding the clues as to where to start can take a day or two in a new area and I have gone home empty handed after the first weekend there. So it is as they say “back to the old drawing board” Once again I begin planning my next hunt, where? The same location to try and locate where the old timers worked (if they did) to give me a starting spot. Geology as learned almost by accident as we study placer gold locations is a big help as well allowing one to ID potential spots even if no evidence the old timers were there.

But old timer evidence like these tailings from drywashing are a clue that have led me to many a nugget patch over the years and in many cases easy to spot from quite a distance or even on Google Earth from home.


Why didn’t we find this area first trip? Went the wrong way or whatever, but now we have a place to start metal detecting because as we have learned those old drywashers as well as today’s miss gold and especially larger nuggets that end up in the coarse header piles. Also it becomes evident what type material they were looking for in this area. So the hunt begins and even if you do not score or find evidence others have been here with detectors before learn and work the area hard.

Many of the gold placers we all work are huge and it can take many weeks, months, or even years to work them thoroughly and why do all that research to find a location only to do it all over again after only giving this spot a quick go over? In other words “why leave gold to try and find gold” ?

This is also true of areas a friend takes you into and says “I have found lots of nuggets in this area” So you hunt a couple hours and begin to figure all the gold is gone…. What you figured that out all on your own somehow? Have you ever looked at your detector coil then look around you at the huge area that could hold gold and realize it would take a lifetime to hunt every square inch of ground. In one of those square inches could be a half ounce nugget everyone else missed. Or a small wash full of small nuggets just over the hill.


So my friends learn the closest area to you that is a good nugget producer and work it hard, very hard and it will get a nugget in your poke faster than burning gas to run around quickly checking areas and never really hunting gold….

Good Hunting.


Slow Down!

Metal detecting for gold nuggets as I have mentioned in other articles can be very frustrating to the beginner and it can seem like forever before you find that first nugget. There seems to be no end to the trash you are digging and still no nugget. Well not to worry your first nugget will come and with it the confidence that you will find more.

This article will deal with how to search an area thoroughly, a lot of times people will spend a day in the gold fields just walking their detector. What I mean by this is that if you are not searching good looking areas slowly and completely before moving on you may be wasting your time and missing nuggets! If you are in an area that has produced gold the hard part is over, now you need to recover as much as possible without missing gold that should be in your pouch.

Now back to starting your search in a new area you have found by doing research. Now when in an area that I have not previously found gold I will move a bit quicker than if hunting a spot that has already given up nuggets. I start in the most obvious spots such as the washes and tributaries, working all the spots where gold will settle such as exposed bedrock and inside bends. Also work high benches and old dry wash header piles if present. You would be surprised how much gold I have recovered from tailings piles like the ones shown below!

Now when I say hunt these areas I don’t mean zig-zag across the center of a bench and move on, take the time to walk back and forth across the entire bench overlapping your swings. Same with the gulches and other likely spots. I can’t count the times I’ve seen finds that others left buy not hunting slowly and thoroughly. I have even found nuggets within a few inches of another detector dig. Now if during this preliminary search I find a nugget I mark the spot and begin a very slow process of gridding and searching the immediate area of my first find.

If the first nugget comes from a header pile I will concentrate my first efforts working all other piles in the area and raking them down to gain depth. Usually the coarse pile is where the larger nuggets were lost along with the waste simply because they were not seen. Check all piles though because sometimes fine tailings were shoveled onto coarse piles or they were mixed together to avoid having to move their equipment as often. This can take a lot of time , hours or even days depending on the area, but the rewards can be great.

Often the sloping sides of gulches can and do produce numerous nuggets to the electronic prospector and these areas often times can produce a patch. In these situations one small area is worked at a time slowly from a couple different directions overlapping swings to avoid missing any targets. Once the first area is worked a new square is marked out and the process is repeated. You must work very slowly and dig all targets and again when you are done with an area you can be reasonably sure you have missed no nuggets within range of your detector.

Obviously there are many different types of conditions and areas where you will find nuggets, but one fact remains the same. Slow down and thoroughly work all likely areas or you will be leaving nuggets for the next guy. There is nothing harder than watching someone pull a large nugget or several smaller ones from an area you thought you had cleaned out. You can avoid that heart break, just SLOW IT DOWN a bit and don’t walk away from gold to try to find gold!

As always I welcome all feedback and questions, Good Hunting!

Minelab Gold Monster 1000

Well as most know the Gold Monster 1000 from Minelab has been available for several months and there is allot of them in the goldfields as I type this and more folks are finding that first nugget in just hours or days of learning how to use their new gold detector.


This is what it is all about and Minelab has once again changed the Nugget Shooting side of mining forever with a 24 bit micro processor combined with a 45 kHz VLF metal detector with true ferrous/non-ferrous discrimination at the push of a button. To top that off the detector is also fully automatic with the only adjustments on it being Sensitivity, volume, deep all metal, and shallow with discrimination that will truly mask the sound of most hot rocks and iron targets very quickly.

As I used this detector more and more I quickly learned that I can hear larger targets at better depth than other VLF units and also smaller bits that my previous favorite GB 2 at better depth and clear as a bell since the Gold Monster 1000 has no threshold tone to listen to as in other VLF detectors. Yep it runs silent which takes the confusion out of searching hot ground and trying to keep the detector stable enough to hear small or deep targets making very easy to learn even for a beginner.

I have tried many times to “fool” this detector when it is in the Shallow/Discriminate setting and time and time again it has been correct and only weighing just over a couple pounds it is a very welcome addition to my tool box of detectors as my go to VLF when my GPZ 7000 or SDC 2300 will not fit the area or circumstances in the area I plan to hunt.

What does this mean to the average hobbyist, club member, or serious prospector? To put it bluntly there is nothing better out there for beginner or pro detector wise designed for gold nugget hunting that can hold a candle to this newest offering from Minelab in my opinion and the price at less than 800.00 is better than even its closest competition.


So if you are wanting to get into gold nugget hunting with a metal detector and find nuggets as small as the ones above and up I would suggest you take a good long look at the Minelab Gold Monster 1000 and when you decide to get yours please remember to buy from a dealer that will train you! This is way more important than saving a few bucks and not understanding your new detector. This is new technology and even long time nugget shooters learned quickly this is a very different type of detector and training can make a huge difference in how long it takes to find that first nugget.

This is a link from Minelab with detailed information from Jonathan Porter Mastering the GM 1000

There is much more info here at my site about the GM 1000 for those interested, Nugget Shooter Store