Patch hunting is a relatively straight-forward gold prospecting method. The idea is for the prospectors to spend time searching for “virgin” ground, rather than prospecting in the known gold-bearing locations.
To do this effectively, you have to accept that its going to be a long process that takes patience. The thing about hunting in the known mining areas is that you at least know that there is some gold there somewhere…
This is not so with patch hunting. You are going to be prospecting in areas that simply don’t have any gold, and it may be days, weeks or months before you stumble across a nugget patch.
A Good Metal Detector is Required
Successful patch hunting nowadays is best done with metal detectors. This is because you can cover large areas relatively quickly. You simply wander around and swing your detector in hopes of stumbling across a nugget.
Again, this idea here is that you are searching for a new area, somewhere that hasn’t already been found by another miner. The benefits is obvious; if you are the first one there, the odds that you will find a lot of gold is pretty good. Much better than if you are hunting an old hammered patch that doesn’t have a lot of gold left.
The Importance of Searching Quickly
Patch hunting requires that you cover a lot of ground. If you are hunting areas that don’t have any history of gold production, then you don’t want to go slowly, you want to cover a lot of area and find an “indicator nugget.”
What is an indicator nugget? When patch hunting, you need to change your mindset so that you aren’t looking for gold in a traditional sense. You want to find that one, large, obvious gold nugget that is pretty much impossible to miss with your detector. You will hear it even if you are swinging your coil way too fast. In fact, patch hunting is the one time when it is okay to swing your coil fast. Your not trying to find all the nuggets right now, just that one indicator nugget!
This is all about finding a patch, so it is a complete waste of time to slowly work an area if you don’t even know if gold is present. You need to actually find a patch before you can then work it properly.
Slow Down AFTER You Find a Nugget
This is the key to patch hunting successfully. Since gold nuggets are often found together in patches, you just want to find that one obvious nugget to let yourself know that gold is in the area. Once you find that first nugget, then you should slow down and work the area very slowly in a more traditional sense.
This is where it becomes important to take in all that advice from experienced gold hunters about slowing down your swing, working carefully around rocks and bushes, and using a variety of different detectors and coils.
Sometimes a patch may only have a nugget or two, and even with your best efforts you might not find enough gold and have to move on. But some patches are quite extensive. I know some prospectors who have found patches that contained literally POUNDS of gold. One guy I know in Montana it a patch with over 100 ounces of gold nuggets in a spot that was over a mile away from the nearest gold mine.
This is the true benefit of patch hunting. It may take you a long time to find gold, but when you do, you’ve got the spot all to yourself. If nobody else has ever found it before then all the gold is yours!
When to Put Down Your Metal Detector
I recommend you that you use a variety of different metal detectors to thoroughly clean out a patch. A good pulse induction detector to find the larger, deeper nuggets and a good VLF detector to pick up the smaller nuggets close to the surface.
Eventually, even the best patches will get worked out and you might think that it’s time to move on to new ground. This might be true, but its worth considering whether or not its worth your time to use some different types of equipment to maximize gold recovery.
If you are finding lots of small gold then you probably can’t find it all with a detector. The Minelab Equinox 800 does an exceptional job on tiny gold, but if the nuggets are a few inches deep then you are still going to miss them.
In the desert, perhaps it would be worthwhile to bring in a drywasher and dig out some of the richer areas? You might be surprised how much find gold can add up several ounces in the right area.
Professional Patch Hunting
The best patch hunters understand that it takes time. You can’t expect to find gold every time you go out if you are using this prospecting method. To the contrary, you need to be really, really patient. Lots of people just can’t do it because they can’t stand to go through the dry spells that are undoubtedly will.
Yes it takes patience, but its also exceedingly rewarding when you do find gold this way. There is something about finding your very own spot that no one else has ever found before. It’s definitely not easy. Considering that men have been out there searching for hundreds of years, it makes it even more special when you find your very own nugget patch.
When you finally do, you will know that you are a true prospector and not someone who digs in the dirt.