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How do you hunt for a cache?

Mr and Mrs Boogie
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Your average estimated error - accuracy isn't the right word, but some apps use it- is about 10M, so about 30 feet. It could be more than that as well - I've had more than 10 miles of error - and it may be your GPS, the hiders GPS, or both that are off.


So once you get to ground zero, star looking and expect to look about 30 feet. Look at the cache size and difficulty rating, and even the hint, and other people's logs. Also think, where would I hide a cache that size here.


Remember the caches can be the size of an eraser on a pencil, and have very good camo, where even experienced cachers have a hard time finding it. Sometimes you're just having bad luck and can't find it. Or it really may not be there.


Be sure to log a DNF, so others and the cache owner know there may be an issue, or its hard to find.


Remember, there's 2 million some caches in the world, you don't have to find them all.ntry again another time, and if you still don't find it, then move on.

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Went hunting for a cache. Got within 3 feet of the coordinates. Searched but couldn't find the cache. What's your general maximum search radius when you get to the coordinate? 10, 20, 30, more feet?

Since civilian GPS is really only accurate to around ten feet on a perfect day, I give a bit of leeway, realizing a perfect reading for me and the hider are gonna be rare.

I put the GPSr away and start looking around twenty.

Depending on the CO, I may expand to forty, but my patience wears thin after that.


My other 2/3rds found one a few months ago (from a no finds hider with phone) when I couldn't find it (was tricked into looking for her in the first place :) ).

- She simply looked for where she'd place it, which turned out to be a bus stop shelter 428' away.

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Under ideal conditions, a consumer GPSr will be accurate to about 3m (10ft), no matter what the device's estimated error is. That applies both to your device, and to the cache owner’s device, so you may find the container 5-6m (16-20ft) from ground zero under ideal conditions. Under less than ideal conditions, both GPSr readings can be much less accurate.


I usually extend my search radius to at least 30ft. On occasion, I've extended it further. In some cases, the reception in an area has been so bad that the cache owner had an estimated error of more than 50ft; usually, they've provided good hints to help seekers identify ground zero more accurately.

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So once you get to ground zero, star looking and expect to look about 30 feet. Look at the cache size and difficulty rating, and even the hint, and other people's logs. Also think, where would I hide a cache that size here.


I would suggest to start looking *before* getting to ground zero.


For example, if you're walking down a trail and your GPS is telling you that you're still 50' away and it appears to be 10' off to the left of the trail, estimate a 50' distance from your current location and see if there is anything that stands out (e.g. an interesting looking tree) in the general area. You could continue watching your GPS, trying to get it such that it tells you're 0 feet from GZ, when there may be an obvious spot to search 20' away.


"Getting to GZ" just means that your GPS is telling you that the lat/long coordinates are the same as (or close to) the published coordinates, but this game isn't about seeing how close you can get to the published coordinates; it's about finding geocaches. So once you're "close" to GZ, start looking for places where someone might have hidden a container. With practice you'll be able to estimate distances better as well as recognize potential hiding spots better and eventually you'll start finding more caches because you've spotted the most likely spot where the cache is hidden from 50' away or more. I've spotted the correct hiding spot when I was still 200' from GZ. I've got one hide that's in a tree in the middle of a field with not other trees within 150 feet. As soon as someone pulls into the parking area it should be immediately obvious where they should be searching. Actually finding the container once they're searching in the right area is another story.



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Under ideal conditions, a consumer GPSr will be accurate to about 3m (10ft), no matter what the device's estimated error is.
Just to clarify, I meant that you shouldn't believe your device if it says you're closer than 3m (10ft), or if it says its estimated error is less than 3m (10ft).


If your device says you're further than 3m (10ft), or if it says its estimated error is more than 3m (10ft), then that is entirely believable. Although estimated error is calculated differently by different devices, and is a statistical estimate, so don't rely on it being accurate.

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<_< If I'm in an area in which the GPSr seems to be jumpy I will set the unit down to rest. After a few minutes, I'll adjust my search accordingly, then go out 30 feet and slowly spiral in to the GPSr sometimes this doesn't work, so I adjust again.


Big thing to remember not everyone has the same GPSr and the fact that each person is not as detailed as another. It all boils down to trial and error, just have fun with it as it is only a game. :laughing:

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What I often like to do is to read the description and the hint while I'm still on my way, so then I know what to look for. As an example of an easy one, if the hint mentions something about a style, then I'll know to look for a style. Also, one thing I've realised as I've become more experienced at geocaching is that I now know a lot more about what kind of things to look for. Recently, I bumped into two newbie geocachers, and they were shocked to see that the geocache was a stick. They had no idea that a geocache would be an actual real wooden stick. These days, I look for sticks, fake rocks, piles of stones that might have a micro container under them, all the usual standard things.


But I'm into geocaching more for the experience of being out visiting new places, so these days I don't tend to spend too long searching. 5-10 minutes, and if I still haven't found it I move on, unless I think it's going to be really worth spending longer to find it.

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My latest mystery find was tricky. My phone did not settle and I blamed the trees. The dog suggested it was in a pine but I did not find any fake branches or small holes.


I went home to check my coordinates and cache details again. I took a second look at the map. I returned to the cache site. The cache details suggested it was a small so no hole nor a fake branch should be it if it was not mislabeled. The terrain rate puzzled me. At my first visit I arrived by a route that made me climb uphill but at the second time I approached from another, easier direction. I was not sure if there was enough stars to incline tree-climbing.


Then I thought GPS inaccuracy. The cache was near a path so I sent the dog to its other side. There was a promising tree stump in a steep descend. Not there. The dog started to circle a spruce ehm... 6 (?) meters to my left. I checked it believing my dog has it wrong. The cache actually was 3 m up there yet I think the dog just guessed it and did not sniff.


I usually start by looking at the map with terrain curves and aerial pictures. Then I walk to the coordinates and take a look around. Any places I would hide a box this big? Any erosion, worn spots or alike? What does the dog say?


Often my device is spots on but not always. Trees seem to confuse it. I have used phone GPS for less than 30 caches, my first 100 finds made using map and notes only.

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I started caching with a phone - so I learned to start looking 30-40 feet out as I was approaching where I think GZ is. Even though I now have a 'real' gps - I still start looking for likely hiding spots 30 feet out as I approach GZ.


This is what I do as well, even when I'm using my handheld GPS. The more you do it the better you'll get estimating distances so when your GPS tells you you're still 75-100' away you can look in general direction your GPS is suggesting, estimate the distance and see if there is something there that stands out where someone might hide a cache. You can save a lot of time finding a cache that way rather than following your GPS/phone until it tells you you're at GZ.



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Just made a find Sunday where my phone, my geobuddy's phone, and my handheld all agreed exactly on the same spot-- that NEVER happens. So we spent rather too much time looking at that particular bush, before expanding the search and spotting the telltale stack of sticks and bark hiding the pill container from casual view. And another find the same day, several logs agreed that the coords were off, and it was 50-60 feet east. And so it was. These were along the Erie Canal, and from what I understand, being that close to a body of water often messes with your GPS-- sun reflecting off the water causes distortions in the air.

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It depends upon who hid the cache. There are some where you can assume the coordinates are as likely to be 50'+ off posted in some random direction as they are to be accurate. Sometimes we just ignore those until someone posts alternate coordinates, and sometimes we do the leg work and post the alternates ourselves. There are others whose methods produce reliable results down to about 15' or less on a regular basis unless there's something interfering with the 'sky'. SO much depends upon how the readings were taken and with what device when the cache was hidden.


If the conditions are a bit rough with regard to reception, and we know that the owner is always careful, we MAY attempt to back away from the cache at different angles for some distance (30~50') and attempt to triangulate a position to speed up the process. That's one of those times where having a true magnetic compass in a GPS receiver can be handy since you don't have to be moving to sort out a bearing.


There are other times where, with low difficulty caches, the size of container and/or number of potential hiding spots require only that we show up in the same zip code, and coordinate precision is less important. Sometimes, there just aren't that may rocks under which a 30 caliber ammo can can be hidden.

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Actually, the surest way to ruin a 'number of consecutive days streak' for that local challenge is an 'at sea' day! Co-opting the ship's web cam to create a cam cache and finding my own cache wasn't going to cut it!


You can ruin a consecutive day streak with air travel as well. A few years ago I embarked on a trip, entering an airport at 6:00AM on a Friday morning, and was on a plane or in an airport until Sunday at 1:30PM and none of the flights were delayed. However, I was still able to find a cache.



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My biggest hits were always taking Denver to Tokyo runs. Had to find something in town before I left because by the time I got to Tokyo, today was already tomorrow. Even then, arriving at the hotel around 5 ~ 6pm, I was on the hook for another one before I could go to bed. I did manage to salvage one streak that way, but finally lost it shipboard and figure I don't need to go beyond the 146 days of that one. It all started out by accident, and by around day 60, I realized that if I kept going, there was a 100-day challenge around that I could shoot for. Took a while to get smart about leaving a few 'local' ones to pick off as needed in an emergency. Anyway, the 146 will have to do. I really don't feel the need to repeat it!

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