So you want to be a Nugget Shooter?

OK, well the truth is anyone with the money to invest in good equipment can have a reasonable chance at finding some nice gold, but beware this is not an easy or get rich quick business to get involved in. I am simply being honest here because I get call after call from good folks new to metal detecting for gold nuggets that have already become totally frustrated after a few short hunts. Well guess what? I was one of those folks 20+ years ago and after a few hours digging nothing but bullets, wire, tacks, etc. I would resist the urge to smash my detector into little bits and go back to running my drywasher for a while to cool off.

Now we fast forward about a year to the day I found my very first gold nugget with my metal detector! Not real exciting since I found the darn thing sitting in my tailing pile from drywashing that day. Yes I was still working at learning to detect for gold, but back then there was no one really willing to take someone under their wing and help them learn to find gold with a detector and folks were very secretive as is the case today. I mean think about it asking someone to show you a spot you can find nuggets easily with a detector is like asking them to give you 1000.00 dollars after they worked for months to rear it.

No I am serious here and finding those spots that I can consistently go back to and find nuggets to add to my retirement fund at today’s prices is allot of work doing research both studying and spending time in the field searching for geological signs and old timer workings to tell me I am on the right trail. But the thrill and satisfaction of getting into a new area that you researched and found yourself that produces several ounces or even pounds of gold nuggets is only known by those willing to make it happen.

OK back to my first nugget find….

During that long and frustrating year of not being able to figure out how to find those seemingly impossible to locate gold nuggets I was reading and learning from every source I could find and there was no real help on the computer yet so I spent much time in the library and in prospecting shops buying books and asking questions. Then I found a book that changed everything “Follow The Drywashers” The Nugget Shooter’s Bible, by Jim Straight who has since become a good friend and this book changed my whole direction.

You see the old timers drywasher just like modern drywashers were designed with what is called a grizzly to sort out bigger material before it runs through the drywasher. These rock tumble off the grizzly into what is called a header pile along with any nuggets bigger that the screen holes which are 1/4,  3/8, or 1/2 inch depending on what the operator prefers. You see they were finding so much fine gold and small chunks they did not worry over the occasional lost larger nugget simply because they were not all that common in most areas worked by the old time miners.

That is how I found my first chunky 2 gram nugget as we always check our piles at the end of the day for these missed nuggets, the old timers did not have this option. Now I had read this very thing in Jim’s book, but it took finding a nugget in my own pile to drive it home. After admiring my newly found nugget I began looking at all the drywasher piles around me and began to swing my detector over them one by one and I began finding nuggets, lots of nuggets! Then I began working benches and hillsides in these areas worked by the old timers and the rest is history and I have found many pounds of nuggets in the years I have been doing this and believe it or not I am still learning as I go.

So what I am saying is do not just give up! This nugget shooting with a metal detector is not as simple as just getting the best equipment available and if you don’t get a 6000.00 dollar detector over a nugget it will not work any better than a club….

To be successful recovering gold nuggets one MUST also learn how and where to find them and research is the key. Don’t be in a hurry and though some score their first trip out it is rare, but with some work and taking the time to know your detector you too can begin finding that nice yellow gold! You now have the internet with literally unlimited free research material and gold forums like where others are willing to help in any way they can (other than putting you in a spot) and we did not have this option in the old days when the new fangled gold nugget detectors came on the scene.

So if you want success YOU have to make it happen!

Are You Walking Past Nuggets?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Hunting!