Letter Re: A Treasure-Hunting Prepper

I would like to address a few of the insightful comments to my original submission: A Treasure Hunting Prepper.
Mr. Fitzy in Pennsylvania is correct about his instruction on filling in holes when metal detecting. It is true that some parks can become closed due to irresponsible detectorists, but I would assume that it is common sense amongst those born with it to not leave holes! That, unfortunately, is not always the case. For instance, a local park that a metal detecting club my dad and I belonged to decided to make it against the rules to metal detect on park grounds. That decision was made because some guys decided it was easier to use shovels to dig holes with, throw the large plugs of dirt into the back of a pick-up, and then leave a hundred large holes for the park grounds keeper to discover. It was only because of our (the club’s) patient demonstration of leaving the park grounds as beautiful as we found them while removing trash, that the officials were convinced that detecting could actually be beneficial.
A great solution to leaving your area untouched is carrying a handkerchief or similar article of cloth. After cutting a plug, I run it over the coil to determine if the metal object is in the plug or still in the ground. If it is still in the plug, I usually cut the base of the plug off just before the bulk of the grass roots, and dissect a portion of the removed dirt over the hole a piece at a time until the object is found. If it is in the top portion of the plug along with the grass roots, use careful probing with fingers or plastic pointed tool (so not to scratch coins) and find the object without losing too much of the dirt. If after lifting the plug the object is still deeper in the hole, I remove a fistful of dirt at a time after loosening it, run it over the coil, and then drop the dirt onto the handkerchief close to the hole. Once the treasure is found, simply dump the dirt from the handkerchief back into the hole, orient the plug onto the hole, and then stomp it back down. I am sometimes surprised to turn around and discover that I can’t even tell where I have just dug! A note of caution though, if too much dirt is removed from the plug top, the grass may temporarily turn yellow, but it will return green after a few rain showers. If it becomes too thin because most of the dirt came off the root plug, it can become light enough to be sucked up into lawnmower blades and destroyed into a cloud of dust. That is not the way to impress a land owner, and your chances of coming back for a second hunt are probably over. I will say that the probability of killing a grass plug is diminished in early spring when the winter snow has thawed and left the ground saturated with moisture. Getting permission to hunt the well groomed lawn of an 1800s homestead might need to be postponed until after the heat of summer has passed.
Mr. Fitzy was also nice enough to mention that cleaning up trash while treasure hunting leaves a great impression. That is just another reason to wear a large apron with pockets when hunting in public areas. When it comes to the digging, understand that many options exist. I carry a dull bladed knife with just the right amount of tempering to prevent bending the blades. Its blade is about 6 inches in length, and might seem intimidating to other while wandering around a public area. Metal scoops and even screw drivers can be an option, but neither usually cut a nice plug as well. An actual plug cutter can be used as well. If you decide to carry a large bladed knife, just understand it could draw unwanted attention. Make sure to keep it hidden in your apron or pocket. My blade is barely sharp enough to cut Styrofoam, so I keep it in my back pocket with my shirt tail covering it sometimes.
Mr. Fitzy also mentioned that having a headlamp entertains the option of detecting at night. I have done this myself, and that may be the best option to avoid unwanted attention, treasure hunting around work schedules, or just be able to avoid the daytime heat. If night hunting sounds attractive, and you want a detector with an LCD display, find out if your model of interest has a back lighted display. My White’s Eagle Spectrum model has this option, and affords the ability to turn it on/off and adjust the brightness. A downside to this option is that it can rob you of valuable battery power.
I thought that the Prepared Teacher’s comment about using a detector for finding brass was a good one. My original article referred to the use of a “discriminator” to eliminate trash. This is a great example of adjusting the settings to eliminate the bulk of signals and then scan for something more desirable. The only problem for myself though is that I really enjoy shooting .22 LR caliber firearms. The areas I shoot at are polluted with way too much .22 brass to use a detector in finding more expensive cases. Once the ground is saturated with junk brass, the possibility of separating it from the good stuff is long gone. If that is your intentions, maintaining a segregated area for .22’s might be a good idea. On detectors with programmable options, it can be possible to create a program that can actually discriminate nearly everything except brass! Ask about such programmable options when performing research on your metal detector purchase.
Lastly, Old Dog’s question about someone using a detector to find a cache is something I have been pondering since he asked the question. Depending on the detector being used, it might still be possible to “see” a picture of the ground’s contents. For instance, my White’s display indicates spikes on a graph scale from -100 to +100. If I were to detect a large object with spikes in the copper (your buried ammo) and or silver ranges (your container of pre-1965 silver coins), I would probably keep digging up and removing the chunks of trash until I was satisfied that there truly was no buried items of value. I would advise that you might consider burying your cache in a waterproof pvc container. I have purchased sections of 8” pipe at my local hardware store and made my own caches with watertight end caps. Such a container could then be stored inside a long metal  drainage pipe. The pipe would surround your goodies, and should all but eliminate the signature of your precious contents as being nothing but iron and fool even the most expensive detectors. If a four foot piece of drainage pipe is too expensive or heavy to lift, cheap metal wood stove pipe could serve the same purpose. After about three years, it would be heavily rotted, and produce a large iron signal. Even a curious dig would reveal  nothing bust rust and rotting steal. Burying your cache under the edge of a metal fence, metal shed or farm building, along a building under false plumbing or roof drainage is likely to mostly mask the signature, and definitely make it nearly impossible to segregate as something that is easy to dig or valuable.  Should you decide to utilize the scattered trash method, just make sure that an absolute ton of trash is used to mask the valuables below it. Don’t just throw around some nails, but also include some flattened  empty coffee cans, aluminum soda cans, misc. trash iron, etc. What is desirable here is what JWR refers to as “trash” should look like a dumping grounds for the local scrap yard! The key here is to discourage on a grand scale. Your life could depend on it.
Lastly, I wanted to add a neglected topic to this discussion. The metal detector has been in use for years in our military. Its invention was heavily implemented during the last world war to search for and clear land mines along ocean landings for our blessed Marines. Since then, and still today, it is widely used to detect land mines and various booby traps. Metal detectors can even be used to find the wires that might lead to dangerous devices and be able to disable them by disconnection from the tripping device. I would be interested in stories from our armed forces that have used or seen detectors used on the battlefield.
Happy digging (or caching)! – Greg R. in Indiana