Metal detecting for gold nuggets as I have mentioned in other articles can be very frustrating to the beginner and it can seem like forever before you find that first nugget. There seems to be no end to the trash you are digging and still no nugget. Well not to worry your first nugget will come and with it the confidence that you will find more.
This article will deal with how to search an area thoroughly, a lot of times people will spend a day in the gold fields just walking their detector. What I mean by this is that if you are not searching good looking areas slowly and completely before moving on you may be wasting your time and missing nuggets! If you are in an area that has produced gold the hard part is over, now you need to recover as much as possible without missing gold that should be in your pouch.
Now back to starting your search in a new area you have found by doing research. Now when in an area that I have not previously found gold I will move a bit quicker than if hunting a spot that has already given up nuggets. I start in the most obvious spots such as the washes and tributaries, working all the spots where gold will settle such as exposed bedrock and inside bends. Also work high benches and old dry wash header piles if present. You would be surprised how much gold I have recovered from tailings piles like the ones shown below!
Now when I say hunt these areas I don't mean zig-zag across the center of a bench and move on, take the time to walk back and forth across the entire bench overlapping your swings. Same with the gulches and other likely spots. I can't count the times I've seen finds that others left buy not hunting slowly and thoroughly. I have even found nuggets within a few inches of another detector dig. Now if during this preliminary search I find a nugget I mark the spot and begin a very slow process of gridding and searching the immediate area of my first find.
If the first nugget comes from a header pile I will concentrate my first efforts working all other piles in the area and raking them down to gain depth. Usually the coarse pile is where the larger nuggets were lost along with the waste simply because they were not seen. Check all piles though because sometimes fine tailings were shoveled onto coarse piles or they were mixed together to avoid having to move their equipment as often. This can take a lot of time , hours or even days depending on the area, but the rewards can be great.
Often the sloping sides of gulches can and do produce numerous nuggets to the electronic prospector and these areas often times can produce a patch. In these situations one small area is worked at a time slowly from a couple different directions overlapping swings to avoid missing any targets. Once the first area is worked a new square is marked out and the process is repeated. You must work very slowly and dig all targets and again when you are done with an area you can be reasonably sure you have missed no nuggets within range of your detector.
Obviously there are many different types of conditions and areas where you will find nuggets, but one fact remains the same. Slow down and thoroughly work all likely areas or you will be leaving nuggets for the next guy. There is nothing harder than watching someone pull a large nugget or several smaller ones from an area you thought you had cleaned out. You can avoid that heart break, just SLOW IT DOWN a bit and don't walk away from gold to try to find gold!
As always I welcome all feedback and questions, Good Hunting!