Interview Detectorist Benjamin Fuselier, Bayou Digs.

Louisiana Bayou Metal Detecting

Louisiana Metal Detectorist and Preservationist, Benjamin Fuselier, using the Instagram handle Bayou Digs, finds relics from old buckles, military buttons, pocket watches, locks, three-ring bullets, and older coins. 

He currently uses a Minelab Equinox 800 and a Garrett ProPointer AT.

Below I interview him, where he shares more about his background in metal detecting, along with general tips and tips specific to the Minelab Equinox 800.

General Relic Metal Detecting Tips

Which tools, websites, software, or apps do you use to find and research properties and locations to metal detect?

Many of the history buffs and prior generation of detectorists here were all referencing a series of Civil-War-era maps they’d sent off to the US Government to obtain. Those documents can now be gotten free online. What’s amazing about them is that for the most part, the boundary lines, or the Township/Range/Section lines on those maps will match the ones still in use today. This allows me to overlay them on top of today’s maps, and see nearly exactly where old features were noted by the map makers. 

Google My Maps is my best tool. Many advanced detectorists know how to search historic photographs taken from the air. What I do is take measurements and obtain GPS positions interpolated from those photos, and drop them instantly into a custom map of my own making.

In the middle of a cotton field I will take out my phone, launch Google Maps, and open my homemade map for that site. I have dropped icons for houses, former trees, former fence lines, barns, and have drawn out the former roads. I can see into the past right there in the palm of my hand.

Furthermore I will photograph every find of mine, being sure to encode the location data into the photo. Later, I will visit my map again, extracting the position of those finds, and mark the finds on it. It adds up to a great deal of handwork, but what sincere preservation effort isn’t?

I noticed on one of your videos on Instagram you had 4 places to detect, and you were going to spend an hour at each location. This made me wonder, with the good finds you are showcasing, in general, how long do you stay at a spot if it isn’t delivering any interesting finds, and if it is delivering good finds, how long do you stay in one go?

Typically I don’t bounce around. More often than not, I will see one location through, sometimes beyond the point at which other detectorists will have moved on.

I bring four or more marking flags with me. Using my custom maps, I will mark off the desired search area first. I’ll pound it until I’m satisfied, then move on.

Let me add also that I will frequently return to a site with a different make and model of metal detector. They seem to have their own philosophies and abilities, and perhaps the conditions will have changed, and allow for missed relics to be found.

Metal Detecting Louisiana

What tips can you give other metal detectorists for getting permissions?

I want to impress on your readers that the Door-Knock is the tried-and-true method. It’s how I begin the majority of my investigations. In our sterile email age, the personal touch still carries the most weight. You’re about to be dealing with people concerning the dirt under their feet. You must be what they require: friendly, interesting, and completely honest. Smiling with your eyes is one of the best tools of the trade when you’re talking to folks.

Having something interesting prepared for that front porch visit is a necessity. Every time I introduce myself and my metal detector to a landowner for potential permission, I begin with something similar to “I’m an amateur historian who does historical analysis with a metal detector.” I bring along items I’ve found at other places. I try to impress on landowners that I’m not a treasure hunter. I know there are internet rockstars who gain a great deal of capital being ‘treasure hunters,’ but when I’m dealing with farmers, salt-of-the-earth people who have frequently run off trespassers, I must remain a Historian and a Preservationist, and someone dedicated to the integrity of their land and enterprise.

There were two significant happenings that contributed to many new permissions, and I’d recommend to anyone that they could try something like these: 

Firstly I joined the local Historical Association. I found I enjoyed the occasional company of like-minded individuals who are spearheading preservation and education efforts. They were immediately interested in what I do as a Detectorist. Those friendships led to some permissions at the places where the Association were meeting.

Secondly I took a part-time job on a farm, a historic property with 250 years of relics under the soil. I’d show up before dawn and detect for a couple hours, and then get to work feeding horses and dogs, weed-whacking fence lines or driving a tractor and a trailer doing whatever the landowner needed for the day. Lunchtime would find me swinging my detector after a brief meal under a shade tree. It allowed me unrestricted access to land I’d have only been able to pick at otherwise.

Then too, once my face was a familiar one to neighboring landowners, permissions began to multiply. As with the cold open or door-knock, never underestimate the equity you gain by having a smile and a good reputation.

How long have you been metal detecting, and how did you get into it? What metal detectors have you used before the Minelab Equinox 800?

I bought my first detector in May 2018 from a Hobby Shop in Baton Rouge. It was a Garrett AT Pro. I still use that model with a small coil when I’m in the summertime swim holes looking for rings and jewelry.

What Parish(es) do you mainly metal detect in, and what are some of the interesting historic relics you have dug up?

I’m centrally located in the Bayou State. We call this part ‘CenLa.’ My stomping grounds are mainly Rapides Parish, with some explorations in Natchitoches, Grant, and Evangeline Parishes, with many detecting adventures in Lafourche Parish which is at the very bottom of the state.

Louisiana’s geographic position as a colony and territory was halfway between the United States and Mexico. Our history as a US state begins in 1812, but there were nearly 150 years of prior visits, crossings, and habitation by Europeans here. Everyone knows New Orleans’ prominence as a port city, and the Mississippi River as the doorway to the American interior. The story that isn’t told is how the adjacent 400 miles in three directions became a territorial frontier. The ‘other’ tributary rivers and bayous became the branches for settlement, the super-highways before the railroads. Pioneers bought vast tracts along the rivers and bayous to build their agrarian fortresses, and these bayou farms have always been the wealth centers of our agricultural economy. 

Those early home sites can yield the same kind of late 17th through 18th century relics seen on the East Coast, though not in such numbers. Spanish (Mexican) silver is here, though not common. Our involvement in the battles of the 19th century allow for the discovery of the detritus of military encampment and conflict. Muster sites happened at large landowner homes or plantations.

I see you have metal detected at plantations. What tips can you give to those who will be detecting plantations and haven’t done it before? What parts of the property should they concentrate on if their time is limited?

Here, the term ‘plantation’ firstly denotes a historic farm, and as I mentioned above, the waterways were the lifeblood of those farms. I search the waterfronts, and the parts of the property nearest to the roads. In most cases, the roads we use today are laid on top of the roads used 200 years ago, with minor variations.

If a detectorist has cherry-picked the property before your time there, chances are that they’ve begun closest to the original home structures. So, I start where they didn’t.

Concerning detecting the fields, your first concern must be to learn the planting schedules. Our major crops here are sugarcane, cotton, and corn. Each field has a cycle. The landowner who leases the land may not actually know. So find the farmer and strike up a conversation. They’ll be happy to know that you’re not there to disturb the plants. You’ll be happy to find out which fields will be turned over, or disced, soon, or left fallow for the next year, etc.

What are your oldest coins or tokens and the most interesting coins and tokens you have found metal detecting?

Within 30 feet of one another, I located an 1820 Half-Reale with a Mexico City mintmark, and an 1824 Capped Bust 10¢. Both of these were in the middle of a sugarcane field where research revealed a large Mill once stood. Other military buttons unearthed there indicate there had been some mustering by soldiers in at least two different centuries.

In a bean field where a rail depot once stood, I dug up a wax seal that was used for mailing documents by rail. It bears the name of the nearest town, and was otherwise lost to time. This item now resides in the local history museum.

Metal Detecting Louisiana Tips

What are the rules and regulations for metal detecting in Louisiana? 

Any property owned by the State of Louisiana – avoid, avoid, avoid. The State doesn’t play, and they’re not going to be cool.

We have one National Forest, Kisatchie, and they do not allow metal detection. The reason has to do with WW2. Federally-owned land in this state was used prior to D-Day as a training ground for the European Theater. The Feds will tell you there’s unexploded ordnance out there, and they don’t want you messing around. These regions are now roughly the bounds of Kisatchie National Forest. What isn’t a former mock battlefield is protected Wilderness or state-managed timber, and again, they don’t want you digging out there.

Each city or town has its own ordinances and they’re usually online. A quick search for the word ‘metal’ will let you know if you’re allowed to detect in parks. I’ve only found one city in Louisiana where metal detection is prohibited by ordinance. Know the law before you go.

Otherwise, private property regulations apply. Elsewhere, as a good rule, if there’s a sign that says you can’t do any metal detecting, you can’t. If there’s no sign, you’re probably good to go. 

Minelab Equinox 800 Specific Relic Hunting Tips

I noticed in your videos you often use the large 15-inch coil for detecting. Why is this your preference? I would presume a lot of the properties you detect could have trashy ground and wondered why you didn’t use a sniper coil more.

I started using the 15-inch coil because my 11-inch coil was frequently broken. Your readers will know the issues that the Nox has with the coil ears. The 15 is sturdier, so I forced myself to become accustomed to it.

That said, when I’m using a large coil for trashy ground I go very slowly. This applies also to the sections of field rows where road litter will make up a good constituent part. I will check and recheck a signal many times before deciding on it – knowing it could be a composite signal from multiple targets at various depths. I’ve become comfortable with this method for almost any terrain, from large open fields to back yards.

Another reason is particular to me – I’m not very tall, and so I will shorten my detector’s stem to keep the large coil close to my feet. Just those reduced 2-inches or so of swing length can add hours to my stamina swinging the large coil. 

What are your favorite settings for the Minelab Equinox 800 for metal detecting plowed fields?

In the fields I am using the ‘Park 2’ mode, set up in multi-IQ frequency. My recovery speed is usually 4 or 5. Sometimes 3. Think of the discs on a gang plow – they often have a radius of a foot or more. They can turn over entire swaths of earth at a time. I need depth out there, so I swing slow and listen deep. 

The choice of 5 tones versus 50 tones is just one of personal preference. I’m a musician at heart. Often I will hear the tone I know before I see the number on the display. I like the broader tone spectrum.

When you get permission to metal detect someone’s mowed yard or park, what is your favorite setting to do such terrain?

In yards I am usually set up in ‘Park 2’ mode, but in single frequency, often 10kHz or 15kHz. I find this minimizes chatter from overhead electrical service lines. Since maintained home yards are often cleaner, I’m not afraid of missing anything that Multi-IQ would reveal.

Silver Coins Metal Detecting

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

To the treasure-hunters and hoarders of historical relics, yes: Those display cases and stories of what you found, where and when you found it, will do future generations precisely Zero Good, if you don’t leave them somehow to posterity. Do them a favor – Do your children’s children a favor – and at least pass on some kind of documentation. You can’t take any of those buckles, bayonets, bullets, silver coins, or gold rings with you when you leave this world. So, give back and give to the people who will be interested in it all. Document what you found where you found it, and the knowledge of it, minuscule as it might be in the grand scheme of things, won’t be lost. Then, your ‘treasure’ will truly become that. 

I want to thank Benjamin Fuselier, AKA Bayou Digs, for answering the above questions and giving some insights into metal detecting in Louisiana and sharing his metal detecting tips. 

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