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Gold Prospecting: Right Place, Right Time, Right Equipment, Bad Technique By Philip Bonafede

11/09/2012 12:59PM ● Published by Denise Brown

The old adage of,” if gold were easy to find then everyone would be doing it,” rings so true! You can arrive at the best place at the best time with the best equipment and yet failure to have a solid foundation of good recovery and hunting techniques can leave you high and dry. This is why preparation and learning from the experts is key. Back to basics! The people who use metal detectors have a basic saying— “swing low and swing slow.” There is no way to put this any better. You must plan your hunt and hunt your plan. Do not get in a hurry!

A metal detector search coil is equipped from the factory with a skid plate on it. Without this cover you void your warranty because highly sensitive technology becomes exposed to potential damage. Now, having said this, the purpose of the scratch cover is so that you can get as close to the ground as possible and even gently slide the scratch cover over the desert sand gently for those faint deeper targets which tend to whisper at us. If you do receive one of these faint deep whispers, then kick the ground surface with your boot to see if the signal gets any louder... This is smart prospecting.

Next rebalance your machine in a neutral spot away from the whisper target and then go over the target location again. If it still whispers, be prepared to start digging a hole around the target, flip your coil up on the blade edge and poke it into the hole until you have successfully pinpointed the location. Scoop it and strain it through a classifier and badda bing! Where do I start?

One of the best places to wave a metal detector is in old tailing piles left behind by a dry washer and the walls and gravity traps of old desert washes. Mineral hunters can find a treasure in 20 to 30 foot high walls of old desert washes. Many metal detector users like to wait until after a nice hard rain storm to hunt these washes but be careful because the walls can become unstable.

The good news is that sometimes there can be nuggets right on the surface after a hard rain or in deep gravity traps. The bad news for metal detectors is that wet ground creates false echoes and can tell you there is something there when in fact you are receiving wet ground mineralization and a “false ground echo.” Dry washers are also not as efficient after a hard rain. Hence the name dry washer.

Once again I highly recommend you always prospect with a more experienced person or a club member. Our club is local in the high desert and we have over 200 members. We are a non-profit educational organization. We own five placer mining claims. You can contact us at www.first

If you are interested in joining a placer mining college class contact Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree. The class runs every Saturday and starts October 27.

Philip Bonafede is a prospector and owner of Prospectors Depot, in Joshua Tree. You can reach Phil with your questions and comments at:, or (760)366-3333. We’re looking forward to doing some prospecting with Philip this fall when it gets cooler. Are you interested in desert prospecting? Let us know at

Culture, In Print, Travel joshua tree prospecting desert travel issue gold philip bonafede mining

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