TIPS FOR GOLD HUNTING IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Part 3
Gold Detecting Tips:
1. Upon commencing detecting each day, consider doing a “Factory Preset” (on the GPX 6000) or “Reset Audio & Detection Settings” (on the GPZ 7000) – in order to optimise the operational performance of your highly-sensitive, Minelab pulse-induction detector.
2. Be patient, the gold is not going anywhere – if the GPX 6000/GPZ 7000 becomes a bit noisy or “chattery”, then do a noise cancel followed by manual ground balancing using the “Quick Track” button. Some days I do this often throughout the day. This will optimise the performance of your GPX/GPZ so that you are not wasting time and possibly missing those quieter/faint target signal noises often associated with deeper gold.
3. Swinging technique is also VERY CRITICAL to how much gold you are likely to detect. The “Low and Slow” rule is VERY IMPORTANT to find more gold. On soily ground (without too many sharp rocks) I would lightly and slowly rub my coil upon the ground, with overlapping sweeps from side to side, in order for the detectors pulse induction to energize gold nuggets as long as possible, and so as to increase the chance of the nugget being detected. I found that the coil skid plates lasted longer than I expected, and they are a small expense to pay for the benefit of finding more gold. (The gold price recently hit an-all-time record high of about AU$3,000 per ounce – nearly $100 per gram).
4. After finding a gold nugget, and then re-checking the back-filled hole, I would always do a Noise Cancel, and a manual Ground Balance, to optimise the operation of my detector to find further nuggets.
5. Whenever possible, and about half-way during a day of prospecting (during my midday lunch break), I would replace my detector's Lithium-ion battery with a fully charged battery.
6. A Guide Arm (or Control Arm) attachment to the shaft of your detector can also be very useful. The end-grip of the guide arm is held by your non-detecting hand, so as to provide precisely controlled swinging of the coil within both the horizontal and vertical planes. The guide arm is also great for distributing some of the detector weight to the strength of your non-detector arm. I found that a guide arm greatly increased my prospecting comfort, especially on long, consecutive days of swinging.
7. A Bungee cord (also often called a Bunji or Bungey cord) is often worn by many prospectors using the heavier GPZ 7000, especially if it is being swung for sessions of longer than a few hours. I also used a bungee cord on my GPX 6000 (attached from the shaft of my detector to the “D” ring on my harness) to minimise fatigue since I would mostly swing my 6000 for about 8 hours a day (equivalent to the running time of a fully charged battery). Some weeks I would swing for 7 consecutive days (that was about 56 hours of swinging a week). I found using a bungee made a huge difference to my muscle fatigue, and it provided me with greater swinging endurance time per day. More swinging = more ground coverage = more gold.
8. If you find a gold patch, then use all the suitable coils you have on the patch, and also then thoroughly over the patch – that is, not only sweep-swinging on a grid-like pattern in both perpendicular directions, but also at angles across the patch. It never ceased to surprise me how much more gold I picked up with the GPX 6000 by detecting in many different directions on a patch. I would firstly exhaust the patch of gold using the GPX17” mono coil. When I was finding little more gold on a patch, I would then run the GPX11” mono coil over the patch and find more gold. Finally, I would then put the GPX14” DD coil and often find some more gold.
One of my pet hates .... unfilled holes dug by lazy detectorists/prospectors - it ain’t rocket science.
Besides, it is generally much quicker to fill in a hole than dig it.
Who would like strangers coming into their yard and digging holes? let alone leaving them unfilled?
To me, leaving their holes unfilled is a reflection of, not only someone’s personality, but also their professionalism as a prospector.
During my several years of prospecting in W.A., I reckon I encountered tens-of-thousands of holes, some up to about 2-feet deep, left unfilled by other people using detectors. Most poachers do not backfill their holes - for various reasons.
I would often run my detector over many of these unfilled holes and find trash left in them, or in the adjacent spoil.
Fortunately, on about half a dozen occasions, I found small gold nuggets either still remaining in the hole, or in the spoil beside the hole - that were missed. On two occasions I found two nuggets within a hole after digging out the holes deeper.
Always re-check your holes & the spoil, and then check again after you have back-filled them. You might just get a nice surprise, like I did on a few occasions.
THEY NEVER GET ALL THE GOLD
One day I encountered two old "blow-in" (from interstate) prospectors near Kalgoorlie detecting some recent scrapes using a GPZ 7000 with a Minelab GPZ 19" 'Super-D' coil and a "modified" GPX 4500 with a Coiltek 18" Elite Mono coil.
I also had written permission to be on that lease to detect gold using my Minelab GPX 5000 with my new Nugget Finder 15" Evolution mono coil.
I got yarning to these blokes as they were packing up to leave. They loudly boasted that I "would be absolutely wasting my time" detecting the scrapes with my "stock 5000" as they "had completely flogged the ground" with both of their "high performance" detectors.
After they left, I fired up my trusty & proven workhorse GPX 5000, and I unleashed it upon that ground with enthusiasm. The first thing I did was walk upon the top of the many windrows (soil bunds created via machinery pushing/scraping operations), and I detected their tops, and both side batters.
Over the next few days, I pulled out over several ounces of gold (40+ nuggets) including a stunning half-ouncer at a depth of 1.5 feet. Most of the bigger nuggets were within the windrows. Other blokes who had recently pushed this ground with a loader not only failed to detect the nuggets in the windrows, but so too had these two "mature"-aged interstate prospectors missed all these nuggets. I had found more-than-enough "missed gold" to buy a brand spankin' new Minelab GPZ 7000. I had a few quiet chuckles to myself.
Over the next few years I was often amused hearing others claim they had "flogged" areas. This always presented a challenge to me - to try and prove them wrong. In the vast majority of cases I always found multiple nuggets from such so-called "flogged" ground.
It would seem to me that it was highly likely that all of those hundreds of nuggets I found on such so-called "flogged" grounds was due to poor detecting techniques used by others (including lack of patience and thoroughness).
The vast majority (90%+) of gold nuggets I found in W.A. were detected with a distance of about 0.5km to 1km of a hill or hill/s. Many nuggets I detected were on the sides of hills or near the toes of hills too. A salt lake/s was often nearby too, within about 1 to 2 km's.
Most of the biggest nuggets I found in W.A. were at depth, often nearby large/old trees, and they were either within gold patches containing numerous nuggets, or nearby at least a few other smaller nuggets.
I also detected many nuggets buried under tree logs & branches that I carefully moved (watch out for snakes). Sometimes I would find unfilled holes scattered nearby/beside big logs that, surprisingly, had not been moved. I would then move these potential "nugget covers" and sometimes detect gold nuggets below. Many part-time/hobby detectorists are not absolutely thorough in their physical quest for gold. Full-time prospectors mostly think-outside-the-norm, and also take those extra, hard-yards steps to find more gold - probably because for many of them, their (and their family's) livelihood/s depends on it.
Saltbush vegetation was often nearby where I found gold too. I found several great nuggets beside the roots of saltbushes.
Often where I found gold (and other long-time local prospectors told me the same too) nearby was any/many of the following geological indicators:
Quartz + ironstone (often called “salt & pepper” ground)
Banded Iron Formations (BIF's)
Fault lines and contact zones (sometimes they can be naturally marked by way of obviously contrasting/sudden changes in vegetation types)
Many long-time, local prospectors in W.A. enjoy going out prospecting after heavy rains (when unsealed roads are not closed and not boggy) - since good gold is often eroded out of the ground and exposed, to be possibly spotted by a sharp-eye, or become within the range of detection of a detector coil.
There are many good books (and atlases) available for information on gold prospecting in Australia. I particularly like reference books that contain good maps, including locations of historical gold workings & mines. For decades in Australia, aussie prospector Doug Stone has authored several such prospecting books & atlases, including for Western Australia.
SIMPLE AIR-DEPTH CALIBRATION TEST:
At the start of every prospecting session, after turning my detector on and then doing the Noise Cancel, and Ground Balancing procedures, to get the detector running quiet & smooth, I would ALWAYS do an air-depth detection calibration test - to ensure my detector was running at near optimum performance for depth.
For this test I used a new/clean Aussie 5 cent coin (that I would always carry in my pocket), and I would confirm the maximum height (above the coin-on-the-ground) that the coil could just detect the coin.
Around Kalgoorlie, I generally obtained the following air-depth testing/calibration results (on an unburied 5 cent coin) for the respective Minelab detector & coil/s that I was using:
GPX6000 with 11" round Minelab Mono coil = 14" depth
GPZ 7000 with 14×13" Minelab Super-D coil = 16" to 18" depth
GPX 5000 with 19" round Nugget Finder Evolution Mono coil = 16" to 18"depth
GPX 5000 with 25" round Nugget Finder DD X-Search coil = about 20" depth
The above air-depths were the absolute maximum detection depths I generally achieved, and less than the detection depth of the same metal target buried in the ground, especially in highly mineralised ground.
Pulse-induction detectors will generally lose depth performance to some degree in highly to extremely mineralised ground, particularly when using highly-sensitive, flat-wound Monoloop coils, and especially as the ground surface temperature increases.
In "difficult ground" (highly mineralised and/or conductive), and sun-heated ground, a DD coil of at least the same diameter (albeit heavier than a Monoloop coil of the same diameter) may be more of an advantage.
For extra grip for my big hands, and also for increased shock-absorbing capacity, I fitted a rubberised tennis handle wrap to my pick handle.
I always had a super-strong, round/flat, rare earth magnet mounted upon the top middle of the head of my pick. It was great for pulling out iron-based trash e.g. wire etc. It also often grabbed hot rocks. Don't just assume that all such hot rocks consist totally of iron and don't contain any gold. Over the years I found several hot rocks on my magnet that when broken up contained gold.
RECORD & SECURE YOUR NUGGETS .... & 4WD KEY
Most gold prospectors I have met (hundreds of them) use a plastic container (i.e. a used medication-type bottle) in the field to store their smaller, found gold, and most carry that container in either their shirt pocket or trouser pocket.
Over the years I was told by several local W.A. prospectors that they had found small plastic pill-type containers apparently dropped in the bush by other prospectors. Most contained gold nuggets. One bloke told me the container he found had 19 nuggets in it, totaling about an ounce. It was found on 'Pending' ground.
I store my freshly found nuggets within a plastic container, either secured:
(A) inside a zippered, deep compartment inside my backpack (together with the keys for my 4WD); or
(B) inside my trouser pocket - with a lanyard made from strong, pink coloured string that is securely connected from the bottle thread to a belt loop on my trousers.
I also use compact (pocket) digital scales to weigh, and I also photograph my significant gold nuggets in the field immediately after finding them.
That way if you then lose such a valuable nugget/s (either by accident, or it being stolen), at least you have a digital record (with a date & time stamp) of you having then had possession/ownership of it prior to it being lost or stolen.
LOOKING AFTER THE BUSINESS END OF YOUR DETECTOR
I regularly inspect my detector coils for any damage, and very carefully/gently remove the coil skid plate to clean out any dust and soil that may possibly congregate over time. In Western Australia where highly to extremely mineralised soils are common, such very fine mineralised dust can eventually find it’s way into between the coil and the skid plate.
This is even more likely to occur for large diameter spoked coils, compared to small round solid coils – mainly due to the significantly more total length of the contact faces between the coil and the skid plate.
If enough such material gets in, and also moves around whilst swinging, then this can affect the performance of highly sensitive, pulse-induction detectors.
I also wrap the circumference of all my coils with a quality adhesive tape. This acts as both a seal against any possible ingress of moisture and/or dust, and also as a protective layer on the outer vertical edge of the coil which nudges/rubs on soil, rocks, etc. I prefer Scotch heavy-duty grade ‘SUPER 88’ vinyl tape. It usually lasts me several months of swinging.
Talking about dust - which can find its way into almost all small gaps - it can pay to make sure that all the pin connections for all cables (like the coil cable plug, and also any battery cable plugs) are fully inserted, with the screw rings also done up firm.
Given the tens-of-thousands of dollars I spent buying pulse-induction metal detectors over the years, I always protected these investments from the dust, heat, and potential damage (e.g. caused by impact/scratching etc), by way of fitting quality, Aussie-made, padded canvas protective covers over the control box of each detector. Such protective covers can also protect the manufacturer’s labels of serial number/security codes – which may be useful down the track.
Furthermore, for concealment and ease of transportation of my detectors and accessories, I also use quality, Aussie-made, padded canvas carry bags for all my detectors.
When I was gold prospecting full-time in W.A. I soon learned the benefit of dusting down my detector & coil/s at the end of each day (with a soft cotton rag), prior to placing my detector & coil/s into the padded carry bag. This end-of-day ritual sure helped minimise the amount of fine dust that got caught inside the canvas carry bag. After every week of prospecting I would empty my carry bag of it's contents, and then turn it inside out to thoroughly shake out any dust that had congregated. I also kept all electrical-related accessories (like spare cables, and batteries and headphones, etc), within separate plastic clip-seal bags to minimise any dust entering the plugs or connections. This held me in good stead for years without any issues.
[Nugget image source - Facebook page of Finders Keepers Gold Prospecting - Kalgoorlie, W.A.]