Finding Hunting Spots

Old train station

Finding places to hunt is probably the most challenging aspect of this hobby, and with more people getting into detecting every year, it’s only going to get more difficult. Be that as it may, if you want to hunt anywhere other than your own yard, you need to learn how to identify, find and get permission to hunt other places.

When you’re just starting, the obvious choice is to start in your own yard. Re- gardless whether you live in a historic area or not, you want to start where you can mess up your holes before you get the hang of doing it right. Your yard also has the advantage of being convenient at any time, and you don’t have to ask permission.

While my book has a rather comprehensive list of potential hunting spots, I’d like to concentrate here on what constitutes a good potential spot.

Essentially, it all comes down to logic and common sense: You can’t dig something out of the ground if it never went into the ground in the first place. This means that in order to find targets of any significance:

  • You need to go where people have been.
  • Those people will have been of some means, so they could afford things that might have been dropped: coins, pocket knives, jewelry, keys, locks, harmonicas, etc.
  • Ideally, there will have been many people in the same spot over a period of years, doing something that would have preoccupied their attention, so they didn’t notice — or just didn’t care — when they dropped something. Think picnic, camp or fairgrounds; athletic fields and taverns. Of course, there are many more possibilities, but you get the idea.

The most important part of finding good hunting spots is doing your research. There are many places to seek historic information about any given property, and I list many in my book. But let’s talk about some more obscure sources of such information:

  • Mapworks ExampleHistoric Mapworks – Based in Portland, Maine, Historic Map Works, LLC is an Internet company formed to create a historic digital map database of North America and the world. Drawing on the largest physical collection of American property atlases of its type, they aim to be the single best online destination for map enthusiasts and researchers alike. Originally intended for genealogical research, but just as useful to the detectorist who wants to know what stood where back in the day.
  • USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer – A straightforward, easy-to-use online portal that allows you to enter the location you want to find, then click on that place on the resulting interactive map to see its historical maps.