By the time I received my Vaquero for field testing, I had high expectations for testing it in the Virginia soil at the 2004 GNRS. James Gifford had given me just enough information about the new Tesoro to get my blood pumping. But would it run with the big dogs? That remained to be proven.
Upon opening the box, I was very pleased at not only the appearance of the Vaquero but also its ultralight weight (2.2 lbs). The Vaquero is comparable to the Tesoro Eldorado µMax, both in design and look. However, that's where similarities stop. It took only minutes to assemble and install the one 9 volt battery and 9x8 coil. Having been familiar with the Eldorado, I didn't stop long enough to read the manual (I would do this later). I wanted to see just how "turn-on-and-go" this new addition to the Tesoro family would operate. I turned on the Vaquero and heard the familiar "dit-dit-dit" of the battery check. This feature gives an audio status of your battery condition—a feature I have grown to like very much. After placing a number of Civil War relics, various coins, and common trash items on the ground, I walked over to a metal free area and ground balanced the Vaquero. Within 20-30 seconds, I had a nice smooth threshold established. I began sweeping over the various targets in the All Metal Mode. What I immediately noticed was that the larger/closer the target, the stronger the audio response. I also found this to be true when using the Pinpoint Mode. This can be a big advantage when determining the size or depth of a target. Soft feathered sounds are going to be either very small shallow targets or small to medium sized deep targets. Larger targets that are deep will respond with a larger "halo" or area of response.
Next, I started to check all targets with minimal discrimination. Square nails and other iron responded with a very sharp or staccato sound, as did nonferrous targets that were under the coil at 2 inches or less. However, by rapidly sweeping the 9x8 coil over nails and small iron, they began to break up, giving a choppy broken signal. As I began to increase the discrimination, I was able to remove small iron and nails at the Iron setting. Some larger iron broke up or disappeared completely at one notch past the Iron setting. After testing my various targets, I was able to determine where most common targets would discriminate out, giving me a good solid idea of target ID. And this being done without the aid of a Target ID meter!
After arriving in Virginia for the GNRS, we were given a lot of information as to the layout of the 3,000 plus acres and the history behind the site. It had been fortified and occupied since the American Revolution. Troops had been there from the 1770s, War of 1812, and the Civil War. Two main forts were on the property (overlooking the James River) along with lots of military camps. This I felt would be a golden opportunity for field testing the new Vaquero! When the day began, I chose to operate in Disc Mode at the lowest setting just above the All Metal Mode. My first signal was a good strong audio response—no need to check in Pinpoint Mode. I remained in the Disc Mode and dug a .69-caliber round ball at 7 to 8 inches. Pinpoint was dead on. My next target was a piece of 3-inch Parrot shell, about 5 inches by 1.75 inches at 11 inches in the ground. Again, a nice clean response in Disc Mode. It did break up somewhat when I swept the coil perpendicular to the target, but it sounded good enough to dig. I continued throughout the day digging bullets, buttons, shell fragments, brass items, fuses, and other civilian and military items. Some of the shell fragments were from 100-pound Parrot shells and 10" cannonballs fired from US Navy warships into Confederate camps. These tended to be rather large, some weighing in at nearly five pounds! I had no problem avoiding the square nails, even with low discrimination. Being a relic hunter, I like to find iron relics. I dug pieces of knives, horse tack, gun parts, etc. I was very pleased at being able to swing the Vaquero all day without fatigue. I don't remember ever changing arms at any time. My battery remained strong throughout the hunt.
After attending the GNRS in Virginia, I made a trip to west Tennessee in mid-November to the Shiloh Relic and Coin Hunt. This is a one-day event featuring two hunts — one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both hunts feature thousands of buried Civil War relics, coins (silver and clad), and about 40-50 prize tokens. The hunt is held twice per year on the Southern Cross farm, owned by Civil War artillery collector and author, Riley Gunter. This was my third trip. On my previous hunt in May, I found one of the coveted tokens in which I won a nice dug relic: Crossed Cannons Artillery insignia. While waiting for the opening gun (Riley fires one of his Civil War cannons), I quickly checked my Vaquero's Ground Balance and set the Disc knob to minimum. Some tokens are made of iron and you do not want to reject any iron above a nail. Minimum discrimination will accomplish this very well. I had chosen to start at the far end of the field, and with the firing of the gun, I was off! I didn't have to sweep but a few feet when I heard the loud familiar beep-beep of a shallow target. A fast plunge of my digging shovel, and I found myself working the dirt with my fingers, which yielded a nice Civil War "Minie ball." A few feet farther and I repeated the scenario. I continued to dig to the top of the ridge, finding dropped and fired Minies every few feet. Once at the top, I began to realize I was digging too deep for the shallow targets. Pinpointing was so accurate in the Disc Mode that I never took the time to check my targets in the push button Pinpoint Mode. The open "D" center of the standard 9x8 coil gave me fast accurate locations on all targets. My problem was burning up time trying to locate my targets in the 4 to 6 inch plugs I had been digging. I decided to only tap my shovel with my foot, only going 2-3 inches in the ground. Then all I had to do was pull backward and there would be my target.
My first coin was a clad Kennedy half dollar. This was a very loud signal and was probably the deepest target I found, about 5 inches deep. I continued digging Civil War bullets and brass relics until I came to a spot with many dig holes evident. Participants are required to fill their dig holes, but I could see evidence of previous digs. The area had long ago been the site of a Civil War era homesite, so iron square nails and trash were everywhere. I began to slow down and immediately found good targets all around me. I dug 14 silver quarters and about 2 dozen Minie balls! Several pieces of brass were related to the homesite and not the competition hunt. Nice bonus finds. Although I did not find any tokens, my normal average of 65 bullets jumped to an even 100 for the day. Add to this 15 coins (1 clad, 14 silver) and an assortment of brass relics (buttons, knap sack hooks, rifle sling hooks, etc). I had a great day!
My personal opinion of the Vaquero is two thumbs up! It is one of the best Tesoro models ever produced and will remain in my personal inventory for years to come. It has excellent discrimination, very accurate pinpointing, and astonishing depth. Although I didn't dig any what I would call "super deep" bullets, I did find a number that were in the 10 to 11 inch range and all responded with a good audible signal. I kept the Frequency Shift in Freq 2 at all times. I had no problems with interference and the Vaquero operated smoothly. My most impressive find was a Union Cuff "Eagle I" button at nine inches. I accurately measured this find, as I was stunned to get such a good response from such a small target.
All in all, I find the Vaquero to be an excellent metal detector. Whether you're coin, relic, jewelry hunting, or jumping in one of the many competition hunts around the country, the Vaquero does an excellent job on all facets of metal detecting and has a smooth learning curve. This is one extreme detector! Way to go Tesoro! I'm going to take a trip out west soon and try the Vaquero on gold nugget detecting. I have a feeling it won't let me down.
(L. David Keith is an authorized Tesoro dealer operating Dixie Metal Detectors. If you have questions about the Vaquero or any other Tesoro model, please feel free to contact him at 1120 Berwick Trail, Madison, TN 37115; (615) 860-4333; email@example.com.)
Vaquero Field Report
by Dallas Weaver
I am not a 20-year veteran of metal detecting, and I was not asked by Tesoro to write this based on my vast knowledge of the subject. I am a new Tesoro dealer and quite new to the hobby of detecting. In writing this article, I hope to clarify a point or two in beginner's language.
I chose to write about the Vaquero as there is not much written about it yet, and I have been hearing some talk that the Vaquero might be a very good entry level nugget detector. Already as a dealer, I have had several inquiries asking if the Vaquero would serve as an all-around detector including nugget detecting. My answer has been that the Vaquero has all the features that could make it an all-around detector, and in the hands of anyone who has practiced with it, it should serve that purpose well. The key here is practice. Remember your first swing with a golf club? How did you do? Practice takes time and effort but when accomplished, you receive maximum reward and enjoyment. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as being successful in your efforts.
To understand the Vaquero better, I worked with it for about an hour in my "test garden." After reading the manual twice and doing the recommended air test routine, the test garden had no surprises. What did surprise me was the amazing ease with which the machine ground balanced. I followed the directions for ground balancing and on the first bob of the coil, the tone changed not one bit. My Vaquero just happened to be ground balanced when I took it out of the box. Thinking I had done something wrong, I turned the ground balance counterclockwise ¼ of a turn. I bobbed the coil again and sure enough, no tone. The machine was far negative. I worked back toward where I was before and arrived at the same place when balanced. All this took me less than one minute.
With success in mind, on April 4, 2005, I packed up the Suburban with all my gear and two new Tesoro Vaqueros and headed out of Clatskanie, OR for Baker City, OR to meet my brother, Dave. We were going to Tucson, Arizona to visit our sister. On the way there, we were planning to stop at the Arizona gold fields. There we would hopefully give our two Vaqueros a good workout as nugget machines.
Now, what better way to get a head start on operating the Vaquero than by talking with the Tesoro people in Prescott, AZ. Dave and I walked in the office and while introducing ourselves to the secretary, a young gentleman with a goatee and a big smile walked up and asked if he could be of any help. Obviously not having done my homework, I asked him if he was a customer service rep or office staff. He stuck out his hand and said, "Actually, I am the owner, James Gifford." So that is how I met Mr. Gifford. As I had hoped, James volunteered to demonstrate how to set the Vaquero for nugget hunting.
Setting the machine on one of the front desks, James produced a large nail and gold nugget and a piece of mineral (simulating mineralized soil) used to ground balance the machine. Now, you won't find this procedure in the manual, but it is a surefire way to transform this user-friendly little detector into an amazingly effective nugget machine. An added bonus is not having to worry about digging a lot of small iron objects. The key to this tuning method is in the discrimination control.
After turning the machine on and setting the sensitivity at 10, James turned the discrimination knob counterclockwise past the all metal mode until the knob clicked. The machine was now in the threshold-based all metal mode. He then adjusted the threshold tone to a comfortable level. At this point, James ground balanced the machine using the piece of mineral. The Vaquero was humming a nice smooth tone in the all metal mode. This was when I became really impressed. James smoothly passed the nail over the coil and Wham! The machine sounded off. Next, he passed the gold nugget over the coil. Wham! A nice smooth solid tone. Now, he rotated the discrimination knob clockwise until it clicked out of the all metal mode into the discrimination mode and passed the nail over the coil—nothing. He passed the nugget over the coil, and there was that nice solid smooth tone again. The iron was discriminated out, and the detector still got a good solid hit on the gold nuggets. I couldn't wait to test this machine in the gold fields.
My brother Dave has had very limited metal detecting experience, mostly locating occasional water lines. Upon arriving at the hunt area, I demonstrated how to ground balance accurately and explained the need to keep checking the balance. We went over the all metal search mode and switching to discriminate mode after locating a target to identify iron. In less than five minutes, Dave was on his way finding very small lead fragments, shell casings, and bullet jackets. A small piece of foil provided some excitement for a short time.
Over just short of two days, we visited two different GPAA claims and while we found no nuggets, we nearly wore out my test nuggets. We found that when the Vaquero was ground balanced to the moderately mineralized soil of the claim, a 1.3-grain nugget glued to a poker chip lying on top of the dirt would give a clear but soft signal in both all metal and discriminate mode. No signal at one inch depth. A 1.3-grain nugget is quite small and can be described as a picker in a gold pan of concentrates. Next, we tried a 2.5-grain nugget, also on a chip. This larger nugget allowed a nice clear signal down to about 1½ inches deep. My third and final nugget was a 13 grain and it gave an easily detectable signal down to a measured depth of 6 inches. The 13 grain nugget was thin and flat and provided a large surface area. We did locate a lot of junk, but we dug everything as we were learning how to get the best from the Vaquero.
If you have shied away from manual ground balance machines for whatever reason, I feel the Vaquero is a detector you can master and make yourself wonder what all the concern was about. 15 years ago, when I last had a ground balance machine, I never did get the machine balanced. I finally sold it in frustration. I guess I should have tried a Tesoro long ago.
The point of all this is that the Vaquero is an easy machine to operate. In its short existence, it has already established itself as a premier coin, jewelry, and relic machine. Because the machine is so light (2.2 lbs), we were able to search for long periods without shoulder or arm problems. We did, however, develop somewhat of a sore neck. If we were more conditioned to detecting, I'm sure we would have had no problems. During one particularly slow period, I figured with a battery life of about 20 hours, the battery cost came to about $.15 an hour. Pretty cheap hobby!
I feel the Vaquero made an excellent showing for itself. With a price of $525, the Vaquero falls in the mid-price range of most detectors, but the features and performance place it in a range much higher. I think the Vaquero is going to be right on target for what many buyers have been looking for: affordable quality, performance, ease of operation, adaptability, and a best in the business "no nonsense" lifetime warranty.
(Dallas Weaver is an authorized Tesoro dealer operating K & D Detectors. If you have questions about the Vaquero or any other Tesoro model, please feel free to contact him at 78634 Rantala Road, Clatskanie, OR 97016; (503) 728-2094; firstname.lastname@example.org.)