A NEW PLAN
Back when I first started out in this great hobby going out to a well known placer gold field was the best way to be sure of scoring a nugget or perhaps a handful on a weekend outing, but over the last 15 years there has been much change. In 1990 when I picked up my very first "Gold Nugget Detector" this was still a fairly new way of consistently finding gold nuggets and many an "Old Timer" a fellow talked to would laugh and say "Wasting your time Mister", well that was then.....
Now here we are 15 years later and no longer are Nugget Shooters looked at as "wasting their time" and there are even some out there making a living at it although this is a hard living in most cases. With the introduction of many new detectors from various company's over the hobby itself has proved to be very fun and profitable to many out there with the wisdom to approach gold fever with some caution.
Believe it or not most of the very well known Southwestern gold placers withstood many generations of new "super" detectors and continued to produce nuggets on a regular basis to anyone willing to spend the time and effort to cover the areas the Old Timers worked years ago. Now I am not saying you can't go to these areas and score, but the chances of hitting a large patch are getting very slim.
So now what? Well research and exploration are in order my friends and if you have ever read anything else I've written you well know I preach the importance of looking for new areas off the beaten path. Looking for a new area can be quite intimidating at first and non-productive to boot, but just getting into that one sweet spot makes it all worth while! Believe it or not the Southwestern US (and elsewhere) is just littered with small placer areas that can be very productive to the modern nugget shooter.
Many of these areas never saw honorable mention in any book because if the area didn't produce $5000.00 worth of gold or more it wasn't considered worth listing. Hummmmm at $20.00 per ounce back then that's quite attractive to a fellow with a metal detector to go see what was missed. You see much of the gold was mined by hand with pick, shovel, and whatever processing gizmo these fellows were using to process the gravels and they only worked the richest areas of the washes, hills, etc.
So you say, "you are still looking for previously worked placer areas" well yes, but forgotten placers. Areas off the beaten path where you find evidence of old drywash tails, the ones with only header gravels left (coarse) with the fines long ago washed or blown away. These areas can really produce for the modern nugget shooter, but it takes work and some good old fashioned dumb luck to find these hot spots.
Another good spot to find info pertaining to places to "check out" for not so well known placers is simply to research other types of mining districts, especially Copper or silver mining areas as small gold stringers are often associated with these deposits, but just weren't rich enough to bother with back in the hey days of the mines and many are now long forgotten
Then you have what I call 'out skirting" and that is to simply work the outer edges of well known placers for these same type of overlooked stringer vein deposits just laying there for you to find with your metal detector! I think the old timers called this pocket hunting and sometimes finds can be quite impressive and tally several ounces in a few hours time.
You just have to figure that if you see fellows showing nuggets there has to be a way they are still finding them when many others are grumbling about everywhere being worked out. They are simply adapting to the times and new technology and the old saying that "the early bird get's the biggest worm" and by spending time looking for new areas there is now a much better chance of making a big score than if you hunt a "well known" placer area.
In the beginning I had a hard time leaving areas where I'd found gold in the past for stretches of unknown desert with no guarantee that there is even gold to be found, but it has paid off! There can be long periods of digging nothing but trash and bullets to be sure. Then again you may walk into an area some hunters will only be able to dream about. Trust me when I say there are 100's if not more of these "forgotten" placers out there just waiting for you to find them and add the gold to your poke.
I am not saying by any means that hunting the places like Rich Hill, AZ, Bumble Bee, AZ or perhaps Quartzsite are a waste of time and I can usually get a nugget or two if I try real hard, but I really don't expect to stumble into a 10 ounce patch like was once not so far fetched in these areas and I guess could actually still happen if you are very lucky, but the chances are very slim indeed. So perhaps a new plan is in order or you can be happy with a nugget here and a nugget there hunting in the tracks of countless others before you....
Really my friends it is not as hard as it seems and the hardest part is going and knowing you will find gold in places that are not known well or even listed, going forth with no pointing finger can be intimidating. After all the "Old Timers" sure never had many books, video, web site, or many other resources to turn to for help in finding gold deposits so they just went out and looked. They simply knew the areas were right for minerals and they went after them by good old fashioned trial and error
You start in a new area and hunt it likely area by likely area marking off each non-productive location on a map as you go. A GPS is a real help doing this and combined with a paper map or computer you can do a very through coverage of your target area over several trips. By not keeping track of where you have been you may simply waste a lot of time or worse miss hunting a potentially attractive area completely.
I think it was a Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Jose Wales where the old Indian says, "endeavor to persevere" and when it comes to looking for those new patches that is very good advise to remember... Good hunting out there!
Copyright 2005, By William Southern Jr.