Winter Treasure Hunting in Upstate New York, page 6

Metal Detecting Relics in Frozen Dirt of Plowed Field

In 20 years of my metal detecting career, only once I had relic hunted in the middle of winter prior to this day. In 2002, one guy and I used a blow torch to get cannon balls out of the Hudson river's frozen bank. During that hunt, I also used a pick to brake counterfeit silver Dollar Halves out of ice (a coin cache was dumped into the river in the early 1900s). Now I wished I had a pick with me.

Before, I had heard from other treasure hunters about a big difference between digging holes in the frozen dirt of the plowed fields and digging holes in the grassy surface of farm fields during cold months of spring. Logically thinking, the exposed dirt would get thawed by the sun rays quicker than the grassy surface. For some reason, it is the opposite: the grassy surface is always softer than the bare soil, and easy to stick a shovel into. Maybe a factor of wind-chill should be taken into account, I guess. But now, I saw exactly what people had told me before. And the ground sure was not as inviting as I had assumed.

I was just about to turn the detector on when I heard a truck horn blowing off. I turned around and saw the field's owner passing by in his 18-wheeler and greeting us. I guessed that the owner did not want to stop his truck and approach us when he saw Rodney's struggle with the frozen mud. The owner was probably laughing his brains out looking at us - two "losers". But we, no, we did not want to look like losers and waved back to him; especially Rodney enthusiastically managing to make a wide smile. :)

Land Owner's Truck Passing By

I finally turned my machine on. As the deep targets were out of question under current metal detecting conditions, I increased the Discrimination up to the 'Foil' level not to hear iron. But I kept the Sensitivity level high just to hear the potentially good targets in the ground. I made only two steps when I received a good signal, and it was a shallow target. In fact, two upper inches of soil had thawed out and were soft, and I did not even have to use my shovel.

I simply scooped the dirt with my hand and ran it in front of a search coil. The target was in my hand! Of course, various images of nice Rev War relics ran through my head at that moment, but when I open my palm, there was a plain 19th century coat button. But, hey, I opened my metal detecting season of 2012!

My First Metal Detecting Find Was a 19th Century Button

When I turned around and looked at Rodney to see what he was doing, he was still struggling with opening his metal detecting season of 2012.

Still Trying To Get A Target Out of Frozen Dirt
Still Trying To Get A Target Out of Frozen Dirt

I proceeded further scanning the ground, and there were indeed deep targets under the coil, but I could do nothing about them. I even carried my shovel back to my pickup truck. In fact, I was receiving zillions of signals from deep targets including large ferrous objects. Not to be annoyed by them, I decreased Sensitivity so that I would pick up the shallow targets only. Most of them were modern trash, but I managed to find a musket ball.

My Second Metal Detecting Find - A Musket Ball

It was hard to tell whether or not it was a musket ball of the Rev War period due to the ball's dark-blue patina which is usually associated with later historic periods. The lead-oxide patina of the 18th century musket balls ranges from light-brown to white in color. By its diameter, this musket ball could be put into the Colonial type category as its musket balls were smaller than the 0.69 caliber British musket balls, and measured between 0.39 and 0.60 inches in diameter.

Recovered Musketball Up Close
Dark-Blue,Led-Oxide Patina is Visible Through Dirt

While I was examining my find, a car pulled next to the red barn, and a man and a woman got out. Rodney dropped his endless project of crushing the icy mud with his shovel and called me to walk to the property owner's daughter and son for introduction. By looking at their face expressions, I could tell that they were thinking exactly what their father thought when he saw us. At least I had something to get them excited a little. And they got excited when I showed them my modest finds.

They probably expected us to find a mother load of musket parts, bayonets, marked buttons, and other remarkable relics at the site and then share 50% of finds with them... After Rodney told them about his sweat breaking experience with no visible results, their dreams were immediately shattered. They wished us lots of good luck, hopped in their car, and left.

Daughter and Son of Property Owner
Property Owner's Daughter and Son