Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To Grid or Not To Grid

Yesterday was a local history blog, so today I promised a little something for the detectorist audience.  I'd like to offer up my opinion on search patterns, something of a response to PulltabMiner's blog post "On how our hunting mode affects our perception."

I'll start off by agreeing with Pulltab on one point - sticking to a grid pattern is DIFFICULT.  The natural inclination is to wander about your site aimlessly, flitting about like a lost little bumblebee.  Pulltab then goes on to extol the virtues of working a dedicated grid pattern.  And again, I won't disagree with him, it does have many benefits.  That being said, my philosophy is much more fluid than "to grid or not to grid".  In my eyes, the grid versus random search pattern is best decided by two key factors:  area and time.

I'll use some extreme examples to illustrate my point.  First, lets say we're talking about searching your own yard, a historic home on 1/2 acre.  You've got basically unlimited time to hunt a small area - to get the most out of it as efficiently as possible, use a three way grid pattern.  Tight overlapping swings in one direction, then turned ninety degrees, and finally on the diagonal.  Believe it or not, that half acre can keep you occupied for a really long time, and you're still likely to miss some of it.

On the other extreme, take a fifty acre historic fairgrounds an hour's drive away.  Does it really matter if you grid or wander? Not really. There's no "bad" ground at a site like that, and as long as you don't go over the same path multiple times, you'll cover the exact same amount of ground randomly as you will gridding.  Here I'd probably recommend a random search pattern until you get a hit, investigate the area more closely, and if you find more good hits THEN you can grid the area.  A perfect example is the dense grouping of finds in a much larger farm field in my October 8th detecting report.

Of course, most of your sites won't be either of these extremes, but somewhere in between.  All I'm saying is, don't be so hard on yourself if you're not a gridder - but gridding is a great technique that you can use to make the most of your sites.  Or maybe this is just my rationalization to remove the guilt from my all-too-common random wanderings!


  1. I am a random wanderer too when I'm in a large area for sure. I started gridding at the tot lots when I started hitting a lot of coins. I think the smaller the area, the more likely I would be to meticulously grid.

  2. Excellent post. I agree with it 100%. I will like to add one more variable to the question, To Grid Or Not to Grid: Greed. :)

    I don't want to miss one single coin. LOL!

  3. I am a wanderer...Until I find a spot that has more than 1 decent "hit". Most places I search are either very large, have other people occupying spaces, have time limits to search or a combination of all three factors. Therefore, I like to wander, but not aimlessly. I look for productive areas like old trees, along sidewalks, near old buildings, or areas where large amounts of people gathered in the past.


  4. @Rosie, that's the takeaway. As size gets smaller and/or available time get longer, gridding makes more sense.

    @pulltab, haha, you'll never get them all. Go back to a spot you've meticulously gridded after a few years of heavy rains and freeze thaw cycles. I bet you'll get fresh targets!

    @T-bone, good to hear from you. I should have mentioned that - guide your aimless wanderings to likely areas. Though you never know when an area that looks unlikely for good hits now was a hotspot a hundred years ago!