Sunday, March 29, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 7: Big Brass in the 11th Hour

Wow, what an ending to DIV week for me!  I started out the day working a small camp area with Phil and Josh.  We were having some good results, digging a lot of brass and a few bullets. Josh had two wonderful finds - a pair of Maine state seal coat buttons! I did alright, recovering two knapsack hooks and a few bullets.  Phil was pulling eagle buttons from that area all day, and got into a fire pit just before lunch.

We paused to attend the BBQ lunch and view the finds displays.  I put my case on display, even though most of my finds were fairly ordinary.  I recovered a much larger quantity or relics than I have in past DIV's thanks to the GPX, but I still didn't have any one particularly noteworthy relic.  There were some truly amazing artifacts on display.

After lunch I helped Phil dig out his firepit, which looked promising, but only had eight rivets and a lot of barrel bands.  I decided to follow Keith to an area known for rare Confederate bullets, hoping to luck into a good one.  As with any known Confederate area, this one had been detected to death, and signals were hard to come by.  I did find one fired pistol bullet, but that was it after lunch.  The wind was bitter cold, and I decided to head in.  Keith stayed put, and was rewarded with a rare Confederate 69 Nessler with the GPZ.

I made my way back towards the truck, detouring to check on Phil and Josh.  They were continuing to make good finds in the area, so with an hour and a half left to hunt, I turned on the machine and started wandering.  A few minutes later I got a bullet tone, not loud, but not super faint either.  I was probably a bullet, but could possibly be a smaller shallow nail.  I cut a plug and started pinpointing.

With nothing on the pinpointer, I widened the hole. The signal was stronger in the hole, but still nothing on the pinpointer.  Phil saw me struggling and came over to check it with his machine.  After investigating the signal for a moment, he agreed - "down".

Josh came over to see what the fuss was about, and I told him not to worry.  It was probably big farm iron junk like I had dug so much of in the area.  He stayed to watch anyways, and I dug down and down to about a foot and a half.  When the target popped out we all jumped back and exclaimed. It was a big piece of lead backed brass.

I snatched it from the hole to check it out.  What I had found was a US artillery rosette, which would have attached to the horse's bridle, one on either side of the head.  This one is the more rare M1862 rosette, preceded by a standard bullseye rosette and replaced by the M1863 USA intertwined model.  There was a bit of ash in the hole, so Josh and I quickly opened it up to investigate but found nothing else.  By the time we were finished, my hunt time was about over.  What a way to end!

Friday, March 27, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 6: Hunkered Down

Today started out rainy, but gave way to what turned into a beautiful day of relic hunting.  I went back to the spot I found the Eagle D cuff button yesterday to hunker down and work the area more thoroughly.  That spot was loaded with relics, and I didn't have to move far all day to recover a nice variety of finds.

My favorite brass find of the day was probably the Eagle I coat button that cleaned up with loads of the original gilt still attached.  I also recovered three other general service coat buttons, knapsack parts, a scabbard finial, and a war date Indian Head penny.  The large, round, brass object is the top of a powder flask, another first for me.

As for bullets, I was very happy with both the quantity and variety of those recovered.  In addition to a number of standard three ringers, I also dug colt dragoon pistol, Richmond labs colt pistol (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong), ringtail sharps, gardners, and enfield, and two carved bullets.  Last but not least, I found one cool iron relic that I really like - an old key.

There's only one more day of DIV week, and it has been a blast.  I still haven't gotten that one special relic yet, but I have been blown away with the GPX's ability to find so many artifacts in the red clay.  And as we all know, the next signal could be the one!  Speaking of which, congratulations to my friend Josh on his incredible find today, a confederate frame buckle.  Way to go, Josh!  Wish us all luck on the last day of DIV tomorrow!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 5: Here, There, and Everywhere

Unfortunately, yesterday's pit dig quickly proved anticlimactic today.  In very short order the use layer gave way to solid clay in all directions.  Bottles were being dug in holes around me, but it wasn't meant for me today.  I did get two more bullets from the hole, though, which I guess is a nice consolation prize.  This morning I spent surface hunting through the scattered rain in the same general area where I started, finding three eagle coat buttons and a few bullets before lunchtime.

The rain gave way to heat after lunch, and my friend Dustin invited me over to a spot where he had an incredible bullet haul the day before.  As we were about to get detecting, we were joined by Phil, Josh, and Keith who happened to be driving by and spotted us in the field.  We all immediately started finding bullets - except for me.  Dumbfounded, I went to check a signal of Phil's to discover that I could hardly hear anything, even in an air test with a bullet on the ground!  As it turns out, I had flipped a switch on the front control box out of position, and completely ruined my chances.  With the settings back in place, I started finding bullets along with the rest.  There seemed to be one pocket of dropped bullets, with fired bullets littering the hillside.  Phil picked up 20 fired bullets in short order, and we all found at least a few.  We came to the conclusion that this had been a firing range, and while digging deep bullets can be fun, we decided that we would change venue to a place where it would be more likely to find brass targets.

Our next spot was checking out some of the recent logging activity on the farm.  I did get into one little pocket of relics, including this great little Eagle "D" dragoon cuff button.  It's in pretty rough shape, but it's a first for me and I'm very happy to have found it.  Besides that small area, though, we all had pretty poor luck, finding lots fence wire strewn about by the equipment but no relics to speak of.  Another change of scenery was in order, and we ended the day in the shadow of the historic Farley House (above).  I did manage to find a few bullets in here as well, but that field has been heavily detected in the past.  Overall it was another great, albeit very tiring, day at Brandy Rock Farm!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 4: Best Button Day

Day four of DIV week was the first of the four day hunt at Brandy Rock Farm.  I decided to follow my friend Sham out to a spot on the farm that he assured us would produce some Yankee relics.  I wasn't exactly sure where we were going until we crested the hill to reveal the area known as the Wisconsin Camp.  I was a bit disheartened, as I had searched this area heavily at the last DIV using my DFX with very poor results.  But now I was packing the big guns - a Minelab GPX thanks to Keith over at Fort Bedford Detectors.  My first signal out of the gate was a three ring Minie ball with a solid signal, and I knew I was in for a good day.  I barely moved from my initial spot, because the relics just kept on coming.  I ended up with a total of 24 and 1/2 bullets, another incredible day for lead.

What really got me excited, though, was the number of brass targets I recovered as well.  This included a record for me of eight general service eagle coat buttons.  I also found my very first kepi hat buckle, a J hook, a cap box finial, several belt studs, and a brass thimble.  The two iron objects at the top of the picture were mysteries to me, but my friend James identified them in the field as rifle parts.

While surface hunting on the hill, I watched my friend Barry get into three different fire pits.  He was well rewarded for his efforts with a beautiful eagle brestplate right at the end of the day.  I also got to watch Gerry, who I had just met, dig his very first Civil War bottles in a pit he located while probing in the same area.

I managed to find a pit of my own right at the end of the day, but there wasn't time to explore it.  So tonight I will do my best not to dream about what lies beneath.  It could be nothing at all... but I imagine I will have visions of plates and bottles dancing through my head!!  Wish me luck in the morning!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 3: Going DEEP with the ZED

I can honestly say I've never had a day of metal detecting quite like today.  On the way back to the truck at the end of day two, I talked with Keith Leppert from Fort Bedfort detectors, and invited him back to the bullet patch for the morning of day three.  I explained about finding yesterday's bullets, and how the are had been scoured with the GPX for deep bullets - a perfect testing ground for his new GPZ detector.  He was down to try it out, so we hit the field running and went straight to the bullet patch.

The GPZ (I lovingly call it the Zed in honor of our Aussie friends) is meant to have greatly increased detection depth over the already impressive GPX.  The area had been checked thoroughly with the GPX and stock coil, but it didn't take long for new signals to jump out from the Zed.  We took our time comparing signals between machines, and carefully measuring actual bullet depths as they were recovered.  All the signals were discovered with the GPZ and marked, and we took turns recovering them.

I can tell you this - the GPZ is a BEAST on deep lead!  If I hadn't been there to see it, I would have trouble believing it myself.  Targets at 16 - 20 inches gave a powerful response every time.  I was able to hunt with the GPZ for a short time, and located two extremely deep bullets easily within a matter of minutes.  We invited Russ (TDI) and Phil (GPX with SEF coil) over to check some signals as well.  From our estimation, about one third of the bullets we found as we expanded out from the bullet patch into the nearby brush could have been heard as faint signals on the GPX.  Another 1/3 could be heard by the GPX with the larger coils, but only with significant tweaking and knowing exactly where to swing.  Under normal detecting circumstances, they would have been incredibly difficult to hear, and the stock coil missed many of these completely.  The last third of the strong signals we got with the Zed wouldn't make any signal on the GPX with either coil, no matter what we tried.  Needless to say, we were all somewhat dumbfounded by the power of the GPZ.

In addition to the 28 bullets I found yesterday, we recovered an astounding FORTY THREE more in the same area!  We had expanded the search from a 6-8 foot circle to about 20 feet, but many of the new bullets were discovered either directly in, or within a foot or so of the original search area.  My take from the bullet haul was 18 three ringers.  By the end of the day we were all exhausted from digging so many deep targets, but it was some of the most fun I've had in this hobby.  Many thanks to Keith, Russ, and Phil for such a great day!

And with that, the Excelsior hunt has come to a close.  All of my finds from the three day hunt are shown above.  I'm tired, stiff, and sore - but ready to do it again tomorrow at Brandy Rock Farm!  Stay tuned!

Monday, March 23, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 2: The Bullet Hole

I wasn't really sure where I wanted to go on day two of the Exclesior hunt, so I asked my friend Barry (who fortuitously parked beside us) and he kindly offered to show me a spot he had been digging relics the day before.  We headed off, and I got another earful of ethereal song that is the GPX.  This spot, like much of the farm, had been hunted hard, but I still managed a few keepers.  The first good target was an 1863 Indian Head penny, followed by a gilted eagle I cuff button and an Enfield bullet within a foot of one another.  One more squished eagle I coat button rounded out the morning, and I headed back to the HQ for lunch.  Along the way I got a beautiful tone right in the path to the back fields, which turned out to be pulled swage-base three ringer.

After lunch I swapped the Commander coil for the stock coil with Keith and headed back out to the field.  I headed to a spot where my friend Phil was hunkered down, and we had found some relics at the last Excelsior hunt.  He was finding a few things, but I wasn't having much luck until I hit on a bullet signal along the edge of the field.  I dug ... and dug ... and couldn't believe how deep I found the three ring bullet in the bottom of the hole!  In good detecting form, I checked my hole and realized why the machine was able to pick it up so far down - there was another target still under the earth.  I quickly pulled out another three ringer, and checked the hole.  Another signal.

I called over Phil, who offered to help with scanning the hole while I was detecting.  Two bullets became four, and then six.  Spreading out from the main target, I eventually found a total of 12 three ring Minie balls before deciding the great big hole was hunted out.  I sat for a while to rest and eat (digging such a large hole at depth was hard work!), and finally strapped in to the detector to move on.  No sooner had I turned on the machine  then I got another deep bullet signal, just to the side of our previous excavation.  Down and down and down I went again, following the trail of tones to yet more bullets.  The final tally from the 6 foot or so area was a whopping 28 bullets!  The deepest of them was down well past my elbow - now THAT's a deep bullet!

Chasing down these deep relics took up a good bit of the afternoon and most of my energy.  While I did do some detecting afterwards, I admit I did a good bit of socializing as well.  But that's part of the beauty of DIV hunts.  I love being able to connect with people equally passionate (crazy?) about this great hobby.

Who knows what tomorrow has in store?  Good luck, fellow diggers!  See you tomorrow!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 1: Where's the DFX?

Day one of DIV XXIX at the New York Excelsior Camp has wrapped up, and perhaps the most common thing I heard all day was - "Hey Tony, where's the DFX?"  Don't get me wrong, I do love the duct-tape wonder, and I've done pretty well with it at DIV and elsewhere over the years.  But when my good friend Keith from Fort Bedford Metal Detectors gave me the opportunity to use a Minelab GPX for the hunt, I jumped on it!  I've avoided using one when I've been offered to try it in the past, mostly because I didn't want to get spoiled on a new detector.  Well, suffice it to say, I'm spoiled!!

I was afraid of the learning curve, but Keith and I spent the first part of the day comparing signals, and I took to it pretty quickly.  The "whale songs in fast-forward" tones can be a bit overwhelming in some places, and it will be a long time before I can use one as skillfully as many of my DIV friends.  But I'm very happy with the outcome for today, especially at a farm that has been hunted so hard in the past.  I'll have more to say about the detector later, but for now, on to the finds so I can rest up for tomorrow.

My  finds today included three-ring Minie Balls (including a cool half-melted one), a ringtail Sharps, two Williams Cleaners, a knapsack hook dug at over a foot, and several button backs and miscellaneous brass pieces.  I also dug not one, but TWO wormed Gardners.  The strange thing about it is that they came from opposite ends of the farm!  I was already pleased with my finds at the end of the day, but I got an extra surprise when I cleaned them up at home.  I knew several rare US base Minie balls have been found on this farm in the past, and today I was lucky enough to find one!  That's one I've wanted to cross off the list for quite a while!

Wish us luck as we hit it again tomorrow.  Until then, goodnight all!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

DIV Blog - Day 0: Back to the Cavalry Camp

Hi everyone!  It's that time of year again - Diggin' in Virginia is upon us.  For the next week I'll be out in the field with several hundred other die-hard relic hunters in the winter camps and battlegrounds around Brandy Station, Virginia.  Today I took the opportunity for a pre-hunt with my friend Dustin at the Union Cavalry camp we've been searching.  Once again we were not disappointed, and I ended up with a record bullet day.  Most of my bullets are small caliber Colt Navy revolver rounds, which were found in one very small area.  I also recovered several Smith bullets, one three ring Minie ball, one Merrill carbine bullet, part of a spur (the square looking brass piece, which would have been used to attach the spur strap), and several more shoulder scale uniform attachments.  My favorite find of the day is the carved bullet in the center.

Now I'm off to get some rest before tomorrow's big dig.  Wish us luck!!