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Metal Detector Stories - Removing The Mask

By Dan Breitenstein

My daughter and son-in-law live in a small rural farming town about five miles south of here and they invited me along to metal detect the house across the street from them. Steve (my son-in-law) got permission from his aunt who owns the property. It's a well-kept old two story home on a corner lot in a very quaint, rather majestic part of town. I've always envied folks who lived in those big old homes with their huge maple trees and fine kept lawns.

We knew before we started that the neighborhood had been hunted hard a few years ago, but we thought we'd give it a try. After all, it had to be better than staying home and mowing the grass or watching reruns on TV.

Steve used his Tracker IV and I used my trusty Landstar. We plodded around for a couple of hours and found the usual recent coins and broken Matchbox cars. The coins were mostly along the sidewalk near the street. As we worked our way around the house, we started hitting the occasional Wheatie. Either we were getting better at what we were
doing, our luck was changing, or we were about to enter an untouched area.

About two thirds of the way back, we hit a mass of targets. There were iron targets every few inches. I had my Landstar running in the Disc mode with the discrimination nearly off. This allotted me the opportunity to "see" everything. We talked it over and decided that nobody had ever made it through that field of targets before and
found anything of value. So we started digging every signal.

After the second rusty square nail, I hit a fairly good isolated signal indicating a coin. It danced a bit from the penny/dime indicator down to the s-caps. A few seconds later, I popped out a 1900 Indian Head Cent. By itself, it wasn't a remarkable find, but it told us both that we may be onto something. A few minutes later Steve got a strange,
almost broken signal on his Tracker IV and asked me what I thought. I walked over and checked the spot with my detector and had the same signal that I had just dug. I told him he'd better start digging. A few anxious minutes later, he popped out a 1904 Indian Head Cent. Now we knew we were onto something good. We dug nails for the next half hour and were just about to call it quits when I hit another solid target. I popped a beautiful 1876 Seated Liberty Dime out and almost lost control of myself. I've never even found a Barber Dime, and this was older. My hands were actually shaking as I cleaned it up. We
finished the day with two more Indian Head Cents, 1906 and 1907.

When most people detect an area like we were in, they like to dig coins and set their machines up to reject iron and other junk items. Consequently, they will walk right over what we found. Even my trusty Landstar told me there was nothing of value there to dig when I ran in the Autonotch Mode with the discrimination turned up. The coins were masked by the iron nails. As soon as the discrimination sensed iron, all was silent. 

This method of hunting in the Disc mode with a Landstar has several advantages. I can hear my three tone discrimination and still maintain target depth and target ID readings. What I "see" is a total picture of what may be masking good targets.

Masking is nothing new to metal detecting. For years most of us have kept our discrimination turned up and only wanted to see good targets. But as virgin metal detecting ground dwindles, it's becoming more obvious to me that we should start getting some of the trash out of the ground that's hiding our treasure. This is, of course, a more time consuming method of metal detecting, but there are still millions of targets left out there for us to find with just a little added effort. Just
as metal detecting technology has evolved over the decades, I feel our methods are going to have to evolve if we're going to be successful.