Most treasure hunters have come to recognize the Minelab name as a company that produces metal detectors utilizing cutting-edge technology; however, they are also a company that has achieved the reputation of a company that supplies highly-acclaimed mine locating equipment to military forces and humanitarian groups worldwide. Based on requests and input from treasure hunters for a detector optimized for location of deeply-buried relics, Minelabs engineers worked on combining technology found on their consumer and military models with the result being the Relic Hawk.
When I received the Relic Hawk, I was immediately impressed with the way it came packed from the factory. Rather than stuffed in a cardboard box as is typical with detectors today, a high-quality padded backpack slid out of the shipping box. The backpack is designed to hold the Relic Hawk and all of the accessories that come with it in one, compact location. Unzipping the cover revealed the detector (which comes apart into three short sections), headphones, battery pack, battery charger, cords and instruction manual.
The Relic Hawk can be setup with the control housing in one of two configurations attached to the shaft or hipmounted. Surprisingly, with the mounting point of the control box and searchcoil, the Relic Hawk is well-balanced even without hipmounting the housing. This shows that the Minelab engineers had listened to actual users during the development phase since many relic hunters spend their in-field time searching overgrown areas and tend to dislike having to hipmount their detector to avoid getting the cables snagged on underbrush.
Three knobs (Sensitivity, Ground Balance and Discrimination) and five toggle switches control the Relic Hawks operation. The Relic Hawk is a VLF-based detector with a unique three-position toggle switch labeled Operating Mode. The S mode enhances the detectors sensitivity to smaller shallow targets while the L mode optimizes the Relic Hawks response to larger, deeply buried targets. The M mode is designated as the one for general use. The ground balance circuit has both a Manual and Fixed mode and a corresponding knob used to make the necessary adjustments. The Relic Hawk also features two search modes All Metal and Discrimination and a non-motion Pinpoint mode. The last toggle switch turns the power on and off.
The standard searchcoil is a 15 inch Double-D design that ensures you receive complete ground coverage without the need to overlap each sweep unlike conventional concentric coils found on most other brands. It is an open coil which keeps the weight to a minimum and aids in pinpointing. The advantage of a Double D coil over a concentric coil is that sensitivity to small targets can be maintained even with coils as large as that on the Relic Hawk. At first glance the 15 inch coil might seem to be overkill; however, after spending sometime testing the response to targets ranging in size from coins to artillery shells, it is a size well-suited for the Relic Hawks intended use. The only downside to the coil is that being open, it does tend to get caught on sticks or tufts of grass but there are aftermarket coil covers designed to address this issue.
The Relic Hawk is powered by a 12 volt Gel Cell battery contained in a small padded pouch. It is designed to provide 20 plus hours on a charge. The recharger allows you to keep the battery pack on a float charge for extended periods without damaging the battery or creating a memory typical on many other types of rechargeable batteries.
Design features carried over from their military detectors include the rugged connectors used on the searchcoil and battery cables, the composite housing and square shaft assembly. Through the use of these components, the Relic Hawk should provide years of reliable operation under even the most adverse conditions.
I have been involved in field testing treasure-hunting equipment for more than 15 years, and it always seems that I receive equipment at the least opportune time in terms of weather to test it. Water detectors in the dead of winter, coin detectors in the middle of the summer with temperatures in the 100s the Relic Hawk was no exception. Having recently moved the family from Georgia to Pennsylvania, I had forgotten about that season called winter and the funny white stuff that came along with it. I was able to get two weeks of local hunting in before Ol Man Winter arrived and dumped 6 inches of snow forcing me to drive south to Maryland for additional testing.
The first site I took the Relic Hawk to was an old cellar hole in the woods not far from our house. I had hunted the area before; however, much of the site was covered with downed tree limbs. In order to hunt it effectively I had tried to move the branches so as to get my coil close to the ground but that was a time consuming task. Setting the Relic Hawk to MAX sensitivity, switching to the All Metal search mode and selecting the L operating mode, I made a quick adjustment to the Ground Balance circuit and started sweeping the 15 inch coil across the limbs. I wasnt long before I received a repeatable signal and moved away nearly 10 inches of branches to reach the ground. Two shovels of earth were removed to uncover an axe head dating back to the 1800s. Considering the axe had been buried nearly one foot down and covered by 10 inches of limbs, I was quite impressed at the Relic Hawks performance so far. I spent more than two hours hunting the area surrounding the cellar hole and was rewarded with a number of relics dating back to the mid-1800s including tools, part of a lantern, horseshoes and some unidentifiable metal objects. With the use of the L mode, much of the small metallic items such as nails and shards of tin from the old roof were either ignored entirely by the Relic Hawk or produced signals that were easily distinguishable from those produced by larger objects.
The next site I took the Relic Hawk to was an old picnic grove that had been heavily hunted over the years yet based on my experience, still had some deeply buried targets worth pursuing. This time I opted for the S mode and set the Discriminate level at 5 to eliminate some of the ferrous trash that was present. I had some difficulty in maneuvering the coil through the underbrush which was to be expected with an open coil that large. Opting to stick to the less-overgrown areas, I hunted for less than five minutes before receiving my first signal. I turned the Discriminate control up to 8 and rechecked the spot and still heard a solid signal. Careful probing turned up an 1894 Barber quarter in VF condition at just over 10 inches. The next good signal turned out to be a clad quarter just under the surface considering the site had not been used in more than 50 years, I can only assume another detectorist dropped it. After hunting for close to 1 1/2 hours, I received another good signal. From almost 11 inches, I pulled up an 1844 Mexican 4 Reale silver coin a surprising find since it predated the site by some 45 years. As the sun began to set, I started to hike back out to the truck and head for home.
After the snow hit, I decided to drive down to a farm that I had gotten permission to hunt years ago near Antietam, Maryland. The scene of considerable Civil War activity during the battle of Antietam, I had made a number of good finds over the 150 plus acres that were part of the farm. I drove out through the fields to a low ridge where I had done well in the past. Wanting to optimize the response to both small and large targets, I opted for the M operating mode and the All Metal search mode. Sensitivity was set at 2:00 and due to the ground mineralization present, I switched to the Manual ground balance setting. Quickly adjusting the balance control, I started hunting along the top of the ridge. The first few signals turned out to be recently lost tractor parts at fairly shallow depths. Starting my second pass I picked up a softer signal that was smaller than the other signals recovered. Cutting a deep plug and removing the loose dirt, I could feel the tell-tale weight of a Minnie ball in my hand. Filling in the hole I continued searching. Several more bullets came to light over the next hour or so at depths ranging from a few inches to more than 10 inches down. A larger signal near the fence line produced a Cavalry saddle buckle in nice shape. Over the next few hours I picked up a number of period relics; however, the best find of the day turned up as I was starting back to the truck (isnt that always the case?) As I crossed the road crossing the field, I picked up a solid signal in the area between the tire track grooves. Expecting to find a part off a vehicle, I cut a plug and was surprised to see that the target was still in the hole. A few inches further down I saw the edge of a coin sticking out. Wiping the loose dirt off the face of the coin I was surprised to see that it was an 1822 Large Cent! Not a bad find to add to my pouch before hitting the road for a 3 1/2 hour drive home!
Minelab has developed a first-rate metal detector designed to excel in its intended application search for and locate artifacts at extreme depths without fancy bells-and-whistles or complicated adjustments. It is obviously not the detector-of-choice for coin hunting in your local trash-filled park or private yard; however, if you are searching for deeply buried targets in well-hunted sites, the Relic Hawk deserves your attention.
The Relic Hawk package comes with everything you need to be successful in the field, and with the recent $700 price drop, offers great performance for the price. Minelab offers an optional 8-inch coil for hunters that need to get into areas the larger coil wont or search trashier sites that are not well suited for a big coil. The Relic Hawk retails for $1,295 and comes with a two-year warranty.
For more information on the Minelab line or the name of your local dealer, contact Minelab USA, 2700 East Patrick Lane, Suite 11, Las Vegas, NV 89120, call them at (702) 891-8809 or visit their website at http://www.minelab.com. Be sure to mention that you read about the Relic Hawk in Lost Treasure!