Metal detecting for gold nuggets became my main form of prospecting in the early 1990s, before that I detected only occasionally and spent most of my time dry washing. I did quite well dry washing and over the years found several pockets or pay streaks, one produced over 6 ounces! In those early days I only used a detector to check my header piles for missed nuggets and half heartily swing the area for placer nuggets.
Then I began to find nuggets and I quickly gave up other forms of the hobby. Finding nuggets with a detector is a very rewarding hobby indeed and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. There is no other feeling like the one you get finding gold nuggets with a metal detector. Research is the key to success and takes up a full 60% of the credit for my finds. The rest is just good old hard work and luck or perhaps being shown a good producing area by someone else.
There are many ways to research for potential placer areas suitable for nugget hunting with a detector and new info is a guarded secret, with even the best of friends ending up at odds over new discoveries. A lot of time and study goes into play before the successful nugget hunter scores that new patch. Sharing information you have worked long and hard on can sometimes be a mistake as gold does funny things to people and makes them do things they otherwise would not consider. I have actually been followed by folks trying to find an area I was working.
There are two main types of nugget shooters, first there is the lone wolf hunter. These guys spend most of their time hunting alone or with a trusted friend looking for out of the way placers overlooked by the second type of hunter. These guys usually hunt in twos or more and can be found in various clubs and gold hunting organizations. There is a lot of hiding of info going on in both groups, but most respect that privacy hoping to be let in on the secret before the area is hunted out.
There are always those that will do anything just short of murder to get into a new patch you have discovered. The strange part being that most don't know they are that way until they see a handful of nuggets found in a spot they didn't know about. I have had cases where I've made plans to return to an area found by two of us only to find the other partner had snuck back before our planned trip and cleaned it out.
Rarely now do I hunt new areas jointly unless the research was done that way. Even the most solid and honest man can get shaky knees and shifty eyes around a several ounce patch, but over the years I've met others including myself that seem to have it under control. I feel there is an advantage to keeping some of your finds to yourself to avoid feelings getting hurt when friends want you to share information. Some people have left there families, jobs, and everything they know after finding a few nuggets to become full time nugget chasers.
There are professionals that make a good living doing nothing but hunting nuggets, but to most of us it is a hobby. Gold fever is very real though and I gave up all my other hobbies including sports to focus all my energy on gold hunting. I spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 hours a week or more swinging a detector in the AZ deserts and wish it could be more. To me there is nothing more rewarding than spending a couple of days camping and finding gold nuggets in our southwestern deserts!
As in any sport or hobby there is always the "my tool is bigger than yours" thing going on with some and they are always down talking each others detectors. The truth being the detector is only as good as the feller swinging it! I've seen both good and great finds made with most models available that are designed to hunt nuggets, but some machines out there can be deadly in the right hands. Technology is always advancing and new and better metal detectors are coming out all the time. Again I will mention that research is the key to success and the more you do the more nuggets you will put in your pouch!!
As always I welcome all feedback and questions, Good Hunting!