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Dry panning is useful in areas where water is not available. It is not as efficient as wet panning as it is more difficult to keep smaller gold when combined with the larger pieces of rock. You will still be able to pan larger nuggets since they are so much heavier than anything else in the pan.

I recommend using a plastic pan with a small bottom and large riffles, (Garret type) with riffles pointing downward, as in wet panning. 

The first step, as in any type of panning, is to loosen all the material in the pan in the same manner you would to create a slurry when wet panning. You can shake the pan in any direction you like. I recommend a quick, vigorous circular motion without allowing very much material to fly out of the pan. Keep the pan level, do not tilt. This allows the gold to settle to the bottom of the pan.

Next is the motion to remove the sand out of the pan. (This next step should be done without stopping the pan from the first step) Start by tilting the pan slightly while maintaining the circular motion. You want to make the sand come out of the pan by going over the riffles. After removing a little sand, a handful or two, tilt the pan back level and shake the gold to the bottom of the pan again. Keep removing sand in this manner until there is about 1 handful of material left. You will need to tip the pan a little more as the amount of sand gets smaller. DO NOT pour the sand out of the pan. It must be spun out of the pan over the riffles.

The remaining material should now be covering the riffles in the pan. Finally turn the pan around so you are looking down the riffles and start to blow down across the riffles. Do not let the pile of sand move as you turn the pan around. As you blow the sand out of the pan, the nuggets should show up in the bottom of the pan in the bottom riffle. Depending how you blow you may get dust in your mouth and eyes.  Keep blowing until you have removed as much lighter sand as possible without passing out.  LOL!!!  This is one time when being a “blow hard” really pays off.  Dry Panning should be used in areas where large gold will be found as smaller flakes and dust would be blown out with the sand.  The smaller the nuggets, the more carefully you must pan down the sand, settling as you move the pan around in circles, or ovals.  Use your upper arms and shoulders to get the sand moving.

Dry Panning competition tips:

The same basic principals are used in competition panning. The person should start with the riffles in the pan away from the panner and slightly turned to one side or the other. If the panner spins the material in a counter clockwise motion the riffles would be to the right of center. In most competitions the time will start when the gold pan is touched.

Grab the pan on each side, pick it up and start the circular motion spinning it as fast as you can without loosing much sand. Continue this spinning motion slowly tipping to a greater angle. It is better to spin the sand up over the edges of the pan than it is to pour the sand over the edge. Any bounce of the pan to remove sand will allow the nuggets to jump out of the riffles and be lost over the edge of the pan. Once you get the nuggets to the bottom of the pan you want to keep them there. When you have removed all but around a handful of sand carefully turn the pan around so the riffles are now facing you.  Begin blowing across and down the riffles sending the sand out the other side of the pan.   You can stand when you start blowing or set the pan down on the table, but do not let the sand move or the nuggets will slid around. You need to blow hard enough to move the sand off of the nuggets to uncover them, but not hard enough to make them slide around once they are uncovered. In the World Dry competition held at the Colorado State  Panning Competitions in Breckenridge, you will then have to pick up the nuggets using only your fingers and place them in a vial, screw the lid on, set it in the judges’ pan and yell GOLD to stop your time. This competition uses 8 pea sized gold nuggets. Dry panning is one skill that can be practiced easily at home with some sand and lead shot flattened out. The lead works very similar to gold in dry sand. Put a screen under the pan.  The screen will make it easy to catch the lead shot you lose out of the pan.  

Well, that’s about it.  Practice next spring and summer so you can have some fun competing next August in Breckenridge at the Colorado State Championships.  Oh, by the way.  My fastest time last summer was 14.2 seconds.  However, even I didn’t start out with that kind of time.  A minute for a first goal is very doable.  Work your way down in time by going for it and not being afraid to lose the shot.  Refine your technique as you go and let your brain figure it out until it is automatic.  If you feel like peeing your pants before you start to break that last time, you’re almost there!  Under 30 seconds is GOOD.  Under 20 seconds and you’d better come to Colorado and try your luck.  Money prizes and medals for your efforts.

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