Where and How to Find Gold - Gold Nugget Detecting - Natural Gold Nuggets for Sale - Gold Panning and Prospecting Tips

Making the Transition from a “Greenhorn” to Skilled Gold Prospector

better gold miner

We all started out as greenhorns. The problem is that some people seem to stay greenhorns forever. They don’t progress in their gold prospecting abilities and many of them quit entirely, declaring that “all the gold is gone.”

Other people choose to learn and apply their knowledge, eventually becoming successful gold prospectors. There is still lots of gold out there. It’s not hard to find, but it’s not easy either. To get your share of it, have a look at the 5 tips discussed below, and see if you can apply any of the information in your own prospecting endeavors.


1. Research, watch and study… then get out in the field and apply what you’ve learned!


There is more information about gold prospecting now then there ever has been. This is great time for people interested in our hobby. 20-30 years ago there was much less information out there. There were a few prospecting books that were fairly basic, but there weren’t as many people willing to share their knowledge as there is now.

Today we have the blogs, YouTube videos, forums, books, eBooks, and tons of other great resources that can help you to become a better prospector.

This is all great! The more information you can absorb on a subject the better. Read up and learn as much as you can, but eventually you need to get out in the field and apply that knowledge.


2. Learn how to find and capture fine gold… but don’t waste time looking for tiny specks gold that don’t amount to much.


Placer mining is the primary way that small-scale prospectors find gold. Using simple techniques like panning, sluicing and highbanking to recover gold from gravel in a stream or river.

The vast majority of this gold is very fine, from small flakes all the way down to tiny specks of gold dust. A successful prospector needs to learn to capture this fine gold if you want to make the most of your prospecting efforts. Just don’t get so hung up on getting every last speck of gold that you waste your time chasing pennies!

I see guys get so silly about capturing all the gold in their concentrates that they will spend hours reprocessing their cons just to recover a few bucks worth of gold. That isn’t a good use of time. If you’ve got 95% of the gold out of your cons, its time to go out and do some more mining. Reworking black sand concentrates just to recover a few bucks worth of gold is a waste of effort in my opinion. Time to go out and get some more…


3. Stop looking for better ground… spend some time in the area that you already know.


It is human nature to think that the grass is greener somewhere else. Everyone want to look for a new area that hasn’t been touched and has big gold nuggets scattered all over.

I will admit that looking for new ground is an exciting part of prospecting, and I do my fair share of it. Just don’t get so hung up on finding a new location that you ignore spots that are right under your nose. The area that is near your home and everyone tells you is “worked out” is probably better than most places out there.

Solid Gold Nugget from CA


4. Use the prospecting techniques that will result in success for your location.


If you are prospecting in Arizona then you are probably going to use a different technique than if you are mining in Alaska. Different environments are suited for different equipment.

Metal detectors and drywashers are your go-to tools for the desert. Traditional placer mining equipment will work too, but you are going to need water. That means you either need to pack it in, use a recirculating water system, or go out during the time of year when rains and snowmelt provide limited water.

If your prospecting area is known for gold nuggets then a metal detector might work well, but lots of mining areas only produce fine gold, which will make a metal detector essentially useless. Perhaps something like the Gold Cube will be better suited for your area?

Read: Desert Gold Prospecting vs. High Country Gold Prospecting

Gold Nuggets found in Alaska.


5. Think small. If you are in a gold-rich area then the gold is close. Find it.


When you are in a known gold-bearing area, you don’t have to venture all over hell-and-gone in search of the happy hunting grounds. You are already in gold country, and if you’re surrounded by old mines and diggings then you are probably pretty close to gold.

So often, new prospectors get so focused on finding that “secret spot” that they don’t slow down to focus on the good looking areas right in front of their nose.

I always tell people to “think small.” What I mean by this is to focus in your immediate area, not on areas miles away or over the next ridge. Hunt where you are. Prospect slowly and methodically in search of a deposit. Don’t setup your sluice box first thing… you should have your gold pan in hand and be sampling. There is probably good gold nearby.


Next: My Favorite Magazines & Online Forums for Gold Prospectors


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Updated: November 1, 2023 — 9:11 pm
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