Every detectorist has been there – you’re detecting a site that has potential for great finds, but you’re a couple of hours in and you haven’t found anything good. How do you know if you should keep searching, or call it a day? Here are some things to think about before you make your decision.

Check Your Perspective

It’s tempting to pack it all up and head to another site when you are not finding anything good. You may think that you have been hunting for long enough that there just isn’t anything to find, and that may be true – leaving might be the best idea. But, ask any detectorist and they will tell you that some of their best finds were made after they were tempted to give up. If you shift your thinking to “There are finds here, I just have to figure out how to get to them,” you’ll have a much better time and you might find something great.

Look at Your Trash

Examining the trash you have found can help you determine if you are searching “good” ground. Are you finding just pull tabs or less, or does it look like you are finding targets that may be part of something else? For example, if you are on a battlefield and you’re finding shotgun shells, then you know that the area isn’t hunted out. But, if you aren’t getting anything other than pull tabs, you’re not the first detectorist to search there.

Look at the age of the trash you are finding. If it’s all new, then you might be digging into fill dirt and you’ll want to move to another site. If you are getting brass or iron targets deeper than 4 or more inches, and the pieces look old, then you might be onto something good and you should keep going.

Should You Stay or Go?

If you think that the ground is good where you are, you should stay. But if you don’t know, you have to consider your options.

If you are hunting a site that you won’t likely be able to return to (private property where you don’t want to inconvenience owners by asking permission again in the future), then you may want to spend some extra time there even if you haven’t hit pay dirt.

One thing you can do to compromise when you’re unsure about whether to stay or go is to set a time limit. For example, decide that you will hunt for another half an hour and that if you don’t find anything good, you’ll move on. There’s something about having a time limit that focuses your search and you might be surprised with what you find in that last half an hour.

If You Stay, Make Adjustments

If you decide to stay, you may want to make some adjustments to your detecting strategy. Try some of the following:

  • Adjust your swing. Sometimes a shorter, overlapping swing will help you pay closer attention so you don’t miss any targets.
  • Examine deep targets closely. Deep targets may sound iffy at first. But upon a closer look at deep signals, you may find killer targets that didn’t sound good right off the bat.
  • Decrease discrimination. Decreasing the discrimination setting on your detector will allow you to hear and dig more of those deep signals.
  • Switch machines or search coils. Sometimes there’s a valid reason for switching equipment – but sometimes switching for no reason other than to change something, works too. It’s like getting a change of scenery to improve your mood, there isn’t a specific reason it works, but it may improve your attitude about the search.

Staying or leaving your search is a decision only you can make. Hopefully the above considerations will help you the next time your hunt isn’t going just how you want it to.