War Bag
By backwater jon


The boy scouts’ motto holds true for detectorists. Being prepared, is among the top most things to go into your war bag. What is a war bag? Earlier on, members of our tribe of t’hers coined a phrase taken after the native Americans: most every Indian brave wasn’t a man until he had done several different things: but, by the time each native American could stand up alone, they accumulated a few special things helpful perhaps only to them: even girls did it, and this, was called a WAR BAG.

You need to get yourself a carpetbag of some sort: what it’s made from doesn’t matter. It can even be a cardboard box. As you gain knowledge and delve into more of our crafts many adventures, you’ll keep adding more and more things into your war bag til you almost have to get yourself a truck just for detecting.

How many times have you been out detecting and went back to your car to get something only to find out it wasn’t there? Like making your kids put their toys in a special box, we, too, need to focus on orderly things. What goes into YOUR box will depend a lot on the type hunting you do, where you live, the environment of the surrounding territory, and stuff like that. But, no matter where you live there are certain things that everyone needs to pack away, whether or not they ever use it.

First is the container its-self. Get one bigger than you think you’ll ever need. And remember; THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES! What works one time may never work again. What works for me may never work for you. So think as you build your war bag necessities.

An extra set of batteries for each detector you own.

A package of candles, and a large tin can or skillet.

A container of waterproof matches, bow saw and hatchet or ax.

Box of old timey wooden kitchen matches, and a jug of kerosene.

Flashlight & batteries: a weeks supply of your prescription medicine.

Kerosene lamp, and fluid, a pound bag of canning salt.

Large pry bar, and a few smaller ones, tools to tear up & build with.

First aid kit: snake bite kit: bottle of fresh water: bottle of iodine.

Packet of food stuff: dried and canned, coffee, sugar, bag of hard candy.

A thick warm blanket, a solar blanket or reflector.

A large thick piece of plastic to make water with.

Several "wally world" plastic bags.

A decent tool box: hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, hacksaw, bowsaw.

A pouch of assorted nails-screws-hooks-nuts-twine.

A good fishing pole, hooks, string.

Large plastic jug: can also store water in it until its needed for other things.

Roll of tie wire: some to tie with, some to probe with.

Rope, chain, long enough to pull something, or you out with.

A wire dog: come-a-long: coffin hoist: whatever it’s called where you are.

Jumper cables: extra belt set for your vehicle, duct tape, tire repair kit: spare tire, extra set of keys.

Mirror: block of paraffin, tube of silicon caulking, can of "WD40": box of dust like you’d make mud pies out of: sheet rock putty:

Use your imagination and come up with more things YOU’LL need to put there.

Your tools of the trade: detectors, coils, coil protectors, gold pans, screens, bottle probes, digging utensils.


Before you go out detecting, always make sure your war bag is in your vehicle. Make sure your detectors are too. If you own them, take more than one with you because at certain times and for various reasons some detectors just won’t work. As we move further along, we will look at each thing in the war bag and learn why they are needed, that way, you can close your eyes and use your imagination and know other things that I have not mentioned that you will need to toss into your war bag just in case of: you will also discover that things in that war bag will come in handy circumstances other than your hobby: so, pack one for each vehicle you own: close your eyes, and think about things such as: earthquakes, tornado/hurricane, bad weather, avalanche, mud slides, fires, Y2K.

As needed as things are out on the backroads and wild trails around the world, the most precious thing is your family and their welfare! You’d laugh if you saw my war bag. Looks like I’m going to a flea market, or just came from a yard sale.

Treasure hunters are supposed to always leave things like they find them. Or in better shape. One reason places are shutting us out is because of those metal detectorists who do not leave the area in good shape. I’ve been behind some where their hunt area looked like a battle zone, and I know many others of you have too.

This type of neglect gives all of us a bad name. When you encounter someone out in the field who are ignoring the basic rules, point it out to them: be nice. Until certain facts are presented to hunters, some don’t know this basic rule. When they still do not cover their mess, it’s up to us to go behind them and do what must be done.

Don’t have the attitude: " I’ll be darn if I cover up THEIR holes"! As treasure hunters, we MUST. To protect our remaining areas so newcomers will have a place to start. Be conscious of others rights. Particularly landowners. Always try first to get permission to hunt before you go out there. You can tell by the way a person talks to you if you’ll need to get SIGNED permission.

Of course, what you are hunting will also be a factor. What you discover through research is no body’s’ business but yours. I don’t believe in going to a landowner and saying,: "through research, I’ve found out that near that spring back of your place, a fellow used to live in that cave. Yeah, he & his wife went west. She died out along the trail of some sort of fever. But Bart went on to California and got there bout the time gold was discovered.’

‘ He panned pretty good color, and soon had enough to build a general store. After that, he got rich. Yeah, richer than dirt. He got word that his sister back in Vermont’s husband had died, and she needed his help in the family business. But after getting his sister straightened out, he got bored, and headed west again. He came to Louisville Kentucky and hooked up with others who had a flat boat. Made it fine to Independence Missouri. But he met a fine lady on the trip down. She owned this place you’re now on, and during his lifetime, he never showed any evidence of wealth. That wife died too. And Bart burned the house and lived in the cave.’

‘ After he died, his only kin, a son of his sister, came to mark his grave and take care of his Uncles affairs. The young man found a yellowing dried out piece of paper stuffed in an old tobacco tin, near a dried out saddle, rusted shotgun, and a still loaded pistol.’

‘ It was this piece of paper…a copy of it that has brought me now to your place: I think I know where Bart’s gold is, and I need your permission to go dig it up."

Don’t laugh at me. This is exactly what one treasure hunter did. And you’d better believe the guy got permission. Quick! Only trouble was, he failed to get signed permission. He failed to declare what IT was, and what the split would be with the landowner when the find was dug. As it so happened, the cache was ONLY about twelve pounds of raw gold dust. It was found precisely where the t’her figured it would be. Packed in oil cloth and jammed down in decayed saddle bags, in a cleft in a rock, inside the cave, near a hiddie hole, with a few more choice items.

On the day the hunter made the recovery, as soon as he stepped out of the cave the landowner and the local sheriff were waiting with a piece of paper signed by the local judge. Yep, you guessed it: the landowner got the cache, and the t’her got the shaft; in more ways than one.

The landowner accused the guy of trespassing. Accused the guy of failing to get permission. And a few more things. The guy lost his cache. Lost his time, and research. He had to hire himself a lawyer. He had to drive back later, after making bail and getting out of jail. In court, he lost!

nuff said!

When you go out to hunt, first drive to the area just to look it over. See what you’re going to need. Don’t think what you read in a paper sixty years old that the area then will be just like it was now. You may find it grown up in walnut trees three foot thick: perhaps the area now is covered in blackberry brambles, johnny gourds, saw grass, or horse weeds head high. How’re you going to hunt in all that stuff?

Well, if you’ve packed your war bag right, you’ll reach in and get out your weed eater. You’ll walk over the area (again!) and try to figure out about where the old house stood: or whatever you’re looking for is. When that is decided, you then start cleaning off a small area at a time and hunting that area "clean"--RIGHT THEN-- before you move on to another spot.

Why not clean it all off first then hunt it? Once upon a time, a treasure hunter did exactly that. An old race track down by the river. He even got signed permission. And, after cleaning everyday, he’d stop by the local pub and exercise his elbow. And, his mouth! It took him around a month to clean the place up like he wanted it in order to hunt it right.

Trouble is, it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Early spring along the rivers is a new experience for those not in the know. The river rose. Came out of bank, and filled the area he’d just cleaned. Soon, forty feet of rushing water covered that spot. And silt.

Like all ways, the water did recede. Leaving behind it, sawyers, junk washed from upstream, silt galore; you know what it looks like after a flood.

So, the fellow decided to wait awhile longer til the mud settled and the ground dried up. He waited. While he was waiting, others moved in on his spot, detected it, and moved on.


When you have an opportunity to hunt somewhere, hunt just as quickly as possible: have your detectors in your war bag so you can hunt there and then. Too many times, the opportunity to hunt a spot passes.

Keep your eye on your fuel gauge. It costs you no more to run your car full than it does to run it on empty. You’ll have less vehicle problems by keeping your fuel tank full. As the temperature fluctuates, you have condensation build up. It may be only a few drops in your tank, or it could be half a cupful. You can avoid this, and premature wear on your vehicle engine and exhaust system by keeping your tank filled at all times. It’s also insurance. If you are out hunting, say in Oregon. Storms come up fast in areas like this. By having your fuel tank full, should you get stranded out in the wilds in cold temperatures, at least you can survive when your fuel tank is full. You can siphon out some gas/diesel to build a bon fire so you can be noticed from the air or after dark. There’s just so many positive reasons to keep the tank full. And, being short of cash is no reason to run on empty. First things first.

Hey, if you run out of room, you can always strap the kids on top.

Don’t be surprised when you’re out if you see a raggedy wild looking man. Just wave at him. It’ll probably be backwater jon out on one of his jaunts. Stop by his fire and swap yarns.

Make all of your trails happy and fun filled and everything else will come naturally.

Keep your head down, your eyes open and your mouth shut.

Nuff said.

backwater jon

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