How to hunt for arrowheads in Ohio

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Flint artifacts (Coshocton Flint, Pennsylvanian; Ohio USA) 2 by James St. John (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via Flickr.

The rain refused to let up this spring and continued into summer, creating poor conditions for planting and leaving many fields unplanted — some still under water. The weather has presented a challenge for just about anyone, trying to accomplish anything on Ohio’s farmland this year, unless you’ve been hunting for arrowheads. Unplanted, washed out fields provide ideal conditions to find arrowheads and other relics.

Looking for arrowheads in Ohio

Native American artifacts are plentiful in Ohio and arrowheads can be found throughout the state. However, it’s illegal to pick them up on state and federal land in Ohio, so foragers have to hunt for them on private property.

Before you start your search, you’ll need permission from the landowner to hunt for them on private property.

Farmland

A recently plowed field after a rain, or in the case of this year’s weather after a washout, is one place to search for arrowheads. Large finds have been uncovered in farm fields in Ross, Adams, Medina, Defiance and Mahoning counties.

Timing. The ideal time to search for arrowheads is after at least half an inch of rain has fallen. The rain washes the dirt off the flint and the arrowheads shine like glass in the sunlight, making them easier to see.

Strategy. Another key to finding arrowheads is to put yourself in the shoes of a Native American living off the land. What do you need to survive? You need a water source to survive.

Start your search by walking a field with a stream or flowing spring nearby. Native Americans needed water and so did the animals they hunted.

If you’re lucky you’ll locate an area that has a lot more flint present. These areas were used as worksites. Although you may not find many finished tools here, finding a worksite means hunting areas are nearby, and arrowheads are most plentiful there.

Creeks and streams

If you don’t have any luck searching in unplanted fields, you might try searching creeks and streams nearby. Waterways are another good place to look for arrowheads because it’s likely hunters would have visited in the pursuit of prey or water.

Spotting arrowheads. The sharp, straight edges of arrowheads standout in the water, making them easier to spot.

Hunt upstream. Currents carry things downstream — think of the dust being stirred up by your feet as you move along. Your best bet for locating arrowheads is starting downstream and searching upstream, or against the current.

Cover more ground. Rather than focusing on a short stretch of the creek, cover as much ground as you can. Search one side of the creek at a steady pace in one direction and the other side on your way back (as long as the water didn’t get too cloudy). Increasing the amount of ground you cover puts you at better odds to find an arrowhead.

Search gravel bars. Because currents can jar things loose and carry them downstream and water levels are always changing, depending on the rain, gravel bars within creeks are a good place to look for arrowheads. Look for sharp edges, hiding among rounded creek rocks.

Don’t give up

If you don’t find any arrowheads on your first hunt, don’t give up. With the farmer’s permission, continue to look any time fields have been tilled or rain may have uncovered something new. You can search corn fields until plants are knee-high; however, soybean fields shouldn’t be walked after they’ve been sown.

Cleaning your find

If you’re lucky enough to find an arrowhead, follow these instructions to clean it up:

  1. Rinse it in cold water.
  2. Wash it with dish soap.
  3. Gently remove any stuck-on dirt with an old toothbrush, but don’t scrub. Scrubbing removes the patina and reduces its value.
  4. Catalog your find, recording the location of the find, the size of the find and what tribe may have left it behind.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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