How to find Gold with a Metal Detector

How to find Gold with a Metal Detector

Forget about dusting off the old metal detector that’s being in your garage for years, or buying second-hand, out-dated metal detectors. Metal Detector technology has increased dramatically in the last few years. It is ever evolving. Technology is moving faster and faster. Every year now, it seems a new improved model is release, across all brands. If you have a bit of the treasure hunter’s blood, you will surely have an enjoyable time and find gold – with patience.

Buy a metal detector that is specifically suited for finding gold nuggets, rather than one of the specialized coin and relic metal detectors. At present, you can pay over $10,000 for metal detectors but even if you can afford them, to use them at their full potential you will need to spend some serious time studying and practising how to use them. Even then, you will be disappointed to have to dig very many bits of junk iron out of the goldfield soils as the technology in these gold detectors doesn’t lend itself to efficient rejection of buried junk.

Until recently, there have been no metal detectors that could be truly called all-round metal detectors that are good on goldfields as well as general treasure-hunting on the beach etc, but this has now changed.


I consider one of the best mid-range metal detector to be the Fisher Gold Bug Pro. It operates at 19kHz. Although especially designed for the goldfields, it has a very useful discriminator to identify buried junk metal and is good on the beach and parks too. It will find very small nuggets too . It copes well with highly mineralized goldfield soils but not as well as the Fisher F75.


The Fisher F75 LTD  is a great metal detector to use when the soil is cursed with a lot of metal rubbish (and that is quite often) It handles soil mineralisation and goes deeper than a lot of other all-round VLF detectors. It combines extremely high-tech engineering with controls that are simpler to use than a lot of its competitors. It also has the advantage of having a Cache Mode.

You can pay 4 times more for Pulse Induction, ultra-deep seeking metal detectors but they will not discriminate nearly as well. Rejecting-junk ability is extremely important!!!

The Nokta FORS Gold is a great metal detector for finding gold. It is easier to ground balance than most of the other machines. It has the advantage of having a Boost Mode.

 It is able to discriminate between lead and gold. Yes, really!!! That saves a lot of unnecessary digging.

The Nokta FORS Core is another great machine. It also has a defined Beach Mode. It is designed for coin,relic & beach, but can find gold. It just does not have the Boost Mode that the FORS Gold has.

The Makro Racer is another great metal detector. It is simple to use and even has a mineral read out on the screen.


Don’t trust solely to luck, do a little research. You need to locate the goldfields that have previously produced gold nuggets. Find the old-timer’s diggings and start from there. If you are really fortunate, maybe you know an experienced person who can take you to a good area. Most importantly! Go to your library and photo-copy portions of one of the four books in the ‘Gold and Ghosts’ series by David DeHavillend. (2 books for WA and 2 books for QLD) They are easily the most comprehensive source of gold detecting spots available, but they can’t be bought new and cost hundreds of dollars 2nd hand. Tap the brains of the dealer who sells you your detector. No one will exactly pinpoint a rich spot, or they would have cleaned it out themselves. Gold-town tourist shops, detector shops and Government Mines Departments usually sell books and maps of the old diggings in their area. There are often historical books on gold finds covering most states of Australia. Do research at your library. Explore websites of Government mining departments.

  1. Do your best to get to meet other prospectors (experienced) at a gold town caravan park. Don’t ask too many questions at first or they may clam up, but listen for bits of info they may drop from time-to-time. Some of them are tight-lipped while others will take you with them!
  2. Contact the nearest State Dept. of Minerals and Energy or Mines. They may advise or provide maps and explain how you can legally detect in an area. For instance, in N.S.W at present, you don’t need a fossicker’s licence, but in Queensland you do. Some of the gold-bearing land will be under private lease and out of bounds. If you don’t know, check with the Mines Dept. Lease poles always mark the boundaries of leases but are not always easily found. Some leaseholders may give you permission. Crown land is available in some areas and is an open door with no hassles. Many farmers will give you permission to detect on their property, and a candid honest approach is best. Don’t try and sneak on as it will close doors for you and others when you get caught.
  3. Perhaps join your nearest Metal Detector Club as some of their members can advise you where to go or you can join club outings. To start with, detect areas of ground where previous prospectors have found gold. Watch DVD’s ( such as, Nugget Finding Secrets) and you will quickly learn the tell-tale signs of old gold diggings. Mullock heaps and uneven ground suggests previous workings. Rocks thrown out of creek beds and gullies are also indicators. Old shafts and quartz heaps are worth investigating. Sincere locals will usually tell you that there is little gold left, but often it is not the case. Don’t worry; operators may have missed some of the smaller or deeper nuggets. The latest high-tech metal detectors are capable of picking up gold missed by the earlier-model machines. It is far easier for a beginner to find a little gold in a pre-worked area by careful scanning, than it is to find gold in an untried area. Remember that generally there are three dozen pea-size nuggets for every coin-size nugget, so listen for the smaller, quieter signals.
  4. You should find a gold nugget or two in the mullock heaps of old diggings, so scan them carefully and thoroughly. Every area of diggings has the potential to produce at least a few nuggets, particularly if there’s a lot of iron junk in the ground and your gold detector is good at rejecting iron junk. However, there is far more gold left in previously unworked ground and this is where small fortunes can be made. But it will take a little more experience to know where to look. After a while you will be able to recognize the type of ground that has potential. In some areas the indicator may be scattered quartz, in others it may be ironstone or shale. Search in the vicinity of these workings if the ground is still hard or rocky. This unworked ground may have been too poor for the old timers to mine, but may prove productive to you with your metal detector.
  5. Don’t detect in ground that is very deep and soft. Gold, being heavy, sinks down to bedrock which may be out of detector reach. If you look for ground where the bedrock (clay, slate) is less than about 50cm down, all the better, as any nuggets will be within reach of your search coil’s ability. After you have experienced some goldfields, you will become familiar with the type of ground that may hold gold. This knowledge will later enable you to do some more ambitious prospecting on the fringes of the goldfields, and even beyond.
  6. Years ago, metal detector operators often used bulldozers to enable them to detect deeper layers of ground. Many gold hunters avoid these worked areas with disgust. That’s fine because they will leave the gold for you. Usually there are some nuggets left outside the scraped areas. If you detect carefully you will find them. If you were to start your search in, or close to, a bulldozed area you would be an intelligent beginner. Please remember to always fill in detector holes for conservation and safety reasons. For detailed tuition on detecting, I strongly recommend my six training videos, “Nugget Finding Secrets” parts 1 to 6, as they cover a wide range of conditions.
  7. With a good discriminating gold detector, concentrate on areas that are gold producing but where there is a lot of junk. Other operators would have ignored these hi junk areas because their detectors did not have proper discriminators to reject the junk metals.
  1. When you find a promising area (gradings, old diggings, shallow ground), do not detect haphazardly. Choose a small patch, and cover every bit of it. Do this by keeping the metal detector search coil about 1 cm from the ground and swing it slowly and move forward no more than the length of the search coil for each swing. If you find nothing, keep trying other areas until you eventually locate a nugget. Then be extra careful, because where there is one, there are often more nearby.
  2. Ignore any wide, gradual changes in sound, they are due to ground mineralisation changes but dig up any narrow or short or signals, no matter how faint. Don’t be too disappointed if they are small hot-rocks or charcoal-keep moving on.
  3. When you locate gold, and the surface of the ground is littered thickly with leaves, sticks or rocks, then get your garden rake out and clean up the area. You may double your success by doing this, for your detector will penetrate deeper into the ground.
  4. If the signal is tiny, first scrape a little shallow soil from the indicated spot to one side. If the signal has moved out of the hole, then sprinkle the soil from the heap onto the search coil, a handful at a time. It will beep when the metal object touches the coil.
  5. Bury a small piece of metal, like a 6mmfishing sinker, or tack at 10cm. Pass your coil over it and get used to the faint signal. Initially, practice out the bush or the beach where the ground has little mineralisation, before you attempt to detect the more difficult gold fields.
  6. Do not try to cover a large area by impatiently moving from spot to spot. Most beginners make this very mistake. I’ve seen them charging all over the place looking for the big magic nugget. Concentrate on slow coverage in one spot. If you find nothing after patient and thorough scanning, then try elsewhere. In big areas of new, unexplored and undisturbed ground, you can zig zag the ground looking for that first nugget.

What Success to Expect

It is impossible to predict how many, but if you are patient and follow the outlined steps, sooner or later you will find nuggets. You may even be lucky enough to find a large nugget with your metal detector as a beginner, although usually that takes time and experience. However, there are still big nuggets to be found, even in well-known areas. You just need to be patient and willing to dig any deep-sounding faint signals. Be prepared to be disappointed with many of these digs; they could be mineralised charcoal, soil, hot rocks or clay. If you persevere, and experience becomes your friend, you have a chance of finding a small or perhaps fortune. Once you gain a little experience you should quickly cover expenses and pay for your gold detector. Meanwhile, enjoy the bush, relax and enjoy your new hobby. Don’t try and rush success, for it will come.

Happy hunting, and welcome to the prospecting family.

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