Unearthing History: An Exclusive Interview with Relic Metal Detectorist Matt Connatty of Prince George, BC

In the serene landscapes of Prince George, British Columbia, where history lies beneath the surface, Matt Connatty has mastered the art of uncovering the past. As a relic metal detectorist, he’s not just searching for buried treasures; he’s on a mission to resurrect the stories and artifacts that have long been forgotten. In this interview, we embark on a journey with Matt Connatty, delving into his passion for relic hunting, the secrets he’s unearthed, and the historical tapestry he continues to weave through the careful sweep of his metal detector.

Metal Detectorist Prince George BC

I came across Matt in a Prince George Metal Detecting Facebook group, right away I could see he had impressive detecting skills. Relatively young, he has been metal detecting for over 10 years and is professional at using the CTX 3030 and the Minelab Equinox 800. He enjoys river and old cabin property detecting and is very experienced in thick bush, and deep wilderness metal detecting. Those who have been to Prince George and understand the interior of BC know that Matt, with the right research, has a plethora of places to metal detect and find stunning relics.

Location of Prince George, British Columbia

Join us as we uncover the tales buried beneath the soil of Prince George, BC, and learn tips along the way. See my questions and his answers below.

Thick Bush, Deep Wilderness Metal Detecting Tips

Thick bush and deep wilderness areas can present unique challenges, such as dense vegetation and limited visibility. What strategies or techniques do you employ to navigate these environments safely while metal detecting?
I always wear proper footwear, and prepare for the worst. Prince George is bear country, a can of bear spray is necessary to hunt safely. Always run the detector with the built-in speaker, headphones take you away from what’s going on around you. I’ll occasionally bring a roll of flagging tape to mark out a route back if a trail is not available.

In thickly vegetated areas, pinpointing targets accurately can be challenging. What are your advanced techniques for precisely locating and recovering targets hidden beneath undergrowth or forest debris?
Thankfully, you don’t need to be too neat with your digging when you’re far off the beaten path. I generally use a small coil and pinpoint with the method where you swing toward and away from you, back and forth until you lose the target. It’s not accurate, but it’s fast. Then I use a tree planting shovel to open up the hole in a wide radius around the signal, to avoid hitting it.

Sample of Canadian Silver Coins Matt Found Metal Detecting, Rivers, Cabins Sites and Forests

Metal Detecting Silver Coins

The terrain in wilderness areas can be rugged and uneven. How do you adapt your search techniques and movements to effectively cover challenging landscapes while minimizing fatigue? For example, pinpointing an object on a steep slope.
I often collapse the shaft of the detector to make things easier on steep slopes, or if I have to go under a tree or underbrush. To cover efficiently is near impossible sometimes, so what I do is work small patches at a time, and hit them very heavily and carefully, moving around each willow and tree.

River Detecting Tips

Riverbeds often have historical significance. How do you research and select potential locations with the best chances of uncovering valuable or historically significant items?
In British Columbia, the rivers were the highways of the 1800s. Wherever there was human activity, I search the river banks. I do sometimes look at archival pieces to find where certain camps and buildings were, I found a pretty good site by listening to a cassette tape of a conversation between old-timers in an area that was in the local archives here.

When searching along riverbanks, how do you optimize your search strategies based on factors like water flow patterns, seasonal variations, and natural erosion processes?
If the water level is low, I hit the shoreline first. This is because there is a limited time that the water is low enough to expose some shoreline. If it is high, I go as far up the bank as possible to start. Anything that erodes out will go there first, before working its way down the bank.

Sample of American Silver Coins Matt Found Metal Detecting In Canada

How does the choice of search coil size and type impact metal detecting performance in riverbeds, and under what conditions would you recommend different coil configurations?
The only coil size I like to use on river beds is the small 6” coil. It makes things much easier when moving through rocks and eroded roots. River beds also are often trashy, so the small coil helps a lot with that. Depth isn’t a concern, usually, so larger coils are often not needed for that.

Can you share an example of a particularly challenging riverbed metal detecting scenario you’ve encountered and explain how you successfully resolved it using your knowledge and skills?
There is a site of a railway construction “cache” near my house, which has pounds upon pounds of iron trash lying around. I have spent a few hunts there just picking up all the visible spikes and barrel rings, and taking them out with a 5-gallon bucket. After this, I go through and actually hunt it. I often kick away the gravel when I get an iffy signal, just to see if it clears up. My area has some mineralization that causes most iron to sound quite good. This technique isn’t foolproof, but it helps quite a bit.

Metal Detecting Trashy Cabin Sites Tips

Cabin sites may have specific legal or ownership considerations. How do you ensure that your metal detecting activities at these locations comply with local laws and regulations?
I keep it quite simple by looking at government maps and only hunting crown land. And I only really hunt cabins that have just a dirt foundation left. If the cabin is still standing, it’s often not old enough to warrant the hassle of navigating the cans strewn about.

Cabin sites can be remote and challenging to access. What equipment and tools besides a metal detector and shovel do you recommend for carrying out successful metal detecting expeditions at these locations? For instance, do you bring garbage bags or survey flags?
I often bring a mattock with me, and a folding saw (I quite like the Silky BigBoy for this). An axe to clear windfall is quite nice to bring too, but it gets heavy after a while. The mattock allows for an easy “hack and pull” motion to open up the dirt. Again, this is only in remote areas where it is not necessary to keep the ground looking clean. Always fill in the holes to prevent a hunter or timber cruiser from spraining an ankle, but you don’t need to have it looking immaculate.

A Small Sample of Other Items Matt Has Found Metal Detecting

What role does discrimination play in metal detecting at cabin sites, and how do you determine the ideal discrimination settings to filter out unwanted signals while not ignoring potentially valuable targets? Or do you detect in All Metal Mode and dig it all?
I always detect in all metal, no matter the circumstances. After using my detectors for the time I have, you get to learn how iron falses, and how a masked coin or relic can sound. Digging everything doesn’t apply to every signal your machine gives you, as some signals aren’t anything at all. You get to know the responses well. My rule of thumb is to dig every signal that could be non-ferrous, no matter the conductivity.

A second discrimination question. When searching near old cabin foundations, how do you differentiate between targets associated with the cabin itself (e.g., nails, hinges, parts of metal roofing) and personal items (e.g., coins, jewelry) that may have been lost by occupants?
When working on a foundation, it can be nearly impossible to accurately discriminate targets. Patience and perseverance is the best way to go, in my eyes. When you get through all the trash, the treasure starts to surface.

Minelab Equinox Tips

Can you share some of your most significant finds or discoveries that you attribute to using the Minelab Equinox 800?
I haven’t used the Equinox for as long as my CTX, so my finds haven’t been as significant as the CTX. However, I have found about 15 old-style (pre-1936) Canadian silver coins, a small handful of gold rings, and a silver fur trade ring, which dates to the early 1800s.

Ground balance is essential for accurate target detection, especially in mineralized soil. With the Minelab Equinox 800 do you do automatic or manual ground balancing, and when is each method preferable?
If I’m being honest, I don’t use the ground balance function. I will run an auto setting if the area I’m working is really brutal, but for the most part, I don’t utilize it.

What are your favorite settings for the Minelab Equinox for Relic detecting?
All I really use is the Park 2 setting, with a 5kHz frequency while on river beds, and multi when working on soil. I’m quite happy with what I’ve come up with while using those.

The Equinox 800 offers a wide range of notch discrimination options. Can you explain how to create and save custom notches for specific target categories or types?
As I almost exclusively use all-metal, I unfortunately would not be the best person to ask for this. If it isn’t ferrous, I’m digging it.

Any other Minelab Equinox 800 Tips you think our readers would like to know?
For any Canadian readers, the highest frequency (30 or 40kHz, I can’t quite remember) is really good for the modern steel coinage. It’s the only setting that will hit the coins in a recognizable manner.

Minelab CTX 3030 Tips

Could you provide examples of some of the most noteworthy discoveries you’ve made using the Minelab CTX 3030 metal detector?
I’ve found many things with the CTX. A couple of favorites are a silver medallion from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and a 9-gram signet ring, hand carved and made of 14 karat gold.  I’ve also found some great coins, such as a 1906 S Barber Half Dollar, an 1872 Canadian Quarter, and a few Victorian fish scales (small 5-cent silver coins)

The CTX 3030 offers multiple search modes and custom settings. How do you optimize these settings for specific types of treasure hunting, like coin shooting or relic hunting?
I created my own setting, it is a 5-tone coin program with a ferrous-coin setup, with 4 non-ferrous tones, and one for iron. I use it for every application.

How do you handle challenging environmental conditions, such as wet or underwater detecting, with the CTX 3030, and are there any additional accessories you recommend for these situations?
For underwater detecting, I just go low and slow to the ground, and use a sand scoop when I am able. 

Battery life is crucial during long detecting sessions. How satisfied are you with the CTX 3030’s battery performance, and do you have any tips for maximizing battery life?
I have owned my CTX since April of 2016, and I have been very happy with the performance of the battery. I always pack a AA pack with me, just in case it goes flat, and to save money on 9 volts, I always run my pinpointer on a vibration-only setting.

I would like to thank Matt Connatty for this detailed interview. I hope his answers will increase your metal detecting relic finds. 

CTX 3030 Handbook by Andy Sabisch

The CTX 3030 Handbook contains the information detectorists need to help quickly master the Minelab CTX 3030 Metal Detector and unlock all of the performance it is capabilities. See the best settings and techniques from advanced detectorists for various soil and sand conditions.

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