By Dave R.
My friend and treasure hunting sidekick Herb and I have attended many open treasure hunts over the last seventeen years. During our one hour flight from Philadelphia to Williamsport, Pennsylvania last August 18th, we rehashed some of the more memorable ones. The hunt we were about to enter promised to be different from all the others in several respects. Two hunts were scheduled to run at the same time. One hunt was the conventional type where buried targets are located by using just a metal detector. The other hunt was one in which Electroscopes® would be used to make initial location. Conventional detectors would then be used to narrow down the target location and make the final recovery. Herb was going to enter the conventional hunt and I was going to participate in the scoper's hunt.
After working with the Electroscope® for a year and experiencing some limited success, I felt somewhat intimidated yet anxious to go up against some reported tough competition from all over the United States and Canada. The hunts were to held at a large ski lodge property in north central Pennsylvania, a place called Oregon Hill. We had picked up a rental car upon landing at the Williamsport airport and had driven north for about one hour through some of the most beautiful countryside you can imagine. We arrived at the lodge about noon, stowed out gear in our room then went to the lodge restaurant to get some lunch. As we walked through the restaurant doorway, I spotted a familiar looking figure in a large brimmed straw hat seated across the room. Moving closer, I recognized a treasure writing acquaintance of many years, Michael Paul Henson. We had seen each other last in the hunt outside Dallas, Texas, ten years earlier and we picked our conversation back up as though it had been just yesterday. I introduced Herb and we spent time over lunch catching up. I told him I was there to hunt. He was there to satisfy his curiosity about these controversial Electroscopes® and no doubt report his opinions in the pages of the national treasure press.
That evening we ate barbecued beef from a big outdoor roast. Later, I attended a briefing for scopers as to how the following day's hunt would be conducted. Then Herb and I hit the sack early.
Saturday morning dawned wet and dreary. The conventional hunt went off as scheduled. It was unlike any conventional hunt I had ever seen. Each contestant chose a twenty by thirty foot square of lawn to begin the hunt. This square or "claim" as they were called consisted of grass that was about five inches higher than the paths surrounding it. The lower cut grass on the paths served to visually divide one claim from another. At the sound of the horn, each contestant hunted his own square for the first twenty minutes. Nobody else was allowed to enter his square. After twenty minutes of hunting, the horn sounded for another that was unoccupied. At that time someone else could enter or "jump" any unoccupied claim. The result was that everybody had a reasonable amount of space to hunt at all times without interference from anyone else. Most everyone I talked to after the hunt though it was an effective procedure and I believe more hunts will be conducted in this manner in the future.
There were several conventional detectors coin hunts. One field contained mostly old coins. Another had several caches buried. There was a hunt exclusively for senior citizens which Herb was qualified to enter. He's sixty-six. I personally believe Herb should be banned from all senior hunts. I've seen him regularly run circles around hunters one third his age. It's just not fair! He found over twenty dollars FACE value in silver and old coins plus one GOLD coin. Incidentally, this was the first hunt I'd attended where gold coins were buried loose in the ground!
While the conventional hunters were having a ball in the rain digging up silver, gold, and old coins, I stood huddled under a tent with about forty other people a quarter mile away near the edge of a large wheatfield. Thomas, Electroscopes® president, paced back and forth trying to decide whether to go ahead with the scopers hunt in the continuous downpour.
After a two hour delay with no letup in the rain, the general consensus among participates seemed to be positive about going ahead with the hunt. We were all anxious to get our share of the fifty-seven total hidden caches. Thirty-nine of the caches were plastic jars each containing two ounces of silver. Another eighteen caches consisted of metal banks each containing seven ounces of silver. These caches were not buried but tossed randomly into the field by hunt coordinators. They were well hidden however as the wheat was thick and two and a half to three feet high. After reassuring everyone that any water damage to the Electroscopes® would be repaired free of charge, Thomas shouted "Let's go treasure hunting"!
The "Main Event" hunt was conducted similar to the first conventional hunt in that each participant was assigned, by luck of the draw, a specific area in which to start. These areas were called inlets and were simply mowed down sections perhaps thirty feet square adjacent to a winding mowed path that meandered throughout the wheatfield. Each inlet also had another purpose. Each contestant was to sweep the field in front or to each side of his inlet. When he picked up a signal on the scope, he would take his conventional metal detector and the flag out of the inlet into the high grass of the wheatfield to the area he thought was the source of the scope signal. He then would plant the orange flag and begin to hunt with his conventional metal detector to try to find his target. He was allowed to hunt only a ten foot radius around his planted flag. The flag told other scopers two things. First, the inlet with the absent flag was not to be entered and second, not to trespass closer than twenty feet to the flag around which this other hunter was trying to make a recovery. If he failed to find his target within the ten foot radios, he returned with the flag to the inlet and started over again or moved on to another vacated inlet. If he made a recovery, he was to indicated so by shouting to one of the many watchers posted throughout the field on elevated wooden stands. The watcher would then take possession of the cache and give the hunter a receipt that would be turned in later for the contents. The cache was not to be opened by the finder.
Several of us had taped makeshift plastic covers over our Electroscopes“ to keep out the rain. After a few minutes I had to remove mine because the folds in the plastic kept hitting my thumb and index finger everytime I got a signal throwing everything off balance. I hunted for two hours from that first inlet in a mess of rain and wheat without being able to get a good fix on any one signal. Finally, after moving on to another inlet and with just half an hour to the end of the hunt, I managed to recover one of the plastic jars. It was located just twenty feet from where I first picked up the signal. Not very impressive results to some maybe but I was so happy at not being skunked, I was near tears. My genuine personal satisfaction came late the next day.
Although more than seventy percent of the caches hidden in that wheatfield had been recovered, several were still out there. After the official hunt was over on Saturday, the field was opened to all hunters with and without Electroscopes® to see how much more of what was left could be recovered. Of course, there was no way of telling what was left by late Sunday afternoon. Rumor had it that there were still a few caches unrecovered. The weather had cleared up quite a bit so Perry Pluckett and I decided to try our luck. Perry is from Texarkana, Texas, and had placed in the top ten during the previous day's hunt. I returned to the inlet where I had spent so much time the previous day unable to track a faint signal to its source. Perry went off to the far end of the field. I picked up the signal again. It was faint at first but got stronger as I tracked it for about twenty feet. I followed the signal in a nearly straight line for about sixty feet. Then it veered off to the right getting stronger. Suddenly, there is was. A brown plastic jar. It was lying in plain sight on the ground. The wheat around it had been trampled down by someone who had moved through the area earlier. My first thought was, "it's a trick!" Somebody found a jar, emptied the silver out of it and I'm going to find a note inside saying "Kilroy was here" or "Gotcha". I picked up the jar and shook it. Something solid rattled inside. When I removed the wire clasp and lid, out rolled two silver rounds!! What a great way to end an exciting weekend hunt.
Our flight back home was a bit rough as the weather still hadn't settled down. The stewardess nearly landed in Herb's lap along with the tomato juice she was trying to serve him. He didn't seem upset by the spilled juice or the rough ride. He was busy making plans to attend next year's "big event" at Treasure World.!
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