Field Hunting

This is generally my preference for a number of reasons.

1- Easier to be granted permission

2-Less outside people to deal with (watchers, question askers, kids) not that those are bad things, I just prefer the privacy being in the middle of a field affords.

3- Less effort required. Lets face it, it’s much easier to take a long shovel, flop the dirt out (no plugging needed) kick it around and recover the booty. Public and private grass, extra care required.

That out of the way, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned along the way. I still have plenty of “empty space” in the melon, so always room for more. Feel free to add your experience.

To find sites to hunt, I use the Google Earth and old map overlay method. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you can look it up, as it would be much better explained than if I were to attempt it.

I don’t have the luxury afforded by older plat maps. Locally, the early 1950’s is the best I’ve got. Old enough for silver, sure, but old enough for large coppers, Barbers, etc?

Having hunted some of those homesites found on those '50’s maps, it makes sense that those homes weren’t built during that time, they were simply standing there at the time the mapping was done. They could have been standing 100 years prior, or longer. So simply because you don’t have maps dating back to the early/mid 1800’s, don’t lose hope.

What I’ve also learned is that the structures shown on those maps, likely weren’t the only ones that were ever constructed on that particular site. Many times houses burnt, or simply rotted away from age, and were cleared/relocated to make room for farming.

Yes, I’ll start with finding/hunting the known spots where a structure stood, but once I feel I’ve “pretty much” (you never get it all) found what there is to be found, I stop and take a visual survey of the land/field.

Look for any high spots, as generally that’s where structures were built, on the slightly elevated bits of land, and it doesn’t have to be much. I’ll walk it over and visually see if I can spot any bits of heavy glass, crockery, dishes, etc, all while swing my detector listening for bits of iron. More than once I’ve mentioned it (all the debris) to the farmer, and they had no clue. Evidently it’s just too far away setting high up in a piece of machinery, or their concentration is focused elsewhere.

You’d be surprised how many times this has paid-off, and given me an additional homestead to hunt, in the very same field which mapping failed to show. It has provided me with coins and relics pre-1900’s.

Also, some times property which has been in the same family for decades, sometimes has a fair sized patch of grass left, perhaps even a tree or two still standing. I’ve seen this more than once, and they do it because that where their parents or grandparents house once stood, and they leave it in remembrance of those family members. Any time I’d hunted a place like that, I’d usually found some sort of item which was likely owned/used by those who lived there. I always give something like that back to the family/person who’d granted the permission. A couple things I remember were a Great Seal hat badge belonging to the Grandfather of one, you could tell he was proud to get it. Another was a trivet (used to set a hot pot/pan on) that I’d cleaned-up and painted, then given to an elderly woman who gave me permission to hunt the field where she grew-up. That place had the patch of grass I previously mentioned, and was where I’d pulled the Barber Half-Dollar from I posted in the Finds section.

To some (maybe many/most) this certainly isn’t “news”, but to someone new to detecting, or hasn’t experienced field hunting, might get some useful/helpful information from it. Point being, what you find on a map, may not be the limit of what was actually there, take the additional step or two to look beyond that, maybe even visualize how it looked 100-200 tears ago. You’re already there, in the field, so there’s nothing to lose, and who knows how much is there, you just aren’t aware of because it wasn’t shown on the map.

Good luck!

I would love to do more field hunting, but I live in a suburban area where open, undeveloped fields are almost non existent. The closest thing I have near me for field hunting is a large modern church park that was once the farm field of an 1820s house. It was not a big or fancy house, just a small cabin. From what I have read, this site was a dairy farm, but I’m thinking the fields were probably planted in the early days. The house and multiple outbuildings including a large dairy barn were torn down when the park was established in the 1990s.
I have permission for this site and have mostly found junk (pieces of crushed sheet copper and aluminum) around where the farmhouse was. Also found some old blue and white pottery shards and square nails, but no old coins yet. I’m thinking I might have some luck if I move away from the iron- and trash-infested house site and try detecting in the field area behind it. I have tried it a bit and only found modern clad, but I can’t help but think that there must be something old to find.
The field area is multiple acres and kind of hilly. It’s kind of intimidating and I’m not really sure where to begin, but I’m thinking maybe the flatter spots would be a good starting point. The main thing holding me back is probably lack of patience. Any tips would be welcome.

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Welcome first off! I understand on the lack of open (farm) ground, it’s happening (disappearing) everywhere. Keep in mind however, in today’s world all those buildings are newer, the dirt is still the same. A lot of variables, but those 100-200 year-old coins could very well still be there.

Sounds like a great site. The pieces of copper and aluminum sheeting was generally used for flashing (which you may know). Between that, the pottery and nails, it sounds like you’re in the right area. I sometimes struggle trying to determine if the “trash” area I’m in was the house or barn? I mean I could see some household items, such as pottery, glassware, etc, making it out to the barn, If I start finding more “farm” type items mixed-in, then I’ll start expanding the search area.

Have you ever looked the property up on any old plat maps? There’s one here but I’m unsure how far back it would go in your area.

The maps will show the location of structures, but won’t identify which is the house and which is the barn (if there is one). Generally they weren’t too far apart.

Here’s my way of looking at it. Many people don’t want to hunt those “trash and iron infested” areas, for the same reasons you don’t. The fact that it’s all still there is a good thing, because it tells you all the top soil wasn’t removed. If the iron is still there, so are the better finds.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with looking over other areas, but without knowing, or at least having a pretty good idea, something else (another dwelling) was there, you’re liable to be wasting your time, but you could find an occasional dropped coin. The needle in the haystack thing.

Generally speaking, people didn’t wander too far from the house for picnics, setting in the shade, kids playing in the yard, family/friends/neighbors stopping by for a visit. There was generally a clothesline nearby, nobody wants to pack a basket of wet clothes any further than they have to. There was also a privy (outhouse), which after a period of time filled-up and needed relocated. Same on the distance from the house, no one wants to have to “answer the call” at midnight, and have to walk (cheeks clenched) very far to take care of business.

Water source was another issue. Is there a creek/river nearby? They had to have water to survive, as did their livestock, and generally didn’t want to have to haul it any further than necessary (at what, 8lbs/gallon), I don’t blame them. So another possibility would be the path from the house/barn to the water. I wouldn’t be surprised if the privy was somewhere near that path as well and where the laundry was done.

Personally, I’d concentrate on the area you know something was. Start removing all the trash and iron signals. You’ve mentioned a lack of patience (human nature, so don’t let that bother you). Doing this will help not only develop your patience, but will help you learn your machine as well, not to mention once you start removing all the trash, then you can start to find the better targets.

It sounds like you’re possibly newer to detecting, and if that’s the case, that’s all the more reason to begin how (and where) I’d mentioned, and use it as a learning opportunity. Anything that was there, for the most part is still there, and if you can detect it for as long as you like, then that’s all the more reason to remove the iron/trash. Just be sure to leave things as neatly as possible and not create a bunch of dead spots in the grass (if it’s an issue there), as summertime can certainly dry things out and make things a bit more difficult.

There’s no detector made that’s going to be 100% right 100% of the time. The only way that IS 100% is to look at what’s making that signal under the coil, and that’s to recover it. If you look at some picture of others finds (and some will/some won’t), you’ll generally see a pretty good bit of trash was dug along with it. If their detector was so “spot on” at identifying targets, why did they dig the trash?

The site may also have already been detected, which doesn’t mean a lot. Many times, if it has, someone will come through and dig the easy signals (“cherry picking”) because they simply want the easiest finds for the least amount of effort. Nothing wrong with that, as that leaves finds for those willing to put in a bit more effort.

Hope there was enough in my ramblings to maybe give you something to think about. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions, others here willing to help as well. If you do, just try to offer as much info as you can, without disclosing your sites location. LOL, everyone certainly understands that.

ETA: After reading a couple of your other posts, seems like perhaps you’re not exactly new to detecting, and if that’s the case, sorry if some of my reply seemed over-simplified.

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Thanks for the detailed reply. I have been detecting since May of last year when I bought a Vanquish 440 (before that I messed around with a RadioShack unit in my yard).
I located the house and barn by looking at a combination of aerial photos and USGS topo maps (from historic aerials website). The house is marked as a black box and the outbuildings are marked as empty white boxes. Historic aerials lets you pull the coordinates, and in my experience even the building markings from the 30s and 40s tend to be really accurate on the USGS topo maps. So when I go out to this park, I can walk out and stand right on top of where the house was.
There is a water source nearby, a creek bed running behind the house. The spot where the house sat was backfilled because there are tons of really deep targets around it (probably pieces of the building) and there is a layer of sand beneath the soil for some reason.
But right next to the house there is a spot that seems pretty undisturbed which is loaded with trash signals. Maybe I’ll spend some more time there and try to remove a lot of signals. Thanks for the encouragement. Here is one of the interesting things
I have found at this site, some kind of brass relic that looks kind of old. It could be a flag belt holder from what I have seen online.


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Good deal, sounds like you’ve got a pretty fair grasp on things. Depending on how many other permissions you have, this one you could either stay on, or use it as a fill-in spot between other permissions in the event they (permissions) slow down. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate continuing gaining other permissions in the meanwhile.

There has to be some good finds there, you’ll just have to continue removing the rubbish until you get to them. Many people won’t put in that sort of effort, which is what would make me keep going.

Neat piece, whatever it is. I looked at some belt holder, but they show the hanger configured differently (see pic), not to say that’s not what it is.

Post it up in the “Whatzit” forum, maybe someone can ID it.

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I am mostly detecting old parks and schools and I get permission for old houses every so often. This 1820s house site is one I go to if I just want to detect for a little while, because it’s like 2 minutes from where I live. Here are some photos I found online, all of these items are listed as Civil War era flag pole holders. I’m not totally convinced though.

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If that site is that close to home, and you have pretty much an open invitation to detect it, then that’s all the more reason to keep at it. You’ll end up with some good finds (including relics) there.

Then I’d agree, that’s definitely what you have. Heck I’d even added the “Civil War” just to see what returned.

Maybe I need to look into a better search engine (than DDG).

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My favorite places to hunt are farm fields. Things I find there are old coins, tokens and relics.
I have never found any map that all of the places where people lived were shown. On one farm I found 5 places not on any map.

Agree, there were people and homesites around long before mapping became a “thing”.

That’s where those Lidar maps come in handy, just point it at your heavily wooded areas and watch all the cellar holes, walking paths, foundations, etc come to life.

Is that something that some geezer with a poor internet connection would be forced to say bad things?

Asking for a friend.

I think if you can handle google maps/earth you’ll handle LiDAR maps just fine