Tips for Metal Detecting Gold Nuggets – Interview Matt Savage

Learn to find gold nuggets with a metal detector

Metal detecting for gold nuggets is one of the most challenging types of detecting to do. Learning to run a Very Low Frequency (VLF) detector in very mineralized ground challenges even the best of detectorists.

Matt Savage lives in Northern California and enjoys gold nugget detecting. Using the Minelab Equinox 800 and the Gold Monster 1000 (GM1000), Matt has found gold nuggets as small as 1/10th gram and as large as 4.01 grams. 

Below we will talk about best practices for gold nugget metal detecting with Matt. See my questions and his answers.

Gold Nugget Metal Detecting

Gold Nuggets Found Metal Detecting Minelab Equinox
Two Gold Nuggets Found by Matt

If you want to find gold with a metal detector, you need to seek out areas that have a history of producing nuggets. Tell me some tips to find such places.
When I go detecting for gold, I either hunt old hydraulic pits or along the river bedrock. The subtle, consistent targets are more likely to be gold, loud wide targets I find to be bullets or trash. I try covering a lot of ground to find the gold patches. Once I find gold, I work the area until I stop finding it. 

How do you find smaller mining campsites? There are plenty of maps to find mines, but how do you find the smaller campsites? What are the telltale visual signs?
Look for small rock walls or trash pits. I’ve found old coins in these places. To name some are 1911, 1921, and 1922 wheat backs, a 1914 Buffalo Nickel, and a 1937 Mercury Dime. 

How can you tell if something is gold and not just pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, when it is a vain and it isn’t easy to see if it flakes where it is located?
Pyrite isn’t metal and your detector won’t see it. Pyrite also looks different from gold, and it breaks up in your hand. I know where three gold veins are. I’ve yet to detect them.

Minelab Equinox 800 Gold Nugget Detecting

When using the Equinox 800 to gold nugget detect, when is it smarter to use Gold 1 or Gold 2 mode, and when or where to use them? 
I’d recommend trying both settings out in the field and bringing test gold flakes and nuggets with the soil. Listen to the tones they make in the area. It’s always a good idea to have fresh ears to the tones when detecting. With that being said, I prefer Gold 2, where I’ve hunted. 

Gold Nugget Metal Detecting
Gold Nuggets Found by Matt

Gold nuggets on the Equinox 800 can ring up as a negative number all the way up to 30. The deeper, smaller nuggets might not even show a target id. When using the Equinox 800, do you dig everything? How do you narrow down what to dig and what not?
When I’m gold detecting, I dig every target. Sometimes the minerals in the soil will say it’s iron, and it’s really a flake or a nugget. On one outing, my detector actually was saying it was iron, and after digging it up, I found a boot tack along with a .4-gram nugget. 

In real bad ground, beyond ground balancing and reducing the sensitivity, what do you like to do to stabilize the Equinox 800? Are you one to change the frequency from 40 kHz to 20 kHz to detune the machine or do you use other methods?
If the ground is awful, I reduce the sensitivity and work it slower.   

How do you discriminate or determine hot rocks from gold nuggets with the Equinox 800? I know some can read as positive numbers.
Hot rocks are a pain. Sometimes they register and sound okay (really tiny targets). Other times they seem to not have a center or a consistent hit, almost like they push the detector in sound away. Kind of bong bong sound. I’ve walked on those tones after familiarizing myself with the area I’m working. 

Minelab Gold Monster 1000 Gold Nugget Detecting

Was the Gold Monster 1000 easy to learn?
I’ve owned nine detectors previous to the Gold Monster. It’s the easiest detector to learn from in my experience. I’ve taught people how to use it, and in a short amount of time, they hit gold. 

When do you feel the Gold Monster 1000 detector is needed over the Equinox 800?
The Gold Monster is faster and more powerful than the 800. The 800 still finds gold, but the Gold Monster takes the cake. Depending on the detectorist, I’d recommend the Gold Monster for strict gold hunting and the 800 for a great all-around detector. They are both top-notch. 

Matt Using His Minelab Gold Monster 1000 to Find Gold Nuggets

With the Gold Monster 1000, do you use Auto, Auto+, or Manual Sensitivity, and why?
I do all metal mode. Auto ground balance and high volume. The iron discrimination mode works. However, more than once, I’ve found gold that the Gold Monster said was iron. It’s all about the tone. Tight, sharp pips are what to get excited about. 

Is there any other info you think we should know about the Gold Monster 1000 or its settings?
Take time to learn your detector, and practice with flakes and nuggets. Absolutely use a plastic shovel on either detector. Avoid shoes with metal in them. Enjoy being out in nature and be patient. It’s not a race. It’s about the hunt.  

Other Tools Used for Gold Nugget Detecting

Gold Nugget Metal Detecting Tips
Gold Nuggets Found By Matt

Which pinpointer do you use, and why did you choose that model?
Whites brand can find 1/10th of a gram nuggets.  

Do you use any crevice or gravel suckers? If so, which models do you recommend?
The metal sniper bulb is awesome. The Oroville, CA, mining shop sells them. 

Any other tools you suggest those getting into gold nugget detecting should purchase?

  • A good rock pick hammer 13 / 14 ounce.  
  • Gad 18in pry bar.   
  • 18-22in mining pick with a strong earth magnet. 
  • Sharp steel reinforced thin and thick crevice tools.  

I hope Matt Savage’s answers help those detectorists who want to get into gold nugget detecting and those detectorists who are gold nugget detecting and struggling at it, I hope the article helps find more nuggets. Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to answer the questions in detail and sharing your insights.

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