I have written about this before but I wanted to touch on the subject again because of my own recent experiences.
I have been working an outlaw site with my partner the last few months and we have noticed that since the site was first discovered, about three years ago, someone has come in and moved some of the rock markers that were laid out in the early 1890’s. Luckily, we actually listen to our own advice and took several photos of the markers when they were first found which allowed us to place the markers back into their original configurations.
In some instances this might not be too important, depending on whether or not the markers imparted any actual information or are just a “you are here” type marker, but in our case one of the rock layouts turned out to be a rock map and the positioning of the rocks was crucial.
I can’t impress upon you enough how important it can be to document your site and the things you find. Even things that at the time may not be anything but you have a suspicion about.
In the case of the sites I work, I always take photos of everything, several photos from several different angles and in some cases I even add a compass to the shot and focus on the compass face to document the direction. I know there are die hard fans of film photography out there but in the case of treasure hunting, if you don’t already have a digital camera you should get one. In my opinion, they should be considered as important if not more important than a metal detector. Even if it is just a small pocket digital camera, anything is better than nothing. Of course you can use a film camera but then you are paying for film and developing which in this day and age can get expensive, especially if you really photograph everything you find.
A notebook and compass should be considered essential gear for working a site. I take fastidious notes about carvings and markers that I find. I try to include a small drawing of what it is so there isn’t any confusion later on when I am looking at photos. I include any compass headings, including the reverses of anything that may be a pointer. I try to make a note of where the marker is located in relation to the next closest thing I have found in the area and if it is the first marker then I make a note of where it is in relation to the most prominent feature or carved map if I happen to be working a carved map.
These days GPS units are getting cheap enough that you can’t really afford to be without one. Part of my documenting a site includes writing down the GPS coordinates of each thing I find in my handy notebook and then marking the spot in the GPS waypoint list. Even the older GPS units will hold up to 500 waypoints so there’s no reason not to mark something.
Keep in mind that there are things you will run into that may or may not fit into your layout. I have learned over time that if it looks odd or out of place or something in my gut tells me “this ain’t natural” then I will get the coordinates and take several photos because I can always delete that information later, only after the site has been worked to a conclusion.
If you don’t document something that turns out to be important and it disappears before you figure out how important it was then there isn’t any going back. This is something that can lead to a lot of frustration and possibly even ending the search on that particular site if the clue is/was that important.
If you are serious about treasure hunting then do yourself a favor, invest in a good digital camera, a good GPS unit, a compass, some small notebooks and pens or pencils. Take the time to document everything when you are working a site. It can be a real pain in the butt however; in the long run it will make things easier and make you a better treasure hunter.