I actually tried metal detecting in the woods a few years ago. Although I did not find any coins, I did find a .58 caliber three ringer bullet - the same type used in the civil war and a nice metal capsule inscribed with "Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound Blood Medicine Sanative Wash Liver Pills" with a cigarette butt inside.
I found the usual shotgun shells, lead bullets, and brass shells, but no coins. I was sure there were coins in the woods because if there were hunters pulling shells out of their pockets, coins could also be easily lost. But then another thought occurred to me. Loggers! Our particular piece of land was logged in the very early 1900's. I knew of at least 3 logging trails that are on our property. The land is too steep for trucks that were in use back then, but mules and horse drawn wagons could easily have hauled out the timber. These logging trails would be the first areas to be searched along with other areas of interest like rocks jutting out over the mountain that afforded a good lookout.
I decided to metal detect my way to the first logging trail. I had planned to meander my way through the woods searching around trees and cover any ground that was available. Some of my first finds were a little strange. In one spot I recovered 15 percussion caps for a flintlock rifle or pistol. This took about 10 minutes to locate them - one at a time. We also have a natural spring that runs through our property year around. Right next to the bank was a small pathway that led up the side of the mountain into the woods for about 20 feet. I knew it was not a logging trail, but it still looked interesting. Within a few minutes I got a high vdi reading around 72 and knew it was a coin. I kicked away the leaves and half an inch down was a wheat penny 1918. Next to it was another 1937 and yet another 1939. Ok...there are coins out in the woods, but these are not from the loggers. Continuing my way toward the trail I started to pull up shotgun shells by the handful along with modern day bullets.
When I arrived at the logging trail and looked up toward the top of the hill, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to fell the trees, drag them over to the wagons and then ease them down the mountain. I had only gone a few steps and received a signal around 50 on the vdi meter. I kicked the leaves away and there was an Indian head cent staring up at me. Not far away two more Indian cents made their appearance along with a 1911 Lincoln wheat cent. The Indian cents dated 1892, 1896 and 1897. These coins were probably lost by the loggers. All of the Indian cents I found would only hit around 40 to 50 on the vdi scale. I know from 1864 to 1909 they are the same metal composition as wheat pennies (with the exception of 1943 steel pennies and 1944 "brass shell" cents), but for some odd reason that is where they show up on the vdi scale. Unfortunately, 40 - 50 on the vdi scale is the same reading as the bottom of brass shotgun shells!
The following week I walked past the first logging trail to the next one. I immediately received a high vdi reading which turned out to be the side of a pen knife. A foot further I popped up the other half. This logging trail ran about 100 foot up the side of the mountain and is only about 6 feet wide. In this area I pulled up 3 Indian head cents dated 1862, 1899 and 1907. Five wheat's also made an appearance and are dated 1912, 1917, 1942, 1947, and 1950. A buffalo nickel dated 1920 was also found. Just off the trail I picked up a flat button from a depth of 5.5 inches and marked on the back with Double Gilt. I received the following information about the button from the forum on cwbullet.org:
In the 1840s these plain-faced one-piece type buttons declined enormously in popularity because much more "ornate" two-piece buttons had become available at a price an ordinary working-class family (including farmers) could easily afford."
"The vast majority of "plain-faced" one-piece buttons of this particular type (with a "Gilt" backmark) were manufactured for use on civilian clothing ...between approximately 1790 and 1840. This is why they are found (in significant quantities) even around remote churches, house-yards, and farm-fields where military personnel are unlikely to have ever set foot. Large quantities of this type button were made in England and imported to the US in the very early 1800s ...until American button-making companies got "well-established" enough to produce large quantities on their own.
The next week I hunted a logging trail that my grandfather used to drive his jeep up to get firewood. This was the largest logging trail and widely used by all that have lived on our farm. I was very surprised to find only two coins. A 1918 wheat cent and a clad dime. After making my way to the top of the mountain our property levels off and made for some easy detecting. A penny signal caused a little excitement at first because I popped up a cork top medicine bottle entitled Dr. Mile's Restorative Nervine. Running the detector back over the hole confirmed the target was still there. It was not a coin this time, but an unidentified relic. My first thought was some kind of device for getting sap out of the trees, then maybe a hand held corn shucker to I don't know what it is.
Continuing to hunt this flat area, I made my way over to a rather large tree and received a half-dollar reading - solid! I kicked away the leaves and there was a large cent staring up at me. The date was 1848 and the ground had taken it's toll on this copper coin. On the other side of the same tree I picked up an 1868 Indian cent. This was a good year and worth $35 in just good condition and should be worth at least half of that considering it came out of the ground. Making my way back across the logging trail I noticed a pile of rocks that could have possibly been an old foundation. Right next to the foundation I got another good signal of 85 on the vdi meter. Digging down three inches and expecting at least a silver quarter, I popped up this forked tongue colonial shoe buckle from the 1700's. It is in very nice shape considering it's age. Ten feet further I found a musket ball from a pistol or rifle. It measures out to a .50 caliber ball. This brings up all kinds of questions...military outpost? colonial cabin?
Working my way through the forest produced one more coin find. Coins actually. I popped up two Indian cents dated 1909 and 1906 along with a 1911 v-nickel all in one hole.
As you can see from the pictures there are a lot of targets out in the woods. Shotgun shells, brass shells, lead bullets, live bullets, buttons, pen knives, wire, and aluminum shaft arrows are just some of the metal objects I detected in addition to the coins. There are many reasons to try woods hunting. It is very quiet, no one bothers you, it is most likely "virgin" territory, and with a little luck you can find coins and relics.
Click pictures to enlarge.
What to look for when metal detecting in the woods:
Logging trails are the easiest to find and identify. The trails are often larger paths through the woods and wide enough to accommodate a wagon with a horse team. A small clearing in the woods is a good sign that the logger may have set up camp there. The trails are easier to find in the winter when the leaves are down. I have spotted many a trail this way just travelling in a vehicle. Search the logging trail itself and both sides of the trail.
Years ago most homes were heated with wood. The entire family would go out into the forest to collect firewood. This would include small children who ended up playing more than working and of course would lose coins.
Trees with initials carved into them is another good place to search around. I have found at least four trees on our property with initials carved into them and have found either wheat pennies or old buttons around the trees.
Look for trees with the old telephone pole spikes driven into them. These trees were used as deer stands in the old days and the stand has long since vanished.
The top of a mountain where it levels out is another good spot to search around as it was most likely used for hunting and picnics.
The intersection of where two trails meet is an excellent spot to search. That is where I found my Spanish colonial coin along with large cents and Indian head cents.
Any large tree that stands out in the woods is worth searching around.
Trails that follow along a creek will usually lead to an old picnic ground. If you find trees with initials carved into them you can bet you are in the right location.
It goes without saying that stone wall fences out in the middle of the woods should be searched on both sides of the wall and the wall itself. I remember years ago of a treasure hunter finding a stash of large cents behind a rock in a stone wall fence.
If you stumble upon an old well (be careful, safety first) an old foundation should be nearby. It may just be a shallow depression but the whole area would be worthy of a thorough search.
Click here to read another story on metal detecting in the woods featuring a silver Spanish two real coin.
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