Some people are born gold prospectors, others learn the hard way

Smart prospecting is more than good technique, it is an overall attitude. Some people come by it naturally, others have to work for it. It amazes me that a simple day of prospecting can get so bogged down with so many difficulties.

I had to shake my head in amazement when, one day, I saw a couple of prospectors putting a dredge into the water, totally unprepared for what they had intended to do for the day. They didn’t have gas for the motor, the matting hadn’t been rigged up, they couldn’t find the bolts to secure the engine and there were no plugs for the floats. Their equipment was scattered all over the bank. It seemed almost comical and certainly unbelievable, yet I often observe various stages of such activity.

In view of the fact that unpreparedness wastes valuable time and thus costs miners gold that they could be putting into their poke, it really isn’t funny at all. Some people are organized and some are not.

There is no question in my mind that there are a lot of things related to prospecting that any miner can do to improve the odds. With all the emphasis these days on prospecting techniques such as gravel banks, bedrock, chemical knowledge, etc., too often the preliminary subjects are neglected.

gold prospectors

The biggest fault that many prospectors have is that they have not prepared any of their equipment before starting the day. The time to rig up a dredge, sluice box, drywasher or whatever, is not when the mist has lifted and the sun is rising over the creek. That is the worst time to be running back and forth looking for nuts, bolts and carpet or trying to tie knots.

During the summer months, most gold prospectors, particularly occasional miners, find that the early morning is a very productive prospecting time. Every moment you lose is an important one.
Don’t wait till you’re creek side to get your equipment ready. The gravel bank is not the place to prepare your equipment for work. This is time wasted, time you should be running material. Rig your equipment (even to the point of placing the matting, tweezers, gold bottles, etc.) the night before you plan to go prospecting. You can always change a riffle or a bolt for the morning conditions.

Last year, before going on an important prospecting trip, I went to the creek a day ahead of time. Before putting my dredge into the water, I spent the day walking up and down the area. I even managed to pan out a few small nuggets in the process. I accomplished this while adjusting myself to the area. I looked for likely holes and gravel bars to work before committing my equipment to the canyon that was so steep a fisherman wouldn’t even carry a fishing pole to it.

Now I know, not everyone can afford the time to do this, to go out and scout an area a day or two ahead of time. But why not do it on a day when you’re not prospecting, when dredging season is over or during the off season when the weather is bad. Look an area over, adjust to it and think about it in preparation for the next time you plan to go prospecting.

Prospecting conditions can change from day to day, and from stream to stream. The most consistently successful prospectors are those who can adapt to these changes. This means being proficient with different types of equipment and techniques.

The “one piece of equipment prospector” is in for a lot of unproductive days if he does not develop a more rounded approach to prospecting. Having several pieces of equipment; a drywasher, sluice box, dredge (even a couple sizes of dredges) is not a sign of over preparedness.

I mine with four or five pieces of equipment most of the time. I use only one piece of equipment at one time, however, I have the capability of switching almost instantaneously if necessary. If I’m working a crack in the bedrock that runs into the bank, I will switch over and use a rocker box or a sluice box, and continue to work the crack. Especially, if it contains a rich grade of gravel. This is where this type of operation pays off the most.

Your state of mental awareness is important too. When you choose a creek or given area, and it is your first time at that site, try to find out as much about the area as possible. This will save you a lot of time when you are ready to mine.

A friend of mine recently moved near a good gold river that he had never prospected before and literally knew nothing about. Before he prospected it for the first time, I told him to talk to at least a dozen people about the area. He did. Some were helpful and some were not.

The people he talked to included old prospectors, metal detector dealers, local grocery store owners, a neighborhood service station attendant and a local fishing guide.

By talking to all of these people, he confidently put together a picture of the gold and the amount of dredging that had been done along the river, the various places that had been mined and the weather conditions. He found that the creek had several areas of exposed bedrock down below some rapids that were not visible from the road and that the water would occasionally rise rapidly during the spring runoff. These are all important clues as to the best location to put a dredge. Talking to the local people about a given gold creek or river can sometimes shed a lot of light.

Condition yourself to the area and allow your senses to draw you to the best gravel banks.

Of course, the information gained from talking to various people is not infallible, nor is all of it necessarily true. But you can use this information as a lead and a time-saver which might allow you to eliminate some of the variables at the outset. This is an important preparedness factor.

I personally am not a dowser, but I believe the prospector must have a sixth sense that pulls him to a rich ore gravel area. It goes back to the old saying, “The old prospector could just smell gold.”

Make sure you have an assortment of extra parts, fuel, gear and clothing all prepared and ready to go. This will give you a head start on your dredging.

It also pays to have a plan of attack ready to facilitate your dredging and prospecting. Time is not only money – it is gold. When I was in high school and college, my uncle was forever telling me, “time is money.” I would always smile and shrug it off. I know now what he was talking about … he was right. In some ways time is money or it means money. In the prospecting sense, time is gold and wasted time is lost prospecting opportunities.

Prospecting opportunities are squandered by telling stories on the bank, tinkering with the dredge motor or accessories, trying to rig up matting for a sluice box or running around, needlessly, searching for bolts and screws. Time wasted running back and forth from the creek to the bank or even to the town 20 miles away and spending too muck time doing unproductive things can cost you gold.

Be a smart prospector, prepare yourself before heading out. I hope your prospecting will be productive and rewarding for you.

Just remember, gold is where you find it!