Spring, summer, autumn – wait what happened to metal detecting during winter? To be honest, you can expect it to be more difficult. The ground, well, it’s a lot tougher – and hard as cement in some cases! Many of your usual spots will be far too frozen to have any fortune and loosening a few inches of soil will feel more like chipping away at marble with a Crayola. Getting something out of these months, therefore, requires grit and expectation of scattered finds (depending on just how cold your location is – any Siberian locals currently reading please take this article with a pinch of salt…)
But while you can’t beat the hop a palooza of busy summer there are ways and means to get the best out of those dead winter months between December to February – and they largely involve strategy. So fear not! (Also, if you bought a metal detector for your child during the Christmas holidays you can get them out and using it right away – giving you the added advantage of having the rank of experienced captain of adventure/modern day hunter gatherer proficienado … bringing back that bacon no matter what time of year.)
Just as a warning, you may, however, notice that your metal detector has a slight increase in false readings, which perhaps has something to do with the interaction with the frosty ground. And generally, some people report serious cold messing with their machine’s control box.
Here are my recommended places:
1. Thick woods
Due to the insulation from chilly winds, thick woods can have ground that isn’t quite as frozen during cold spells. But also, heading for higher ground, as opposed to low-lying ground, can further reduce the amount of moisture that has managed to settle down into hard layers. This is partly the case because higher grounds may have improved exposure to sunlight, and therefore have more evaporation action. As the golden rule, hunting in winter season is something like less frost, less time lost digging – resultantly, the subtleties even of altitudes on surface hardness is a useful consideration to make during the research phase. Climb my friend…
2. Winter ‘hotspots’
Well… not literally, but it’s key to choose a hotspot area during the winter, i.e. one where lots of people coalesce together such as winter parks, outdoor hockey and ice skating rinks, ice fishing ponds, and snow sledging points. This follows the general philosophy regarding hunting (for non-relic items). While summer is more inviting for holidayers, winter is ironically often a time for outdoor play and leisure. So even if the ground is frozen you can often catch an array of valuables that have slipped out of pockets in these ‘hotspots’, including coins and pieces of jewellery – the whole season can provide happy surprises at the easily dig-able soft snow level.
If you happen to be at or near a ski resort you wouldn’t believe the stories of people dropping items while getting off the lifts. This can also especially be the case in the spots where people commonly take breaks for rest and recovery. The removal of gloves during this period often arises in dislodged rings that become covered in snow, to otherwise be lost forever.
Another interesting hotspot location may be gravel parking areas, for example next to sports fields or gyms. Gravel, during winter conditions, often doesn’t need to be dug into deeply in order to discover fallen items caught within it.
3. Beaches/beach shorelines
The cool thing about detecting off-season is that there are less passerby’s interrupting your hunting – so you can get a lot more actual hunting work done and become fully absorbed in the process. Saltwater sandy beaches are especially suitable for metal detection during the winter if the metal detector used is suitable for water conditions. The movement of water tides helps to disperse the formation of snow and ice, and as a result, sand doesn’t tend to freeze beyond the ‘high tide’ area (although the dry sand further back will absolutely freeze in the colder periods).
Regardless, if the ground is still tough, choosing a moderately sunny day will often do the trick and make the sand dig-able. Venturing into shorelines after rough weather is a good idea – often winds and bigger crashing waves will have churned sand up, revealing items that were before hidden deeper down. Many metal detectors have waterproof search coils (as a side note, I wouldn’t recommend carrying non-fully waterproof metal detectors across a body of water as it takes very little for a slip of the hand or feet to happen).
4. Non-frozen water
This is only for the daring. If there’s a non-frozen area of water you can throw on a wetsuit or waders that have insulation and explore across shallow strips of water. Again, you will absolutely want to have a fully waterproof metal detector for this one as it’s easy to drop your detector in a moment of inattention, which will completely ruin its control box. Overall, choosing streams or other water bodies to hunt in is a fun way of making discoveries even in the winter – hunting through water can also be easier in some ways than ground. You’re less likely to have to contend with trash, for example, and digging is usually at a minimum.
As always you want to keep your eye on research – this is the key to successful metal detecting, whatever the season. The most successful hunters do the best research – whether this is looking for areas with historical significance or choosing areas where large numbers of people gather during that particular part of the year.
Research should also involve dynamic strategy; going out after a gale or big storm that involved big swells of waves can generate unusually frequent discoveries, and thick woods on high altitudes may have softer grounds. The key, of course, is to be persistent – keep trying and you will eventually find something!