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Treasure hunters

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Posted: Sunday, July 5, 2009 12:00 am

OLEAN - Their triumphs have been talked about before, helping people find lost items from class rings to family heirlooms that have been missing 30, 40, even 50 years.

The Enchanted Mountain Treasure Hunters act as modern-day pirates searching for buried treasure hidden right in the Southern Tier.

"I'll tell you, it's fun," Dave Kinney, who helped found the group some five years ago, said. "There's always the thought of what I might find the next time. It's the thrill of the hunt."

"You can go out and have a real nice time and find some real nice stuff," Dave Wright, co-founder of the group, said. "It's just a lot of fun."

The group started off with 12 members and has grown to over 40. Members hail from as far away as Fillmore to parts of Pennsylvania, including Bradford, Emporium and Port Allegany.

When asked for help, the treasure hunters comb the area with their metal detectors. They've been asked to find anything from rings to boundary markers. Sawmills request their help to find nails in trees to figure out which areas to avoid cutting.

Mr. Wright recalled a time when parents requested his help to figure out if their child had swallowed a coin. Sure enough, the child did.

When they find class rings or jewelry with inscriptions, they try to return them to the owner if possible.

"That's a thrill," Mr. Wright said. "The only way to explain it is to get involved and have done it. I can't tell you the feeling when you hand something back to a person that they've lost years and years ago. The look on their face, I don't know any words to describe it."

Metal detectors range from ,200 up to around ,1,700, Mr. Wright said, but it won't take long before the items you find pay back that investment.

He recalled one piece of jewelry that more than paid for his metal detector.

Mr. Kinney said you never know what you'll find when you go treasure hunting.

"It can be most anything," he said. "Artifacts are nice, anything old. It might not be worth a lot. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't."

He travels to Florida during the winter, and has found some worthwhile items on the beach, from a Rolex watch to a diamond-studded ring.

"It's surprising some of the things you can find that represent a fair amount of money," Mr. Kinney said.

But it isn't about making money, the two said. They keep most everything they find. It's all about getting outdoors and searching.

"I go as often as I can," Mr. Wright said. "I enjoy it, the peace and quiet. It's therapeutic."

Treasure hunting also attracts the attention of kids.

"When you're out hunting, metal detectors are a magnet for kids," Mr. Wright said, sharing what he finds with the group that gathers around him.

Mr. Kinney said he always finds Matchbox cars which he gives to his grandson.

Western New York is full of goodies, Mr. Wright said, and as technology continues to progress, you can search the same area over and over and keep finding new stuff.

The Enchanted Mountain Treasure Hunters group is a nice way for members to share their finds with each other.

"It's a thrill for me when they come in and say, 'Guess what I found,'" Mr. Wright said. "I get as much kick out of that as finding it myself."

The group is also a nice way for beginners to get started and find out if they like it or not. They can also gain valuable information from fellow treasure hunters.

Membership is open to anyone and having a metal detector isn't required.

The group meets the second Monday every month at the Olean VFW. Mr. Wright works at Olean Flags and Banners on West State Street, where he also sells metal detectors.

Anyone requiring their assistance or wishing to join can stop there or call him at 373-5296.

It doesn't matter if it's aluminum arrows or tractor parts, Mr. Wright said, it's the thrill of hunting.

"I've been at it since 1972, and I still get excited when I dig something out of the ground," he said. He loves the hearing his metal detector go off, letting him know where to dig.

"You get a skip in your heartbeat. You know you're over something good," he said.

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