Thought I'd share my thoughts on identifying and searching areas of interest.
1. Research Research Research
The most important part of any time spent metal detecting for relics. Do your RESEARCH first. Don't just turn up to an area armed with a shovel and a vague knowledge of the location. Research pays BIG dividends. If you're searching old 'static' sites such as airfields then, as a minimum, get on the internet and identify the precise location. You may be surprised to find war ministry plans of old bases ! Or even old Bye-laws that PRECISELY identify an area boundary !
Familiarise yourself with what outfit(s) were there and when so you know what kind of finds to expect.
Then get yourself on Google Earth and find if there are any visible 'remains'.
Take the Google Earth picture and anotate with distances from any obvious access points to specific areas you want to search. Also make sure you put a compass on the print out AND you take one with you ! You can then pace out distances and hit locations bang on.
If you're searching old battlefields, spend time trawling through books on the subject. Many eye witness accounts give you vital information that narrow down your search area. For instance, I found a reference in an obscure book about the Ardennes offensive from a GI, stating, 'We took 2 days to clear the Germans from the woods between *village x* and *village Y*'. I found the location on Google Earth, turn up and I get SHED loads of finds.
Check access to the site and who the landowner is. Gain permission before going on site. Very few locations are 'public' so you will invariably need permission. Make sure you explain what kind of stuff you are looking for. A friend of mine was given a 2 foot square piece of B-17 with a Boeing mark on it by the farmer AND allowed access to the site !!
3. Modern ?
Many sites have a modern day use that will impede your relic hunting. If the site is close to a built up area or a main road, the edge of the site will be chock full of modern crap that will drive you nuts. Local kids can also be a nuisance to the relic hunter as they use woods and copses as mobile pubs, kindly leaving their cans behind.
Try and avoid the modern trash if you can. Work from the furthest point on the site towards the modern 'area'.
If the site you're looking at has a modern use such as warehousing or civil airfield, move on. It's too much hassle sometimes to gain access and I will guarentee the site will be crammed full of modern crap that will impede your search. Find a site that has become a farm or such like.
4. 60 years of change
Bear in mind anywhere you are searching could well have changed considerably over the past 60-70 years. Don't be put off by thick woods.....chances are the wood wasn't there 60 years ago and the area could have been used by the unit(s) on the site.
5. Think like a soldier/airman !
When you get to the site and identify your search area, don't just stick close to buildings. Try and think where you would sit and have a fag or a game of cards. Refer to point 4 and look to see where these areas could be. Remember, they could be up to 50 metres (or more) away from the buildings !
6. Don't give up
You may not find any relics straight away. You may be deluged with modern crap. If you dig up modern stuff, move it to an area you know you're not going to search. For instance, if there is a thick bush in the location, chuck your modern crap into the middle of it so you don't find it again on your next visit. If you are environmentally conscious, take a bag with you and dispose of the modern crap in a bin. If you've done your research right you may have to get the modern crap out the ground before you find the relics.
7. Cover the bases !
Two tips in one here. Firstly, when you have dug a hole and found a piece of metal, never EVER walk away without re-detecting the hole. Secondly, search right up against trees ! Remember they may not have been there 60 years ago and many finds are made right up against a tree.
As an example of both, in one of my posts I show the 69 German WW2 coins I found against a tree. I firstly got 3 out the hole, re-detected it, got 2 more, moved a little, got 2 more....and so on.....all the way around the base of the tree. I was there for an hour BUT the main thing to note is that this was against a BIG tree.....and I re-detected the hole.
8. Take in your surroundings
When on an old base where the buildings have been knocked down, look for the foundations. You can spot these on Google Earth if you zoom right in. If you can't see them on Google Earth, look closely at the ground when you reach the site. Very few things in nature make straight lines on the ground.
The same goes for old battlefields. 9 times out of 10 the soldiers would have dug fox holes or even trenches. Even after 60 years you will still be able to make them out in many areas. They may have almost completely filled in with earth BUT, normally you can see the impression on the ground. If you find a foxhole/trench. Stand in it and look 360 degrees around the hole.....you will more likely than not suddenly notice a whole row of almost invisible remains of fox holes !
I hope this helps you and.......good relic hunting !!