Every detectorist dreams of finding valuable treasure when they go out hunting. One way to make those dreams come true is to hunt for gold nuggets. While finding gold with a metal detector may seem simple – hunt in location where gold has been found, swing your detector, hear an alert, retrieve gold nuggets – it can actually be pretty challenging. Of course, it can also be the most lucrative.  

To help you with your gold hunting, we have put together a list of facts and tips that will make your searches more productive and efficient.  

Facts and Tips for Metal Detecting for Gold Nuggets

The first thing to consider before you go out detecting for gold nuggets is what type of detector to use. While most detectors can detect gold, using one that is specifically designed to find gold will net you more finds. The average detector will do fine  locating a gold ring in the ground at the park, but for gold nuggets that may be extremely small, you need a detector that is designed specifically for gold.

Now that you have the right detector, let’s look at some more facts and tips:  

  1. Today’s detectors are able to detect gold nuggets as small as half a grain, and the depth to which they detect depends on the size of the nugget. The largest nuggets may be found as deep as a foot, while smaller pieces can only be detected closer to the surface. For example, a one grain nugget can often be detected at two inches deep, while a match head sized piece will be detectable at four inches.

  2. The higher the operating frequency of your detector, the more sensitivity you will have to find small gold. However, it will also make your detector more sensitive to iron minerals. If you are hunting in an area with high iron content, you may have more false alerts. Detectors with lower operating frequencies will be less sensitive to gold nuggets but will handle the iron minerals in the ground better. Your best bet may be using a pulse induction (PI) detector. PI detectors act like they have a very low frequency. Their main strength is that they are good at ignoring ground mineral conditions and can find larger nuggets at greater depths.

  3. Many metal detectors have manual ground balancing controls. This allows you to adjust the detector for the iron content in the area you are hunting. When the ground you are searching is fairly consistent, you won’t have to do much adjusting. However, when you are searching an area with widely varying iron content or many scattered mineralized rock, you will be adjusting constantly. Using a detector that has an automatic ground balancing setting will require less adjusting and have less ground noise.

  4. Detectors that are designed to find gold will also find all conductive metals. However, most machines also have the ability to tune out many of the common steel and iron trash targets. PI detectors are not always as good at discriminating trash.  

  5. Gold nuggets rarely occur alone. That means that when you find one, you should treat it as an indication that there is more. It’s much more likely than not that you will find additional nuggets nearby. Follow up these indicators with more searching and excavating.

  6. Most methods for finding gold require the presence of water (panning, etc.). One of the main advantages of metal detecting for gold is that you can search areas that don’t. You can check areas that are away from water, including arid locations and deposits that are uphill from water sources. These areas are less likely to have been searched.  

  7. To find gold nuggets, you have to go where gold is found. You can certainly use your detector to prospect in new areas but keep your expectations low and don’t expect to find much where it hasn’t been found before. Rather, do your research and find areas that have a known production of the type of gold you wish to find. Researching for prime areas is the key to success when it comes to gold nugget hunting.  

  8. Always remember to obtain permission to metal detect on private property or mining claims and be mindful of restrictions on public land. It’s also important to be responsible and fill in your holes and remove any trash that you dig up. This keeps the hobby of metal detecting protected and makes it better for all detectorists.



Final Thoughts on Metal Detecting for Gold Nuggets

While it may be one of the most challenging types of metal detecting, hunting for gold nuggets is a lot more exciting than digging up clad coins in the park. Gold nuggets are usually small, the ground may be highly mineralized and difficult to work with, and you’ll undoubtedly have to dig some trash. But, when you find your very first gold nugget, you’ll be hooked forever!