How Deep is Deep Enough?

The weather here in north Texas has been great of late and I actually got out detecting couple days ago. It felt good aside from the getting down and up thing but nothing new there. No photos either, sorry. Not unless you want to see three clad quarters, a clad dime and three memorial pennies. This outing like the last couple in 2022 was fun but not all that fulfilling, and by that I mean it was good to be outdoors doing something I enjoy but in the end I didn’t come home with anything worth bragging about on Facebook or sharing in a YouTube extravaganza and that’s what it’s all about right?

Calm down, calm down….I’m kidding!!

I do however want to mention something that bothered me….I was leery about digging the deeper targets. Not because I wasn’t curious but because I didn’t want to pile a heap of dirt on my drop cloth with onlookers and groundskeepers around. I know that I could have done so neatly and left the site looking pretty darn good but I was thinking about the optics and decided instead to concentrate on the shallow finds. I was feeling self-conscious as in the early years and wondered if it was the result of of getting older?

Now I know there’s a certain amount of ambiguity in what I’m saying since I don’t get out that much anymore. Digging deeper shouldn’t be on my radar but it’s something that I never used to think twice about. I mean if I could coax a faint hum I had to dig. Now I’m that nervous newbie on his first trip out and to make matters worse today’s detectors are even more able to sniff out the deeper finds.

Do we have limits?

I wonder too how deep is deep enough? Five inches? Eight, nine? A foot? Do you have limits or are you a “look out China here I come”  kind of digger? I know it’s a question with diverse answers like the experience and skill of the operator, the type of site being hunted, etc., but do you have limits? I know and knew a lot of tekkies that could retrieve a deep coin in record time without leaving a trace and I’ve seen both new and old-timers that left the area looking like it had just experienced Armageddon.

How deep is deep enough?

Not a rosy outlook…

At 81 years of age I’m hardly the detectorist I used to be and I’ve seen the handwriting on the wall. Many of the places that used to be decent for a silver coin or two are now posted and it’s not because we’re “bad guys” it’s because we’re “bad diggers“, and those of you who think that shovel is your best friend aren’t helping the cause. It’s only a matter of time before we’re like the Brits, driving the back roads, knocking on doors because large farm fields are all we have and the term coinshooter will be a reminder of how it used to be.

The back and forth on social media also continues about how this machine or that machine can go deeper than the other, and while much of it is probably hyperbole (BS for those of you too lazy to Google) I worry that we’re going to dig our own grave…. no pun intended.

If you’re an older beeper, a seasoned coin hunter, you know what I’m talking about. You already know that a lot of your favorite haunts are no longer and those that are are getting hammered and abused. I cringe and worry about going back to one and being blamed for the damage.  So tell me, how long can we hold out?  How long before we are dusting off the golf clubs, looking for the fishing rods?

As for my nervousness, my reluctance to dig anything deep, it just might be senility or a fear that my techniques won’t be quite up to snuff, I don’t know. Maybe I need to practice in the backyard. Of course if I get down and can’t get up what will my neighbors think when I start hurling profanities?

Jeezus I hate getting old!




Filed under Metal Detecting

18 responses to “How Deep is Deep Enough?

  1. njfella007

    Dick, in NE New Jersey where I reside, MOST of the silver we found STARTED at about the 6″ mark. And it was very common to have to go 8″+ to get the good stuff.

    Were there exceptions? Sure, but you could count those types of places on one hand. Occasionally we came across a place that was never hunted (or never hunted well, or perhaps in many years), and we’d been plucking silver coins, injuns & largies 2″ or 3″ deep. These were rare anomalies though…at least in my urban neck of the woods.

    This is why we’d always start off digging everything at a new spot for the first couple of hours (even shallow signals)…so we can get a feel for how deep the oldies were.

    When I first met my hunting buddy Gerry – who started detecting about 20 years before I did – it was commonplace that I’d walk home with a mess of silver for the day, and he’d get skunked, or perhaps find a silver or two. And he is a FINE, experienced detectorist. Problem was…

    I noticed he’d waste his time digging shallow signals for the majority of our hunts (in the 3″-5″ range). It was out of habit for him, because when he started out around 1990, the deeper, more sophisticated machines weren’t used yet (Etracs, F75’s, Deus’, etc.), and there was still a LOT of shallow oldies to be had. But after the hobby exploded and thousands of people started using the aforementioned detectors, what was left in the first 6″ strata essentially got completely stripped…wiped away.

    After he began concentrating on only those deep whisper signals did his finds pick up exponentially. It was apples & oranges. Did he miss some shallower goodies using this approach? For certain, however, he gained MUCH more than he lost.

    If you’re going after gold on the turf – which wasn’t our thing – this methodology obviously won’t work. You need to dig everything (as you know) to find yellow in the dirt. But since we were only interested in old coinage, we were able to maximize our time in the field by only honing in on the deeper whisper signals.

    As for digging deeper in the parks, I do agree with you on the optics part, it doesn’t look too great. This is precisely why a hunter needs to choose his spots wisely. Gerry and I mostly swung in older “urban” places…which is putting it nicely. We knew that as long as we covered our holes as neatly as possible, nobody would give us any guff…even if we dug to China.

    Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a publicly accessible park or similar spot nowadays with old coins shallower than 6″. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but they are rarities. If you want the good stuff you basically have 3 options…

    *Dig only the deeper signals in well-known, easily accessible parks & similar areas

    *Research to find better spots that are off the beaten path

    *Hunt private properties

    This is why it’s always important that hunters test a new spot for a few hours the first time or two by digging everything. Not only to see what’s there (or isn’t), but to get a general feel for what depths the oldies are falling within.

    • Good info Joe. I understand what you’re saying but those east coast haunts don’t exist down here. Been here now 35 years now and have yet to find one. It’s just not New Jersey. In my immediate area I’d be hard put to dig those deeper targets with people around. It’s Texas remember.

      What I was trying to say (and failed miserably) is that I’m not that young go get ’em digger any more and now feel like a beginner, unwilling to get thrown out of a park for digging down ten inches for a clad coin. The rewards are not worth it…

      • njfella007

        My thoughts weren’t really directed at you, Dick, since you already know this stuff. As most experienced detectorists do. And it isn’t exactly rocket science. I learned what I did by watching/listening to other proficient hunters, and through trial & error.

        Instead, what I wrote was mainly for the guy or gal reading your blog who has been coin hunting for six months to a year or so, and might be becoming frustrated by their lack of finds. If they are, it usually boils down to three things (or a combination of all)…

        *They don’t know their detector well enough

        *The places they’re hunting don’t have the older stuff

        *They’re not digging deep enough on the right signals

        While books are great learning tools, nothing beats actual, in-the-field digging. And if I can save someone hundreds of hours of time & experimentation, it would bring a smile to my face.

        As for your location, yes, Texas obviously doesn’t have the age of the northeast. However, I’m sure there are many older wooded areas or private homes where good finds can be made going back to the early 1800’s.

        My detecting days are done due to my stroke, and my buddy Gerry hardly hunts anymore as he’s 76 now, so we’re all in the same boat so to speak. But it was a hell of a ride for all of us!

      • Yup and I think my ride is coming to a close. Just can’t find that spark.

      • njfella007

        What you need is easier digging, Dick. While the parks can still be very good, one has to wade through a ton of junk for very few keepers. That’s a lot of wear & tear on the body for minimal rewards. For the younger set that’s all fine and good, but when you’re a bit older and have pain management issues, it’s a real PITA.

        You need to focus on private properties, where you generally don’t have to dig three feet to find older coins. There’s usually much less trash, too. Of course, the trick with private properties is gaining the permissions. But as you’re a local there by now, are very well spoken & mannered, I don’t foresee that as a problem.

        I know you’ve hunted private yards before, but I believe it’s been a while, yes? If so, detecting just one productive site might just snap you out of your funk, and provide some of the inspiration/motivation you need. Heck…

        I’m sure J.T. will let you tag along to all of his secret honey holes!

  2. john taylor

    truer words were never spoken! all that you mention is true kind sir. for me, like you,i am always “concerned” in the back of my mind if I will be “pitched” if you will, and be forced to look elsewhere. it can be disconcerting when on site. i continue to go to public sites, and for the most part, have zero issues. i believe this is because no one is hunting anymore due to “depletion” of finds from “scorched” sites. this, for me, is a bonus in that I can hunt mostly undisturbed. i honestly believe “most” folks have “moved on” from coin shooting, and are now engaged in other pursuits. again, i find this to be advantageous for me for the reasons previously mentioned.

    happy you are getting out again and experiencing a “taste” of what it used to be. just “being in the field” again must have given you a “sense” of exhilaration that is difficult to describe. your finding “stuff” only magnifies the experience I’m sure. the digging issue has “always” been an “issue” since e as long as I can remember.” some” just refuse to do the “right thing” when in the field, and this reflects on everyone. believe this “attitude” is what has “forced” an exodus from the hobby due to places being closed off. the guys that are left,(mostly hard nose hunters) are using top shelf equipment in an attempt to extract what is “perceived” to be left. i don’t care about any of this as I know through these ‘fortuitous ” circumstances, they allow me to continue to hunt basically anywhere I like with little chance of being bothered.

    j (the free covid tests are piling up!) t.

    • All I can say you guys in the northeast need to thank your lucky stars you live where you do. When it comes to detecting the grass is the greenest right there.

      • john taylor

        this is “dead nuts accurate” dick! it started here around 400 years ago, and as long as you d0 NOT quit on yourself, you can still find stuff!..ya just have to work “much harder” for it! I STILL have the “feeling of anticipation” and I figure as long as I have that, and (good health) to continue the “up and down”I will never quit! after all, what else would I do, besides sit on my ass and wait to “Croak!…just sayin’


      • Yeah, think I’m in that rut now. Need to get off my ass and exercise.

  3. john taylor

    ya done good dick to get out! congrats! ya on ya way!


  4. Tony

    Dick, I wonder if Karl Von Muller was given that rhetorical question, ‘how deep is deep enough?’ Or Doc Noss, or Hardrock Henderson. What their responses would have been? But you’re asking us, your compadres, not the YouTubers or video folks, or our favorite heroes of the start of this crazy hobby. For me, there are plenty of times that I cover the spot and walk away because it gets too deep. I fear all the time that folks are watching me. Been that way since day one. So to go deep for me it has to be a definite terrific signal, in numbers, sound and checked over and over.

    • Tony in the KVM era there weren’t that many tekkies digging holes. Not very many at all. I don’t ever remember feeling self conscious or intimidated when I was out detecting. Permissions were easy and the public curious and interested in what I was doing, not suspicious. Today it’s a totally different scenario. JMO.

      • I think you are right about the KVM era. But here in the UK detecting is mainstream, following the critically acclaimed television comedy drama, Detectorists.
        Even the lead-ins to the major news bulletins feature clips of Tekkies doing their thing alongside other pastimes. It’s this acceptance of metal detecting that’s driven the likes of Warsaw Wally and Heritage Harry apoplectic as they struggle to preach their ‘anti’ propaganda, all of which has fallen on stony ground.
        A lot of this success of ours took its lead from a pioneering column in W&ET called ‘Washington Update’ by written by Dick someone or other!!! You may remember it?

      • “A lot of this success of ours took its lead from a pioneering column in W&ET called ‘Washington Update’ by written by Dick someone or other!!!”

        Hah, kind of early to be sipping those single malts don’t ya think Bubba?

        (we do go back a bit don’t we….)

  5. john taylor

    dick! you really do look the part, astute,educated,and on point!
    a “champion” for the cause!

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