Before you rush out to spend your money, you really need to think about where all this 'treasure' is, that you hope to find. Nothing is more disappointing than getting 'skunked' on a fishing trip. Quite often, I explain the treasure hunting hobby as 'land fishing'. Just as you wouldn't expect to find many large mouth bass in your swimming pool, you probably shouldn't expect to find Civil War relics in that new housing addition in Minnesota.

So where do you start? The very first consideration I use is, where am I? If I'm in a state that never saw a Civil War skirmish, my only hope of finding a relic is the possibility of recovering some veteran's or his heir's items that may have been brought back, and discarded or lost. I would expect very low odds of success. If I were 'lucky' enough to make this find, I know it would have been an unusual occurrence.

Another example would be to comb a well traveled and used beach area. Who and what are your competion? If I get up at 3 am to go detecting on a beach, what guarantee do I have that another hunter wasn't out at 1 am? If I decide to go at 7 pm, and the beach zamboni makes a pass at 5:30 pm, my odds go down.

With all this gloom and doom, I envision the gears in your head racheting and you thinking, do I really want to do this? Well, as they say in water fishing "time to fish or cut bait". In land fishing it is "time to go research or find". That sequence is critical to success. The better job you do in researching a spot, will yield you much better success.

What are some sources of research? With all our internet cyber sophistication, books remain the best source. Maps are a source, but not one of my favorites. Old maps were always hand drawn, and usually scaled and orientated incorrectly. Remember there were, what we consider today, very primitive tools and methods available 200 years ago. Books on the other hand can go into some very detailed descriptions of what was going on with a particular event. Logbooks and diaries are of particular significance. Another page of this website has a cover shot of a school assignment that was very detailed in helping me locate now missing architecture in a small town. Another great source of information can be "word of mouth" and newspapers. I've had good results with listening to tales told by older folks. Often times while detecting or asking permission, you will get an unsolicited lead. I had one elderly gentleman tell me about a 'honeymoon hotel' that had existed in a nearby soybean field. The motel was torn down some 75 years ago. The only remains plowed time and time again. I located the 'broken pottery (a great indicator) and 20 minutes later held an 1853 Large Cent in hand. Old newspapers are generally available at the library, or in some cases archived at a still existing newspaper office. In our local weekly town paper, there is a 'happened 10 -25 -50 and 100 years ago. Study those events for clues to the past.

Some places to look for source information are easier than you might imagine. Our local county building is a major source of information. The County Recorder has the job of keeping track of land holdings and selling. This at least is an indicator of when people may have inhabited an area. Sure it may be on a 40 to 120 acre farm (city folks, that is a lot of walking!) but if the land was part of a 1000 acre farm, odds of finding a diminished homestead are lowered. Unless, of course you can find remnants of a well, windmill, outhouse, or stream. While at your county building, stop by the County Engineer's office. As the Recorder's job is to trace ownership, the engineer's job is to ensure roads, rivers, and drainage systems are accurately marked and maintained. How about an 1862 map of your entire county on a 36" x 48" piece of blueprint paper for $1.25? I bought two! It showed where every church, one room school house, and mill were located in the county. Not a bad document to act as a reference. Of course none of the now existing roads were in place, so that adds a little mystique.

Don't overlook specialized books on detecting techniques. There are a number of books on the subject. Remember, you would do well to think like a detective before you use a detector. Be methodical in your approach, document what you do know, question what you don't know.

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