Q & A with Nokta Nomad Matt Pfeil…

Telling his story this time around is Californian Matt Pfeil, detectorist and member of the Nokta Makro Nomads team. If you have any questions for Matt fire away in the comments section. Thank you Matt for sharing your story!

 The Q & A

Q. Matt, tell us a little about yourself, i.e., where you live, are you married, where you keep your valuables etc..

A.  A little about my self eh? Okay, here goes! Hi, I am Matt. I have lived in Yuba City, California since 1993. I moved to this area because the USAF stationed me at Beale AFB where I was a Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Journeymen on U-2 Spy Planes. Trust me, it’s not as exciting as it sounds. I am still doing that, but as a contractor.

I am married. As far as where I keep my valuables, well they are kept in a natural stone vault that I carved by hand deep in the base of a mountain, known only to me. It is guarded by several legions of undead warriors and a small man named Frank. I know it is a little overkill for storing all the pull tabs that I have acquired in this hobby, but trust me, Frank can handle anything.


Q. Does anyone else in the family detect?

A. In my immediate family, no. I tried to introduce the hobby to my son when he was at the age that I got interested in it, but he found catching Pokemon a bit more fun. Honestly I can’t blame him. Especially when the summer temps here get over 100 degrees in the summer. That’s Fahrenheit, though it feels more like 100 degrees Celsius! The Lady of the house only likes to see what I have found and supports my madness…er um, hobby.


Q. When exactly did you start detecting and what was it that got you interested?

A. It was a dark and stormy night way back in 2006. My grandfather lost his wedding ring in his front yard, so I borrowed a friends machine and tried to find it. Funny thing about granddad, though he was a complete genius, he was also forgetful, blind, and hard of hearing. Oh and he also didn’t really remember wearing that ring but he knows he lost it in that yard. It was a small yard so scanning every inch didn’t take much time. I found a pull tab and a few nails.  The ring was never found but I got my taste of the hobby then and there. NAILS AND PULL TABS! WOOT!

Captured and caged this old timer to teach the younger pull tabs a lesson.

The wife at the time said that I should hold back my urge to dive into the hobby but secretly I had visions of barrels of pull tabs in my mind and was plotting on how to get my own machine and start harvesting treasure!

So we ease into 2008 and I was falling down the YouTube rabbit hole. You know that one where you start with a video about replacing the window regulator on your 1965 Ford Pickup and end up in the realm of Alien Abductions and their collaboration with the governments of the world to steal the entire surplus of Gorgonzola!  Ya one of those nights. But in that store of videos, I watched a few about metal detecting. It got me thinking once again and I  began my search for a machine. What a great time for the segue to the next question!


Q. What was your first detector and what made you purchase that particular brand/model?

A. My first machine, which I still have (oh the memories and shoulder pain) was a flea bay find. A Whites (RIP) Coinmaster 6000/d G.E.B.. It was a whopping $36 with shipping and said, “needs work”.  More importantly it was complete and looked in good shape. When the box arrived, everything was there and I put it together. It had two AA battery packs. One for the coil and one for the control box. One holds 8 batteries, the other holds 6. So, I took out a loan at the bank, picked up some good quality store brand batteries and fired that puppy up!

Now the noise it made scared the dog, the neighbors dog and all the dogs in the city barked like mad. I knew I was on to something good! After a little knob twisty-logy I was detecting metal! I couldn’t contain my excitement! My next stop was the kids school playground to try this amazing piece of technology out! I used that machine for quite some time. It was a love hate relationship. I loved finding treasure, hated the lack of ergonomics of the unit but it was mine and I was learning what it was telling me.


Q. In the beginning where did you concentrate your time? What sort of sites did you search?

A. In the beginning I stuck to tot lots and school play grounds. I wanted to learn what this car battery with the hubcap on the end was telling me. I did find coins and toys. I also came upon some juicy nails and pull tabs. Eventually I loaded that tank of a machine up in the trailer I purchased to haul it around and would drag it to local river and lake beaches. But something had to give. Would be it be my shoulder or finding a newer, light weight machine?

I ended up getting a Minelab Xterra 305. It was so much easier to swing! For its time it was a great starter machine for the digital age. Gone was waiting for the tubes to warm up in that blue box and now I had with numbers that corresponded to what was in the ground. I learned to love ’13’ on that machine. Mmm, yummy pull tabs!

As time went on I rolled through other machines. Most were acquired as raffle prizes and a couple I purchased new. From the Xterra I jumped to a Deus, then a Blisstool, then another Whites MTX, then some abomination called Scan Trac Tesla 1000, a Nokta AU Gold Finder, Whites Surfmaster, Tesoro Bandit, Nox 800, and then I dove deep into the world of Nokta Makro and found my true home with the Simplex, Anfibio, and Gold Kruzer. All the other machines have been boxed back up and stored in the closet.


Q. Matt what was your very first signal/find? Do you remember?

A. My first find was a cut off piece of thread from a bolt. I still have it somewhere along with all the stuff from that first hunt at the school. I was proud of that piece of iron😊.


Q. And what was your first good or decent find, as in keeper.

A. My first “good” find would happen several years later with the Xterra. I was at a local park and just below the grass line I found a 22” long, 22K gold rope chain with a 22K pendant. It weighed a total of .675 ounces.

The chain and pendant


Q. Another memory test….how long did it take you to find your first silver coin and what was it?

A. My first silver coin happened in 2010. I was hunting a new park that was once a train stop in the 1800s. The park was littered with modern clad because of a fountain in the center of it. (Found out the parks people when they cleaned it out would just toss the coins into the grass). I had my fill of clad, bottle caps, pull tabs, and drug paraphernalia for the morning and was swinging my machine back to my car. I hit a target that I had heard when I started the hunt, but passed over it then because it sounded like garbage. A high, grunt and high when swinging over it. So I decided to make it my last hole of the day. Six inches down I found a square nail laying on top of a large crusty blackened coin. I pulled it out and it was something I couldn’t identify. So I took a picture of it and messaged a friend who knew coins. He told me that I had just dug a Seated Half Dollar from 1862. He then called me to cuss me out since he had been in the hobby for several decades and had never found one. He had the advantage too as he lived on the east coast. For my first silver it was a good one!

Before and after


Q. How long Matt did it take you to find your first ring and what type of ring was it?

A. Before the first silver and that gold chain I found a lovely little 10K gold ring with a heart on it in the shrubbery of a park. It has since then ran away from me and all I have are memories of the little guy.

The 10k heart ring


Q. In the beginning did you spend a lot of time researching and if so just how did you go about it?

A. I actually did research. That was one thing I paid attention to when chatting with my friends in the hobby and on the videos I’d watch on the YouTube. I found too that all the older places in my town were off limits. Yay. But all public property was and still is fair game to detect. I also found a place (that I still hunt) that is on public land, open to detecting, that had a town there in the 1800s. It burned to the ground in the 1920s and was never rebuilt. So its a fun place to find relics and other things.


Q. What would you consider to be your very best find after all this time, and if it’s hard to choose just one tell us about all of them.

A. So far the best finds have been all the friends I have made in this hobby! I have been able to connect with and in some cases meet up with others for hunts, even detectorists from all over the world! It’s an amazing community!

But as we are talking stuff dug from the earth I have several. First is the Blind Squirrel Luck half ounce gold nugget. It was a complete surprise! Thought it was lead but elated it was gold (dug in Yuba county at an old digging site).

Half ounce nugget

Next is the strange button thingy I dug on a mountain trail in South Korea. It’s made of bronze and I would have never found it if  I didn’t lose my Makro Pointer on that trail the week prior. It’s super old. Like 1200’s.

Found on a trail in South Korea

And then there’s this 1939 S wheat cent. Yup a wheat cent. Its not what it is that makes it one of the best, but what it represents. I dug this on the outside of a fox hole on a hill in South Korea that was occupied by US forces at the beginning of the war. It could be the Korean War’s version of the 300. These guys were from Task Force Smith and were charged with holding off the invading North Korean and Chinese forces for 3 days. It was the Battle of Chochiwon way back in July 10-12 of 1950. The events played out like an action movie. Sadly we got stomped there but they also did what they set out to do, they slowed the advance which allowed thousands to flee to the south. There were many relics from that site, but that penny was my favorite. We found two more close by. All the same date range. 

I have others finds that I like but these really stick out for me.

Most likely lost by US Forces during Korean War


Q. Okay what is your weirdest find to date? Everybody has at least one….

A. I have found some weird things, but I think the weirdest for me was a nickel tone and VDI under some ladies underwear which were next to a condom wrapper. Gotta love tot lots!


Q. What is your “OLDEST” find to date?

A. My oldest find to date is this 1083AD Chinese Cash Coin I dug in Korea.

1083AD Chinese coin


B. My oldest US is a 1842 Seated Dime from my relic patch. A coin that is older than this state

Oldest US coin


Q. Matt what detector are you using at the moment and why?

A. I am currently swinging the Anfibio and Simplex. They are just very intuitive and also speak my language. I love the reactivity and also how they tell you what is going on in the ground you are detecting. Both are waterproof and are rugged machines. And with the Simplex, you can’t beat the value for the price! Ever since I have been running it, well I haven’t wanted to run anything else. It is a great little machine and is only outstayed by its bigger brother, the Anfibio. It is my second favorite as it is customizable and has a bit more depth. Both are top notch in my book!


Q. Can you offer a few tips or settings/programs?

A. I would say, no matter what machine you have, learn what it is telling you before working on any “custom” programs. You will find that most of the preset factory setting are suitable for average, day to day hunting. As you become more confident and competent with your machine make small adjustments for the soils you are hunting. Using custom programs can be a tricky thing. What works for me in my area and conditions may not work for you. If you do want to go with a custom program that someone has made, use it as a starting point for tweaking it as your own, for the site you are at. Which is why I will always say, start with the manufacturers settings.

Personally, the Simplex I run in Park 1 for most hunting with the sensitivity about 2 bars from the max. The Anfibio, I run in three tone, gain about 80, and no discrimination. I like to hear what is in the soil. My discriminator is my ear. Even with the Simplex, I run Iron Audio at full. I do that because those large or flat pieces if thin rusty sheet or straps that make those nice high tones, they also make a grunt at the end of the swing. Same with older bottle caps. For some reason, newer bottle caps are sneakier. I still dig them to get them out of the way.


Q. When you do go detecting what “must have” accessories do you take along?

A. It all depends on where I am going and what I am hunting for –

PARKS, I bring the minimal kit Machine, Pinpointer, gloves, hand digger (I like the Nokta Makro Premium Digger) and a probe or some sort, and a plastic grocery bag for trash. Clean as you go. The parks people will love you if they see you removing litter as you are harvesting pull tabs!

RELIC HUNTING, I’ll usually have a small day pack that can hold my gear. I use a Cannae Pro Gear Iberian Adventure Day Pack. Its a 25l pack that can hold a hydration bladder and the essentials. It holds my finds pouch, Pinpointer, hand digger, small first aid kit, portable charger, charging cables for machines and phone, a good length of paracord, lighter, knife, trash bag, and a small ziplock back of toilet paper or wet wipes.

If my hunting brings me to a more isolated wild land area I pack a small pistol. I definitely recommend a good shovel like the Nokta Makro Stainless Shovel. It’s a beast. IF the ground is hard like mine can get here, a light weight prospecting pick is a good choice. Just remember, when you are hiking into a spot, weight is critical. It may not feel like much, but after a day’s digging that pack will start to feel really heavy, especially if you find a lot of relics.

BEACH HUNTING, I pack out like I’m hunting a park, but leave the hand digger at home. A sand scoop is essential. I’ve hunted beaches without one and hated the experience. Buy a nice one. I use the premium sand scoop that Nokta makes. It’s stainless and also breaks down for compact transporting. Always remember to bring a trash bag.


Q. Do you prefer hunting with others or are you a loner?

A. I mainly hunt alone but having a group or a friend to hunt with is much more fun! Its nice to be able to share that feeling with someone else when that rare bucket lister pull tab is found! I have had too many times where great finds have happened when I am all alone. The elation is there, but it is short lived since there is no one to share it with. Having a group of people there bring a different energy to a hunt.

At Bullard’s Bar Reservoir in Northern California.


Q. Matt everybody has a bucket list. Tell us about yours?

A. Living in California, I want to find a large cent. My bucket list is regional. Kinda like that wheat cent in Korea. I love finding anything that has historical context for the site. I know the canned answers of $20 Gold Piece, or 15lb gold nugget, that stuff is cool and I wouldn’t hate to find it either, but what gets me going is contextual finds for the places I research and dig. Parks are a different animal and those for me are for exercise and coffee money. LOL!


Q. Have you hunted overseas at all?

A. Yes. My job brings me to South Korea several times a year. I have friends that I meet up with and we will hunt old mountain trails for old coins and other relics. The trails are beautiful and you meet some really nice people there. The hikes can be really difficult, but the results can be rewarding!

On the trail in South Korea


Q. Do you belong to a club?

A. Yes, The Yuba Sutter Treasure Seekers, however the have been closed since the start of COVID. Grrrr!


Q. Matt do you have any other hobbies or interests?

A. Are there any other hobbies out there? Haha! Just kidding. I love to read books about anything, studying history, dabbling a little in electronics, computers, wood working, metal working, basically building things. My favorite is welding up the old horse shoes that I find into simple little horses. Oh, also photography and videography. I do have the token YouTube channel www.YouTube.Com/pfeilmat where I’ve been documenting my hunts. I try to keep it real and you get to see both the triumphs and defeats.


Q. What would your IDEAL detector look like?

A. It hovers, sweeps itself, and digs only good targets. So basically an autonomous device that requires no real work on the user. I know my back would love that!


Q. Finally Matt, if you could pass along one or two words of advice to beginning detectorists or for that matter any detectorist, what would they be?

A. My two words would be Patience and Persistence. Patience because the hobby is a learning curve and people learn in different ways. Be patient with yourself and your equipment. Be patient with the site you are hunting. Persistence because you will dig trash. Some places will be a long hike in. Some parks are nothing but juicy pull tabs and bottle caps. Patiently and persistently remove the trash. The rewards are many for practicing both. A healthier you, a cleaner environment and the possibility of some treasure in your pocket!

Final words for everyone out there, just have a good time and enjoy yourself. It is a hobby, have fun with it!




Filed under Metal Detecting

26 responses to “Q & A with Nokta Nomad Matt Pfeil…

  1. Enjoyed this! Thanks for sharing! xoxo

  2. Really good interview with Matt Pfeil…I liked it! And I liked his advice for beginners, something I’d like to remind many of our CFMDC club members, both new and old;. “It is a hobby, have fun with it!” Good stuff, Dick!

  3. Thank you Sir for this fun interview! I love this hobby and there is always something new to learn with it. Places to research, new tech to learn, and those odd ball finds to scratch your noggin trying to figure out. Like, is it an old gun part or just some random pioneer trash? I love it!

    One my car is fixed, I’ll be back out to the relic patch, now that Turkey season is over, and keep trying to find a friend for my dime😁

    Thanks again and take care!

  4. John Taylor

    “frank” is to be “feared” among other things!.certainly sounds like a candidate for m-d 20/20
    I’m just sayin’


    • Matt my apologies for the off the wall the comments/questions. I tend to attract the thirsty, sorry.

      • No apologies needed. I’ve enjoyed them. I work aircraft maintenance. This is pretty tame, besides, I enjoy a little single malt from time to time. Lol!

  5. John Taylor

    reverend! he can’t afford single malt scotch either! just sayin’


  6. JT! Nah, with all that gold, Matt probably owns a single malt distillery.
    just sayin’

  7. John Taylor

    apparently enough to buy shares in mogen david wine company prime candidate for m-d 20/20. I’m just sayin’


  8. Tony

    Dick, thank you – I enjoyed this interview with Matt. I especially the levity he brings to this crazy hobby! I love the wide brim straw hat he uses in the sun and certainly I enjoyed seeing his cool finds.

    • Thanks for you kind words. I have always felt that it’s good to have some humor when it comes to the hobby. I find there are days that I’m just happy to have dug a crusty zinc cent because of the trash. Or those times I hike out to an area where an old home site should be and after several hours of scanning the ground, I find that one lonely pull tab….in the middle of nowhere! It’s comical to me😁

      Hope you have a great day!

  9. John Taylor

    yeah it’s comical to me too! happens more than I care to admit to! gotta laugh though! it’s all part of the game! you can liken it to life! sometimes ya make it, and sometimes ya don’t! important thing is “keep going” never give up, cuz ya just never know to a certainty what’s in the
    next plug! .I’m just sayin’


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