The Nugget Hunter #1
by Richard Delahanty
Gold is where you find it! How many times have you heard that old cliche? As with all old saws, there is a lot of truth to it. As with all old saws, there is also a catch to it. You can't find gold if there is no gold in the area that you are hunting in. All things being equal, the number one factor that will determine the success or failure of your quest for that elusive yellow metal is placing yourself in an area where gold has been found before. But didn't the old-timers get it all you ask? Not by a long shot! It has been estimated that only about 5% of the available gold has been found which leaves 95% for you and me to find with today's super-sensitive gold detectors. Seems like pretty good odds doesn't it? So, now what?
There are two ways to go about picking an area to prospect. The first is to find someone who already has hunted the area and stick to him like glue. You will not only learn a lot about the place but, if you're a novice at nugget shooting, you will also pick up valuable hunting techniques as well. The second method is to seek out all the "How To" and "Where To Go" books, magazine articles and maps pertaining to the area that you are interested in. The way I go about it is to zero in on a general location and then try to get topo maps of the area. The topos are quite helpful as many of them show the locaton of mines and placer diggings. These are the locations that I'll seek out when I arrive and then go from there. I've used a combination of these two methods over the years and they have worked well for me. On the subject of topo maps, there is a site on the web where you can obtain topos of any area in the U.S. and download them for free, which is great news when you consider that a new topo now runs $8.00 a pop. The site is at www.topozone.com.
You have done your homework well and picked a promising area to prospect. Now what? You are now on the ground standing beside your vehicle and you are looking at all that vast, wide open space and think, "Good grief, where do I start?" If you have chosen a good spot, there may be some old placer diggings in sight and there isn't a better place to begin. Look for drywasher tailings piles and start going over them with your coil. You just may get lucky as some very nice nuggets have been found on old tailings piles. Drywasher tailings generally show up as two piles of material, one pile will consist of coarser material from 1/2" or 3/4" on up. This is the header pile which came off the screen of the drywasher. The other pile a couple of feet away is the tailings pile of finer material which has been vibrated over the riffles of the drywasher. Gold can be, and sometimes is, found in either or both piles so check them carefully.
If there are no obvious diggings around, you will then have to go by guess and by gosh. Pick a likely looking gully or larger wash and just start walking and swinging. The adage, ' Gold is where you find it', truly applies now. A nice nugget can be lurking just about anywhere. Check behind obstructions in the bottom of the wash, along the bottom edges, the banks themselves or up on the lip of the wash. When you run out of wash, try the next one over or walk some nearby ridges and saddles. There is just no way of telling where that first nugget is going to show up. Or the second one and so on.
If there is a "secret" to finding gold, this is it: Go where gold has been known to be found and get out and walk and swing your detector. The more time and effort you put into it the better your chances will be. The beautiful yellow stuff is out there and you can certainly get your share!