As most know relic hunting in farm fields is absolutely my favorite thing to do. I don’t just randomly get permission for a farm field and take off walking and swinging my metal detector. I research and find where old houses were that have (preferably) been gone for one reason or another before modern electric and plumbing.
If you search our website you will find articles on how to overlay maps to find these old sites and there is also an article on how to find the sites without using a map that I would highly suggest you read through first if you are new to the idea of field hunting.
One of the things that you will have to get used to that is different than what you are probably accustomed to is there isn’t a structure still standing. I know I am stating the obvious but it brings up a couple of suggestions.
I would recommend is bring along either some stakes or flags that are used to mark underground lines. Another thing I would recommend is either leaving holes marked where you recovered good finds such as putting a flag down. The reason for this is often times you will often times start to recognize patterns at each individual site.
Without a structure still standing it can be tricky to locate it exactly at first especially if it sat way off the road. It’s important to understand that often times roads have changed, maps weren’t as accurate and more often than not the site wasn’t exactly where your overlay shows you. What I do is first, after I’ve overlaid it onto google earth, I will put it in my handheld GPS that I will use to walk to those coordinates. Sometimes, if you are lucky, it will take you right to the site which you will know you are on top of because you will be getting a lot of iron signals. Other times I am not so lucky and I will drop a flag there.
If I go to my coordinates and I did not run into any kind of concentrations of iron the first thing I will do is scan the field closely. Looking for any unnatural bumps, flats on hills, anything that sticks out. Often times (after years of experience) I will easily find the spot. Other times nothing sticks out or what looked like a possible location did not produce iron signals. In that case I will start circling out from my flag until I find it. If I get out from my flag more than say 100 yards I will give up and retry overlaying ensuring I considered things like roads moving etc. With my experience this happens rarely but sometimes while quickly overlaying I still make mistakes.
Once I start getting into heavy concentrations of iron, I know that most likely I have found the site. A clear indicator I am correct, I will often start seeing shards of glass, pottery and brick or stone. A lot of detectorists would just start metal detecting. What I would suggest is this. Let’s say I’m walking in a northward direction when I start getting iron signals and see signs that I am indeed on the site. I will keep walking north until the iron signals die down and put a flag in the ground. I will now start walking east and west until at each end the iron signals start to be less and plant flags. Eventually I want to plant flags at each corner.
Inside of the flags or stakes is where I usually make the most finds. This area I will work slow, methodically, and often cover from multiple directions. North and south then east and west. If it is worth more time, I will cover it walking from north east to southwest etc. there is usually such a heavy concentration of iron that good targets can get lost amongst the iron very easily. Sometimes coming at it from another direction will turn up several more artifacts.
Another important thing to mention is while I am hunting in that heaviest of iron, I will use smaller coils. Often times I am working it with a 5-inch coil and sometimes a 7- or 8-inch coil depending on just how concentrated the iron is.
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Once I feel like I have detected it and its just not going to give up anymore artifacts I will switch to walking the outside perimeter of my stakes. I will start on one side and walk back and forth working out away from the site until the majority of iron signals have disappeared. I will then work the other sides the same way. I will run an 8 inch up coil depending on how much iron is there but usually no bigger than like a 10- or 11-inch coil.
If the site produced good and I have time or can come back whenever I want, I will put on a large coil like a 15 inch or bigger coil and cover a lot of ground out around the site where artifacts could have been dropped while they were working the fields while the house existed or if they were picked up by the plow and carried.
Most of the time I do not find anything or at least not often but when you have nothing but time, I have found some really nice artifacts making it worth your time if you have it. I remember one time I was more than 100 yards away from a house site I was working to inspect a hill that I thought might have had another house or outbuilding at some point. I was almost to the hill and my metal detector had not gone off in several minutes. I was about to turn around when my detector started screaming at me. Turned out it was a large cent that had either been lost while they had worked the field or a tractor working the field at some point carried it a long distance from the site.