Gold Prospecting – A Starting Guide

We all know there is only one cure to Gold Fever.  Finding more gold!  So that is exactly what we are going to talk about today.  Beginning tips on prospecting and how to land more of that yellow shiny into our pockets!

First things first.  Let’s get the big legal gorilla in the room out of the way.  KNOW THE LAW for the area you plan on prospecting.  NEVER prospect for gold on an active claim or private property without permission.  You will be looking at fines, possible jail time, or a nice pine box (insert banjo music).  The same thing goes for National Parks, don’t do it.

Public land and National Forests are “usually” allowed…but it is up to you to check with the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and the local forest office to make 100% sure you are on legal to dig dirt.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse (their words not mine).

So with that legal disclaimer out of the way, what is the first thing you should do?  Go join the GPAA!  (Gold Prospectors of America)

It is something I should have done when I first started prospecting – and I recommend any body who is serious about finding gold to do the same.  For a mere $85 a year, you get access to hundreds of claims across the country. You will easily be able to find those claims thanks to the Mining Guide that covers every last one of them with GPS coordinates, claim reviews, and claim information.  It is also filled with information on how to use a metal detector, sluice box, and gold pan to find that yellow shiny. They even toss in a free gold pan for joining!

So now that you have joined the GPAA – what else does a beginner prospector need?  Here are some items I feel are necessary to get up and running as a beginner.  


You need something to hold all of your pay dirt.  The 5-gallon painter’s bucket is it. Pick one up for a few dollars at your local hardware store.  You can scoop paydirt right into it – or classify. It is the “gold standard” (excuse the pun) for hauling your paydirt while prospecting. 


We have to get that glorious paydirt into the bucket somehow – and there is a trifecta of tools to help make that happen.  A pickax – shovel – hand scoop (plastic trowel). With those 3 tools, you can tackle most digging operations as a prospector.  The pickax to break up the tough dirt, the shovel to scoop it up into the classifier or bucket, the plastic hand scoop for detecting nuggets across the coil of your detector.
Find your THGT approved digging tools right here…

Pickax –

Shovel –

Trowel –



Most classifiers are manufactured to sit perfectly on top of a 5-gallon bucket.  A very common size to start off with is 4 mesh. Mesh = holes per square inch. So a 2 mesh = ½ inch holes and a 4 mesh = ¼ inch holes.  All rocks smaller than the holes fall through the classifier – all rocks larger stay on the top of the classifier. Simply shovel your pay dirt onto the classifier and shake like crazy until the material falls through. Dump the larger top rocks into a pile and do a visual check for nuggets.  Another method is to run your metal detector over the larger rocks. If it beeps, take a closer look! Once your bucket is full of your classified material, you can pan it, or run it through your sluice box for a cleanup.

Grab your THGT approved classifier here –


This is a no brainer.  It is what the old timers used to test an area – and it is still in use today without much change to the design.  While they still sell metal pans like the good ole days, most new pans are made from ABS plastic. They are light in weight and colored to contrast the gold so you can see the small flakes you find.

Plastic pans need to be “seasoned” by a good scrubbing with dish soap and hot water to remove the oils of the manufacturing process.  After that, add some sand, gravel, and water and rub it into the pan sides and bottom. This will leave fine grooves that help trap fine gold. 

It is difficult to put into words how to use a gold pan without making it a blog all by itself.  A visual source is a MUCH better teacher. Hop on over to Youtube to watch a video on proper technique.  There are a ton of them!

Here are some THGT approved pans for you to try out –

Gold Rush Nugget Bucket –
Gold Claw Pan Kit –

Gold Hog Flow Pan –


Think of the sluice box as a faster working and moving gold pan.  It may take you an hour to pan a 5-gallon bucket full of pay dirt, but it will only take you 1/4th that time with a sluice box that is set-up properly.  

These long rectangular boxes are usually made of aluminum or plastic.  Their job is to divert water (via a flared opening) over riffles and carpet that allow the heavy gold to settle – while the lighter rocks, pebbles, and sand bounce and roll along the top and out the other end.  Like gold panning – a visual guide is best here. Head over to Youtube and see how it’s done.Here is a link to an approved THGT sluice box –

My son Hunter working the sluice box.


You didn’t think I would forget this, did you?  Some of the largest (and smallest) gold nuggets have been found with a metal detector.  So this is a “must-have” sooner or later if you are a serious gold prospector. Gold detectors can range from $400 to $10,000 dollars.  If you are just getting into prospecting, or an avid veteran, I would suggest the NoktaMAKRO Gold Kruzer. It is easy to set up – extremely sensitive to small gold being 61Khz – and has advanced features that are easy to understand.  The best part is that it doubles as a fantastic jewelry hunter for you park and beach guys who “dig it all” looking for gold rings and jewelry.

Pick up your Gold Kruzer here (or email me for a great deal) –

Well guys and gals.  That should just about cover the essentials for gold prospecting.  Sun tan lotion and bug spray is up to you! Along with plenty of drinking water and backpacks to carry items in and out.  

As you get more advanced and your budget expands – you can start looking into dredges and dry washers (if your state allows them) and a plethora of other gold finding items on the market.

Stay safe, watch out for snakes, and go get sick with that gold fever!  

I hope you enjoyed the blog!  TheHunterGT signing off – I will see you – on the next blog.

(Disclaimer:  As an Amazon affiliate I do make a profit from those links.)

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