Metal Detecting in Frozen Ground

Many detectorists avoid detecting in the freezing winter months simply because the ground is too hard to dig. But don’t let that stop you! If you’re a detectorist that just can’t get by without going detecting until the ground thaws, there are some tips you can employ to make sure that your hunts are still safe and fun when you’re digging in frozen ground.

Look for Sites with Shallow Targets

Avoid going to sites where you know that the targets are going to be deeply buried — you won’t be able to reach them. Instead, focus on areas where finds are going to be closer to the surface. Construction sites can be fruitful locations to search in the winter because often, the topsoil has been removed, making it easier to get to targets that aren’t very deep.

Turn Down Your Sensitivity Setting

It can be discouraging to get an alert for a target that you just can’t get to. Setting your sensitivity setting low will help you avoid that disappointment and only be alerted when the target is just a few inches below the icy ground’s surface. If there is snow on the ground, adjust the sensitivity setting so that you get through the snow and about three or four inches of earth for a small target.

Bring Garbage Bags

When the ground is frozen, you may be able to dig out a chunk of icy earth containing a target, but not the target safely from the chunk of frozen ground it’s encased in. That’s where some garbage bags come in handy. Once you’ve made sure that your target is indeed in the chunk of icy dirt with your pinpointer, just throw the whole thing in a garbage bag and take it home to thaw out. Later, you can dig through the dirt to see what you’ve found.

Look for Less Icy Patches

If the outside temperatures are rising but the ground is still frozen, there are likely to be some patches that have thawed. Look for spots where the sun is hitting the ground or where you see mud. If you’re hunting on a construction site, look for piles of dirt and areas where the ground hasn’t been compressed by heavy equipment. Those areas will be easier to dig than the hard still-frozen ground.

Make Note of Locations to Dig Later

You might run into targets that you just can’t get to when the ground is hard as a rock. When you do, mark the spot with a colored golf tee so you can return to it later when the ground has thawed. To be sure that you find it again, it’s a good idea to make a sketch of the site and mark your targets on it so you have a reference on your return trip.