If you have ever talked to me you know that I love field hunting. If you listen to Josh Kimmels podcast, beyond sight and sound, you have probably caught one of the episodes I have done about field hunting. It’s something I have enjoyed doing for years and it is my favorite type of metal detecting to do.
What is field hunting?
Field hunting is finding old sites, long gone that are just farm fields now. I don’t just pick a field, get permission and go walk it hoping to find something. I overlay old maps, talk to farmers about old sites and I use my eyes and binoculars to locate sites that have been gone, hopefully at least a 100 years.
Why field hunting?
There are so many reasons field hunting is my favorite form of metal detecting. Most farmers are very welcoming and have no problem with you metal detecting their field when the crops are out. Rarely will you be bothered field hunting, I hate door knocking then spending the next two hours with the homeowner talking to me and before you know it you have to go home. Old farm field sites usually do not give up a lot of coins but when they do they are usually amazing, my oldest coins have come from field sites. One thing I often find at these sites though, is an abundance of relics and I enjoy finding relics more than common silver coins anymore. Again, my best relics have come from field sites.
If those aren’t enough reasons for you here is another. Being from Ohio I have done extensive overlaying of many counties. Let’s say a county has 10 townships (they usually have more) It is safe to say I find a minimum of 100 sites per township and sometimes many more that are no longer standing which putx it at 1,000 sites per county, MINIMIUM! Most counties have more than 10 townships and many townships have more than 100 sites. Again, that’s just sites that are no longer on the map, you also get to see the houses that are still standing that you might not have otherwise known were that old.
It gets better!!
So let’s look at Ohio, It became a state in 1803 but people were settling in Ohio before that, some towns date back to the late 1700’s. On the other hand a lot of our maps that can be overlaid are 1870’s. If you get lucky you might find one a little earlier but rarely. So what about all those other houses, taverns, hotels, trading posts, blockhouses, etc. that didn’t survive to show up on the maps you can overlay? That’s what this article is about. How to find house sites that have been gone a long time without using anything but your eyes (a pair of binoculars help) and what I show you here.
Advice for getting on the best metal detecting sites.
Once you have found a site, or potential site see if you can find it on your earliest maps. If not that’s a really good sign. If it is on an earlier map you can usually find maps around 1900 I would check those. If it is on those, you can usually find maps from the 1960’s, 1970’s. If it is on that map I’m not saying I wouldn’t give it a try but sites that went up into the era of plumbing and electrical can be very hard to metal detect and I’ve had little luck at most of these. With so many potential sites I would concentrate on the sites that do not show up after say, 1920.
So what I have done is taken some maps of sites that I’ve hunted and I will break them down for you and show you some things to look for. They are all unique and give examples of different things to look for, clues that can lead you to some amazing sites to metal detect.
Example one (above) – the site marked 1800’s farm house, that person owns all that land. He pulls his tractors and equipment into the fields right from his barns. So the site marked pre 1870 house would be an easy find due to there being a small drive over the ditch, the farmer has no use for that drive but I find the farmers rarely if ever take them out, a lot of work for no reason. This site was on the 1870’s map and I believe an 1860’s map. It was also on a 1908 map but not on a 1919 map. When I overlaid this site I was a few hundred yards away to the east (either me or the map maker was off) finding the drive over the ditch saved me a lot of work in locating exactly where the site was and lead me directly to the site.
Example two (above) – Similar to the first example but there is no house currently on the property. You can easily tell by the big grassy area and driveway that there used to be a house there, even in recent years. Since the farmer would have been able to easily get into his fields right there from his house and barn there would have never been a need for the drive over the ditch. (that is a road running east and west across the top of the picture) Now that site was also on the 1870 map but it was a dead giveaway when I saw the drive going over the ditch.
Example three (above) – Different than the last two examples because where the old house site in the field was did not show up on any maps even the 1870 map. You can clearly see the driveway going back into the field from the farm house that is still standing yet you can clearly see the driveway going to his field that led directly to the old house that pre-dated 1870. It’s unusual that it’s a gravel driveway going back to the field when he can clearly use the driveway from his house that leads back into his fields. When I first found the driveway leading to the old house I figured I would find the site on current maps but I was wrong. It was a VERY old site giving up some very early coins and relics. You can clearly see signs of the farmer using the driveway leading from his house but I could not find signs of him ever using the old driveway. A good example of obvious irrigation going on before 1870 at least in Ohio.
Example four (above) – Here you can see where I found two house sites. The first one was on the 1870 map and there was clearly a drive over the ditch. However the second house site was pre-1870 yet another drive over the ditch. In both cases there were drives going over the ditch. From best I can tell the farmer no longer uses either. He can access all his fields from his house, not pictured.
Example five (above) – This example is a little different. House site one was on the 1870’s map but no drive visible because of new houses. Site two was not on the map, no drive to it. After hunting site one I knew I was close to a natural lake and I wanted to check all of his fields since I had permission. House site two sits on a nice high spot in that field. Where better to live than a high spot, quick walking distance to a lake?
Example six (above) – This site was found with my binoculars then confirmed once I obtained permission. It has everything to look for. Nice high spot in a field with a creek just off behind it. Great spot for a house! If you look there were no signs of drives leading into the field, this was a very early site, not giving up any coins and only a couple of nice relics but very early site.
Example seven (above)– This field is very flat with no drive into the field anywhere near the old home site. How I spotted this one was one day driving and noticing a slight rise in the field. When I say slight I mean I had to pull over and really look to make sure of what I was seeing. This site was so old even being that close to the road I didn’t see any real noticeable debris field but I thought I seen the shimmer of glass. Once I got permission for the field I instantly knew I was on an early site and it gave up some very early buttons and a nice 1795 spanish half reale.
Example eight – I was doing some overlaying when I noticed a few natural springs in an area but no houses close to them. I went out, armed with my binoculars just to do some scouting from the road. There were a few high spots in the field but I couldn’t see any signs of a debris area. I knew if there was a house site on this property it would be old since nothing on any of the maps so if there was something it would have at least been gone before 1870. Sure enough, the second high spot in the field put me on a very early home site!
I hope this article gives you some insight on how to metal detect farm fields. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with me. You might also like – In Depth – how to overlay maps