Dirt Fishin'

Seeking out Montana's buried treasure. 

School’s out, tourists are in, and solitude is a rare commodity. For some, fishing is where life is rebalanced and new water-cooler tales are spun. However, there’s another sport in town: dirt fishin’, aka metal detecting.

Just as there are many varieties of fish, there are also many different treasures to be found. The trophy rainbow trout for detectors is gold. Historically, exhaustion was required to physically process large amounts of earth to obtain small quantities of the precious metal. Today, metal detectors allow us to glimpse beneath the surface of the ground without breaking a sweat.

The ground in Montana is highly mineralized and can give off false signals or sounds. Technology allows us to minimize this background noise and have the option of rejecting iron trash, thus narrowing the spots to cast the line—or rather, the targets to dig.

Some enthusiasts want a bigger trophy and so they ply their rods on lakes. For a detector, their passion can be for relics. Studying history and researching locations of ghost towns or battlefields can get the heart pumping. Oh, to find and hold jewelry or relics from the 19th century!

Others search out old homesteads. Their specific focus is centered on “where would the outhouse have been?” Yep, they want to detect the abandoned outhouse holes. In a time, where banks were deemed either too far away or untrustworthy, many choose to deposit their money in their own back yard, specifically in jars or tins that were then thrown down the privy.

Of course, there are days where driving to a lake or stream is too much, and fishing in a local pond fills the urge. When a detector wants to stay close to home, there are many options. Bozeman beaches, playgrounds, schoolyards and sites after parades or events all hold promise of escaped coins and jewelry. Places to go are only limited by the imagination.

When outside enjoying our majestic views, remember to look down. Ponder the previous trekkers and what they may have left behind. Dirt Fishin’ blends history, adventure, and anticipation into the thrill of netting treasure.

Patti Albrecht own's Earth's Treasures Fossil & Mineral Museum Gallery in downtown Bozeman.