By Steve Herschbach
This is the latest version of the 1997 Gold Panning: A Guide to Recreational Gold Panning on the Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, Alaska
The guide has been newly updated for 2018 and can be downloaded here for free
By Steve Herschbach
I am a big fan of the Fisher F75 from a different perspective than most. I am a prospector and have done very well finding gold nuggets with the F75. The very powerful all metal mode combined with the simultaneous on screen target id numbers have allowed me to quickly and efficiently hunt trashy tailing piles in search of large gold nuggets. The light weight and superb balance make the F75 a pleasure to use for long hours in rough terrain. It also was my detector of choice for my one and only trip to the UK that I have done so far, and it served me well there.
I spent a month in 2013 metal detecting on Jack Wade Creek near Chicken, Alaska. I kept my great results there quiet pending a return trip there in 2014. That trip has now been made but that is another story already told in detail on my website. Now I can finally reveal the details of the 2013 expedition.
I started out early one morning with my big gun pulse induction metal detector, but got onto a tailing pile that had ferrous trash scattered down one side, and I was just not in the mood for it that morning. I went back to my truck and got out my trusty F75. I run the F75 in all metal because it has instant target response; there are no worries about recovery times in all metal. The coil picks up every variation not only in targets but in the ground allowing me to monitor what is going on at all times. Knowing what the ground is doing is important in keeping the ground balance properly adjusted for maximum results.
The key thing I like about the F75 in all metal however is that the meter always runs in discrimination mode and places a nice, large target number on screen while in all metal. The audio alerts me to a potential target, which I then analyze more carefully while watching the target numbers. All metal goes deeper than discrimination modes, so no on screen number means a very deep target beyond discrimination range. This alone makes running in all metal desired when prospecting because running in discrimination mode would miss all those extra deep signals.
In all metal I dig them until a target number shows up. Deep targets or small targets in mineralized ground will often read ferrous, so I watch the numbers and if they even once jump to non-ferrous, I dig. Only targets that give a 100% strong ferrous reading over multiple sweeps can be safely passed. Though I will throw in my caveat that no discrimination system is 100% accurate and there is always a risk of passing a good target. When in doubt, dig it out!
I do often employ pulse induction detectors and do very often just dig everything. I advocate that when time and conditions allow. The reality is this is not always practical for many reasons. Maybe it is just limited time and overwhelming amounts of junk. Better to increase the odds by using discrimination than bogging down digging 100 nails in a small area. In my case it often boils down to fatigue or flat out not being in the mood to dig junk.
So it was on this particular morning, and therefore my F75 came out and I got to work sorting through the trash working my way up the side of the tailing pile. I crested the top and got a strong reading and looked down. There was a shallow dig hole with leaves in it, obviously from some hunter there in prior years. I figured the guy had recovered a trash item and kicked it back in the hole so I cussed him quietly under my breath. I hate it when people do that!
Then the target numbers caught my eye. They were all over the place. A crumpled piece of flat steel might give numbers like that though. Still, I was curious and figured I would retrieve the trash this person left in the field. I gave the old dig hole a big scoop, and out pops a big gold nugget!!
I seem to have a talent for finding ugly gold nuggets, and this one was perhaps the ugliest I have ever found. It looked more like a rock burnt in a fire than a gold nugget when I dug it up, though the glint of gold is unmistakable. This gold however was very pale and in fact later analysis revealed it to be roughly half gold and half silver and other metals.
It is a little known fact that gold alloys tend to have very poor conductivity ratings. Gold is very conductive, and silver is a superb conductor. You would think adding silver to gold would improve the conductivity, but in fact just the opposite happens, and the conductivity lowers dramatically. Gold/silver alloys are closer to lead in conductivity than that of the pure component metals, explaining why bullets read identically to most gold nuggets.
This ugly nugget is a detectorists worst nightmare, because the 50-50 alloy mix and rock content give it a much lower conductivity reading than would be the norm. I surmise what happened is this earlier operator got a poor signal and gave a dig to get the coil closer to the target. The signal did not improve, as would be expected with most gold nuggets, so the operator decided it was trash and moved on. The rest of the hill being covered with junk no doubt contributed to this decision.
It was my insistence on investigating everything except 100% ferrous readings that made the difference. The readings on this target were not solid as one would expect from a pretty strong signal but all over the place. Most people would say that indicates a trash target but I have seen many gold nuggets do the same thing in mineralized ground. The result is I dug a shallow 2.33 ounce gold nugget that somebody else walked away from. Sadly for them one more scoop would have revealed the nugget for what it was. Hopefully this is a reminder to the reader that far too often detectorists look for excuses not to dig. How many good finds get left behind because we do not want to take that extra minute or two to dig a target?
This nugget is far from a premium find, but I have already sold it for over twice the cost of a new Fisher F75. That detector was a real money maker for me as that was far from the only gold I ever found with it.
Unfortunately I say was. I made a huge change in my life in 2013 and moved from Alaska to Reno, Nevada. The move resulted in a desire for me to weed down my detector collection. I was pretty excited to do some coin detecting in Nevada where the potential finds were much better than those possible around Anchorage, Alaska.
Almost all my detecting with the F75 had previously taken place in rural locations far from possible electrical magnetic interference. In Reno, EMI raised its ugly head. I found much to my dismay that the F75 did not like my new location, and in fact when turned on to hunt the yard at my new home I could not get it to settle down at all. No matter what I did the machine chirped and beeped and numbers flew all over the screen. Unfortunately I experienced what many urban hunters have found out – the F75 is a very sensitive high gain detector that does not get along well with electrical interference. I ended up selling my F75 in 2013 for this sole reason.
Fast forward to the fall of 2014. I am contacted by the good folks at Fisher wanting to know if I am interested in trying out a new version of the F75 they are preparing for market. I of course say sure as I am always game to go metal detecting with different units. A new F75 is sent my way along with a list of the possible improvements. One immediately gets my attention – improved resistance to electrical interference.
All the focus was on a new mode or “process”, as Fisher likes to call them. The new FA process is intended to better pull non-ferrous items out of trashy or mineralized ground. It does indeed work as advertised as I found out in an accidental situation I came across.
I went to a local park and did a simple hunt for non-ferrous targets, comparing the DE default mode to the new FA fast mode. I did not really care what I found as long as it was non-ferrous. I should note the ground here is very difficult, reading 1 on the Fe meter, the second highest reading you can obtain. Hunting in this park is very much like nugget detecting, and the best detectors get very limited depth and highly inaccurate target numbers as a result of the high mineralization.
One spot really summed it all up for me. I found three targets I could cover in a single wide swing that all read as ferrous in DE mode, but when I switched to FA mode all three switched to non-ferrous. FA mode is very fast with short, machine gun type reports in the audio. I was running in two tone mode, with ferrous giving low tones and non-ferrous high tones. In DE mode I could sweep and get three low tones in a row. Simply switch to FA mode and now there were three high tone reports in a row. This was an extremely dramatic result seen in person. In this case all three targets proved to be nothing more than aluminum targets, but they could just as well have been small hammered coins in the UK or small gold nuggets in Alaska.
I hate to oversell things and I have to note that the difference in going to FA mode is not going to be earth shaking. Most targets read the same in DE and FA modes. But FA provides a tipping point, a little push that takes targets previously ignored and lights them up. By shortening the audio response on targets it also attenuates responses to a degree and so depth and signals on the tiniest targets may be impacted. Depth however is not useful if a target is misidentified or ignored completely due to target masking from nearby objects. FA mode is another tool in the toolbox that can help produce targets in specific situations previously overlooked by others.
The new F75 also expands on the available audio options in ways many people will appreciate. These additions and the new FA mode will tend to get all the attention, but for me they pale in comparison to the new ability of the F75 to engage and disengage the new Digital Shielding Technology (DST). The version of the F75 I received had DST engaged at all times, and the difference in my ability to use the F75 at my home was as dramatic as it gets. My previous F75 was basically non-functional. My new F75 ran just fine, with only minimal EMI discernible at higher gain levels.
I noted no downside to this. Given the situation, how could there be? Other field testers however were concerned that in low EMI situations perhaps there was an edge lost by having DST engaged, and so Fisher decided to add the ability to engage or disengage the feature as desired. It does not get any better than that. Use it if you need it; leave it off if you do not.
All I know is this. What difference is there between a detector you can use and one you cannot use? All the difference in the world, and in my opinion I struck gold a second time with the F75 seeing it run with the new Digital Shielding Technology. That one feature alone means I can use the F75 in urban areas where I could not use it before, and vastly improves the reasons for my owning the detector once again. I am very confident a great many people will agree with me when they get a chance to try out the new, improved F75. Everything else in my opinion is just icing on the cake.
By Steve Herschbach
Edit: I chronicled this trip to Alaska first, and then told the story of my earlier 2013 Alaska Trip after the fact. I did well enough in 2013 I did not want to tip anyone off to what I was up to until I had a chance to return in 2014. Therefore this story got told first, as if the other had not happened. And then the years story was told at the link above.
My history with the Fortymile Mining District of Alaska began in the 1970's and has continued off and on ever since. Last summer I spent considerable time in the area and have decided to return again this summer.
Here is the basic plan. I leave Monday to drive from Reno to Alaska. I am stopping a day to visit family in Olympia then will continue to Anchorage, where I will pick up my brother Tom who is flying up from the Lower 48. Then we will backtrack to Chicken, Alaska and pitch a tent site at the Buzby's Chicken Gold Camp http://www.chickengold.com
Main building at Chicken Creek Gold Camp
Last year I mostly camped around but did spend a period of time at the Buzby's operation. When I was out and about I had to activate my satellite phone to stay in touch because there is no cell phone service in the Chicken area. The nearest cell phone access is a couple hours back along the road at Tok. There is WiFi access at several locations in Chicken however, one of them being at Chicken Gold Camp. The WiFi access is included in the price of staying there. I am getting a dry camp site for $14 a day (6 days get seventh day free) but it saves me $300 activating my satellite phone, and WiFi allows me to keep on the forum and stay in better touch with my wife than the sat phone. Bottom line not activating the sat phone ends up paying for nearly a month of staying at Chicken Gold Camp. Right now I am booked from June 15 until July 20 but may extend.
Since I will have pretty much daily Internet access for the entire trip I am inviting you along via this thread to see how we are doing plus to perhaps answer questions for anyone planning to visit Alaska. The Internet access in Chicken is not the greatest even at its best, as the satellite dishes point straight at the horizon just trying to get a signal. That being the case plus I will be busy I will not be posting on other forums for the duration. If you know anyone who might be interested in following this point them this way. I will report in at least a couple times a week and probably more often as time allows or something interesting happens.
My brother and I will be commuting to various locations from our base camp in Chicken, with a lot of attention paid to Jack Wade Creek about 20 minutes drive up the road. I have access to mining claims on this and other creeks in the area, but we will also spend considerable time on the public access area on the lower 2.5 miles of Jack Wade Creek. Visit this link for more information. This area is open to non-motorized mining and we will of course be metal detecting.
I have detected on Jack Wade a lot, and I can tell you it is an exercise in hard work and patience. It is all tailing piles full of nails and bullets. The nuggets are very few and far between, with even a single nugget in a day a good days work. However, the nuggets are solid and can be large so can add up if you put in a lot of time. Or not as luck does have a bit to do with it. You could easily spend a week detecting Wade Creek and find nothing. So do not be surprised when I make lots of reports indicating nothing found on a given day. We fully expect that to be the case but hope we hope a month of detecting here and at other locations will pay off.
I plan on relying mostly on my GPX 5000 but will also be using a Gold Bug Pro for trashy locations or for when I am tired from running the big gun and want to take it easy. I usually run my 18" mono coil on the GPX unless in steep terrain or brushy locations and dig everything. And that means a lot of digging! The Gold Bug Pro eliminates digging a lot of trash and is easy to handle in thick brush. My brother will mostly use my old GP 3000 he bought from me years ago. I am also bringing along the Garrett ATX kind of for backup and also to experiment around with. It also will be easier to use in brushy locations than the GPX. Finally, I hope to possibly have a new Minelab SDC 2300 get shipped to me somewhere along the way to use on some bedrock locations I know of that have been pretty well pounded to death.
Chris Ralph will be arriving in Fairbanks on July 8th so I will drive in and pick him up. He will be staying with Tom and I until I return him to Fairbanks on July 21.
High on the list is to visit with Dick Hammond (chickenminer) and other friends in the area.
The road to Alaska is just another highway these days, with the only real issue being the lack of gas in northern Canada in the middle of the night. The pumps there still do not take credit cards so when the gas station closes you are stuck there until it opens in the morning. Do not try to get gas at Dot Lake at 2AM! I will drive to Olympia to spend a night and day with my mom (12 hours) then on to Dawson Creek/Fort St. John (16 hours), then to Whitehorse (15 hours), and then to Anchorage (12 hours). Four days driving, about $500 in gas for my Toyota 4-Runner. Pick up Tom and some supplies and then back to Chicken (about 8 hours).
Anyway, you are all invited along at least via the internet to share in the adventure. You have any questions about Alaska in the process then fire away.
This post has been promoted to an article
For those Alaskans unaware, DNR has been trying to revise certain sections of the Alaska mining statutes.
Our Alaska legislature is no better than the DC circus! DNR said the hell with them (my words) and has switched gears
toward regulation change. I just received this notice.
The Department of Natural Resources proposes to change regulations on mining. The Department of Natural Resources proposes to adopt regulation changes in Title 11 of the Alaska Administrative Code, dealing with mining, including the following:
(1) 11 AAC 86.215 is proposed to be amended to address requirements for mining locations on state-owned land.
(2) 11 AAC 86.216 is proposed to be added to address overlapping and conflicting mining locations on state-owned lands.
(3) 11 AAC 86.220 is proposed to be amended to address annual labor, recording and amending affidavits of annual labor, essential facts required for affidavits of annual labor, and cash payments made instead of performing annual labor.
(4) 11 AAC 86.224 is proposed to be added to address penalties and eligibility to cure an abandonment of a claim or location under AS 38.05.265.
(5) 11 AAC 86.541 is proposed to be amended to address conditions for termination of a tide or submerged land mining lease and to address default cures in lease contracts.
(6) 11 AAC 86.590 is proposed to be added to provide definitions.
Attached please find copies of the proposed regulations, the public notice and the Dear Alaskan Letter which goes into more detail regarding the Department’s proposed actions.
You may comment on the proposed regulation changes, including the potential costs to private persons of complying with the proposed changes, by submitting written comments to the Department of Natural Resources, 550 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 1070, Anchorage, AK 99501-3579 or by e-mail to email@example.com or by fax to 907-269-8904. The comments must be received by the department no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, June 4, 2018.
You may submit written questions relevant to the proposed action to: Joseph Joyner, Department of Natural Resources, 550 W 7th Ave., Suite 1070, Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3579
Fax: (907) 269-8904, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The questions must be received at least 10 days before the end of the public comment period. The Department of Natural Resources will aggregate its response to substantially similar questions and make the questions and responses available on the Alaska Online Public Notice System https://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Login.aspx and agency website at http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/hottopics.
For more information, a copy of the proposed regulation changes, or if you have any questions regarding the proposed regulations, go to http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/hottopics, or write to the Department of Natural Resources, Attention Joseph Joyner, 550 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 1070, Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3579; or call 907-269-8511.
After the public comment period ends, the Department of Natural Resources will either adopt these or other provisions dealing with the same subject, without further notice, or decide to take no action on them. The language of the final regulations may be different from that of the proposed regulations. You should comment during the time allowed if your interests could be affected.
Joseph Joyner, Chief, Program Support Section, DMLW, DNR"