For those of you that read the blog regularly you will know that I am not a big fan of the willy nilly “metal clue”. Metal clues do exist and they can be found but for there to be a hidden clue there has to be something that tells you where that hidden clue can be found. If there isn’t, then the chances are the piece of metal you are digging up isn’t a clue but just a relic. That’s not to say what you find isn’t worth anything but this article is about recovering an actual metal clue.
A lot of us will walk a site using a metal detector just to see what is in the area that might date the site or identify exactly who was in the area. During this process it is possible that you will find a hidden metal clue without realizing it is a clue until you have deciphered the map you are working on completely. This can be a dangerous way of finding clues if you don’t take some very specific precautions. And when I say dangerous, for the most part I am not talking about real danger but the danger in moving something that may be important to solving the puzzle before you have all of the information you need.
Unless you have been working a map and you know for certain you are at the spot where the cache should be located you will always want to be very careful and methodical when digging. Personally, I would do that all of the time, even at the spot where the cache is located just in case there is something else in the hole that you weren’t counting on.
When digging a metal clue (or anything else) you should always remove slivers of ground, digging across the ground in ½ to 1 inch bites instead of digging straight down as if you were digging a hole. By working across the soil in small bites you decrease your chances of moving the object that is in the ground should you hit it with your digging tool. I would also recommend not using a full size shovel when digging anything that you think might be a clue.
The smaller shovels like the folding military types are excellent for this process. I found a small shovel at Home Depot that has a small shovel head and a wooden handle on it and the whole shovel is less than three feet long. This makes it easy to pack in if you are having to hike to a spot and it’s easier to use when you are on your knees digging. It’s not as compact as the military shovel but you don’t have to fold it out when you are ready to use it either.
Once you have gotten down to the actual piece of metal in the ground then it is time to switch tools to something even smaller and start really taking your time. Depending on the soil you are digging in you may be able to finish the hole with your hands but generally it takes some type of tool. This is where an old screw driver or a knife come in handy. I usually carry an old M-16 bayonet for this purpose. You can by them really cheap and they work well. You want to take your time and dig out around the object, being careful not to move it until you can see the entire top of the piece of metal. I also carry a couple of different size brushes that I use for cleaning off things I find in the ground and rock carvings.
At the point of having the object uncovered but before I remove it from the ground I take photos, lots and lots of photos, including a few with my compass in the shot as a reference. Once I have these photos I will take compass headings off of any point on the object along with any straight side and anything else that could be considered a pointer. As an example, a firearm can have several different things as pointers. The barrel can point a direction, the hammer can point a direction, the trigger can point a direction or there can be something cut or carved into the firearm that is to be used for a pointer. Until you know for sure what you are supposed to use then you can’t discount anything.
Keep in mind that if you have something such as the trigger or hammer or even a line carved into the object, these can subjective in nature and therefore the distance you will travel from your clue probably will not be very far, generally under fifty feet.
Did I mention you should have a pen and paper to right down the information from the clue? I know, that’s a “duh” right? If you only knew!!
Once you have your photos of the object while it is still in the ground and your compass headings, I normally measure how deep in the ground the object is. This way I can compare it to anything else I might find and this will help with connecting the dots so to speak. If there is more than one buried clue on a site it is probable that all of the buried clues will be the same depth give or take an inch or two. I will say that it’s not very likely you will have a bunch of metal clues at one site. If you are dealing with an outlaw treasure then one or two is probably the max unless there are several caches in the same map. (Please don’t construe this to mean that every site will have buried metal clues, they won’t. A lot of them won’t so keep that in mind.)
Now comes the time to SLOWLY take the object out of the ground. Why slowly you ask? Because there may be something attached to the bottom of it that may fall off when you pull it out of the ground. If this is the case the piece on the bottom that you haven’t seen yet may be the pointer.
I can’t say this enough, don’t get excited or over anxious about digging anything out of the ground! Take your time and do it right. It may save you a lot of grief and extra work in the long run.
Once you have your metal clue out of the ground you will want to inspect it closely for anything that may be “the” clue you are looking for. Something could be carved on the back of the object or along the sides/edges or if there is a name or stamp on the object this may be information that you need. As an example, you may find a piece of an old iron stove that has all or part of the manufacture’s name on it and your map may also have the same name or letters on it somewhere. This would tell me that the metal clue is telling me where in the map I am. Kind of a “you are here” type deal. This can give you a spot on your map so that you will know what to look for next. Not all clues take you somewhere. Some can simply show you where on the map you are and you have to refer back to the map to get directions from that spot.
Once you have your object out of the ground you will want to take some more photos showing all sides of it, especially if there is anything on it.
If what you have found is truly a clue then you may well be on your way to finding treasure. If the buried clue is still there then this means no one else has dug it up which gives you a very good chance that the treasure has not been recovered either.
Real buried clues are VERY important. They were buried so that no one else would see them and would know to look for them unless they could interpret the map properly. The hidden clue will almost always have a very decisive piece of information connected to it. That’s why it’s hidden, so no one will accidentally find it.
Unless of course you’re just walking around with a metal detector!