Metal detecting for gold nuggets requires a good mining pick. Digging deep holes in hard soil is just part of the hobby, so you need a tool that will hold up to all the abuse that you can give it.
There are loads of mining picks on the market , most of which are pretty cheap and not built very well. They are usually built in China and made with cheap metals. I don’t recommend you buy them, as they will just break and you will need to buy another one.
A good gold mining pick is made with a quality handle and very hard steel. Below are a few of the most popular picks.
Most of the serious nugget hunters I know use one of the picks below:
The nice thing about Apex Picks is the large variety of different handle sizes that you can get with them. If you are using a pulse induction metal detector and expect to be digging deeper holes, the 36″ Apex Extreme is my favorite, but if you don’t need a handle that long you can get the smaller 18” Apex Badger pick which works great if most of your holes are only going to be a few inches deep.
I have noticed that the Hermit Pick seems to be a favorite for prospectors in Arizona and the desert southwest. The head is lighter weight than the Apex Picks and has a wide scoop so you can move a lot of material quickly.
These are sold by Calvin “Bunk” Bunker at his website bunksarizonaprospecting.com.
The Walco Pick have a design that is pretty similar to the Apex Picks. They are built in Australia, and they can be harder to find here in the U.S., but many Australian prospectors are using them. They are a quality pick if you are willing to pay the shipping costs.
The first good quality pick I ever had was a little Hodan Pick with a short handle. It had an accessory “scoop” that bolted to the wide end and worked pretty well. I still use this pick when I am swinging my Gold Bug Pro and don’t expect to dig very deep holes.
Estwing Rock Pick
There are some situations when you don’t need a big whopping pick like those listed above. I found this out the hard way when I was hunting with some friends in Northern California and all I had was a 36” Apex Pick. The ground we were hunting was very shallow bedrock and the gold nuggets were down in sharp bedrock cracks just an inch or two at the deepest. My hunting partner had a small Estwing Rock Pick and a flat-blade screwdriver, while I was lugging around a huge pick as we fought our way through heavy manzanita bushes.
Needless to say, I learned that day that bigger is not always better in all situations.
One thing that will speed up the recovery of targets is to attach a very strong neodymium magnet to the head of your pick. The Apex Picks already come with them attached. On the others, I would recommend buying one on Amazon and adding them to your pick. The magnet will snag iron targets while you are digging, saving you valuable time.
The magnets don’t need to be large, but they stronger the better. The neodymium magnets are currently the strongest out there.
Choosing the Right Mining Pick
Most of the serious gold prospectors I know have several different picks that they use depending on the area that they are hunting.
For most prospectors, I would recommend getting a nice heavy pick with a long handle like the 36″ Apex Extreme, and perhaps another smaller pick with a 18” or 20” handle.
The downside of using a larger pick all the time is the weight, so if a smaller pick will do the same job that a larger pick will do, then you might as well use one that is a bit lighter. In fact for casual prospecting, even a small pick will do the job just fine.
In very shallow bedrock, consider just carrying a Estwing Rock Pick, screwdriver, and a few simple crevicing tools. You might find that a big heavy pick will do you no good in shallow bedrock, and a small rock pick will do a much better job of pulling smaller nuggets out of bedrock cracks.