Still Gold in Them, There Hills

Full-Time Detectorist searches for gold strapping a quiver of Minelab metal detectors 

Chicago, IL (February 13, 2024) – It was mid-September, near Helena, Montana. A solitary figure emerged from his tent and prepared for another day of prospecting on one of two claims in the rugged hills of west central Montana. Helena was founded in 1864 as a gold camp. Twenty-five years later, there were nearly 50 millionaires living in the area thanks to gold found nearby. While this prospector is not living in the 1800’s and not employing a pick and shovel like many of those gold searchers 150 years ago, finding the hidden yellow ore is still challenging.

Reese Townes knew the primitive tools used by those searchers did not unearth all the gold. He has spent decades locating the precious metal they missed.

His dad was a metal detector dealer in Great Falls, Montana when Reese was young. The elder Townes taught Reese how to use a metal detector to find all sorts of treasures. Together, they searched old town sites and a Lincoln Gulch claim and found gold, relics, and coins.

A large gold nugget found by Reese.

Reese started with a couple models from another manufacturer. But after years of searching with friends, he discovered they were finding more gold with Minelab detectors. In 2008, Reese switched to a Minelab X-TERRA 705 and began finding more treasures. Shortly after, he added a GPX 4000 gold machine and once again, his finds increased. (Reese recently procured a new Minelab MANTICORE and is currently running it through the paces.)

Reese is now a full-time gold hunter, using several Minelab machines. He spends May to September prospecting in Montana, searching for gold nuggets. When the weather starts getting too cold, he loads the truck and heads south to prospect in Arizona, hoping to hit a hot spot. While traveling, Reese operates out of a 16 foot Bell Tent. While he said he still enjoys detecting with friends, his solitary, nomadic existence requires most of his searching to be done alone.

Reese’s latest find, a Minelab MANTICORE

When asked where he searches for gold, Reese replied, “I use my Minelab machine hunting washes, ridges, slopes, dry creek beds, and other areas where I have found gold in the past. In Arizona, I get up early and hunt in the morning because it gets too hot in the afternoon. And, at 55, I am not able to hunt all day like I used to.”

At more than half a century old, and detecting the rugged lands of the western mountain states for many decades, not many folks would be able to keep searching all day either. Besides fighting the heat, Reese hikes miles a day while watching for snakes, cactus, and other dangers and carrying his backpack, detectors, and other necessary gear including lots of water. And besides snakes, he contends with grizzly bears and cougars.

Reese’s prospector camp.

Unlike most detectorists who hunt on the beach or in fields or parks, Reese must tote a long list of essentials. He places trip alarms around his campsite to give him notice if any critters are prowling around at night. He also carries extremely strong pepper spray and a shotgun to deter intruders. His travel kit includes a hearty supply of food, as well as a water purifier in case water runs low. Lots of paracord, tarps, extra blankets in case one gets wet, medicine, and items are included in his necessary supplies.

Research is required to be successful, Reese studying geology maps, Google Earth, and mining journals to determine where his search will be focused. After choosing an area, he counts on Minelab machines to discover both small and deep gold nuggets. His favorite find is an 18.1 gram nugget found in Arizona.

Reese primarily hunts gold on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, occasionally getting permission to search private property. An On X Hunt app reveals property lines to provide search boundaries. The app also reveals property owners and contact information for the land he is prospecting. While they probably don’t hang poachers anymore, landowners still get mighty upset when they find someone digging on their property without permission.

When not detecting gold, Reese is editing You-Tube videos. Look for his stories on Gold Seeker Adventures. If you would like to get some more in-depth ideas of what gold prospectors need to know, check out his book, “The Nugget Shooter’s Field Guide” by Reese Townes. The book is full of details to help the beginner or experienced treasure hunter be successful. Pages of pictures allow the reader to learn where and how to hunt. He explains mass wasting and covers details, which you will find nowhere else.

Gold nuggets put to the scale.

Reese invented an Applied Theory, called “The Townes Theory”, confirmed by four geologists and a former chief mining engineer, revealing the level the earliest stage of a stream system began. This is important because it puts a person on nuggets where they never thought of looking. The lessons and strategies learned in his book can be used in any part of the world.

If you want to be a successful gold hunter, check out the Minelab gold machines, study Reese’s book, and plan on spending a lot of time in the field. Nuggets are small and often far apart. But you will be far better equipped to find them than the prospectors of a 150 years ago.

Reese’s comprehensive gold prospecting book.

Story by Rich Creason




Minelab is an Australian, multi-award-winning business that has successfully scaled world markets to command global leadership in its key areas of operation. Based in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, with regional offices in Cork, Ireland; Dubai, UAE; Monterrey, Mexico; Itajai, Brazil; and Chicago, U.S.A., the company specializes in advanced electronic technologies. Since its origins in 1985, Minelab has been the world leader in providing metal-detecting technologies for gold prospecting, treasure hunting and landmine clearance. Through devotion to research and development and innovative design, Minelab is today the major world manufacturer of handheld metal detector products. Over the past 30 years, Minelab has introduced more innovative and practical technology than any of its competitors and has taken the metal detecting industry to new levels of excellence. Minelab is a Codan Limited company (ASX: “CDA”). To learn more about Minelab, visit


Noel Vick

Traditions Media