Finding a hoard is surely the dream of every metal detectorist. There are no hard and fast rules to hoard finding, but you can certainly improve your chances. Research is the best place to start. See my presentation under http://happydetecting.com/home/reference-page/slideshow/
A way you can dramatically increase your chances of finding a hoard is to search locations where hoards have already been found. Not only will searching known hoard locations improve your chances of finding your own hoard, but there is also the possibility of finding spillage from the original hoard.
Necessity is the reason pretty much every hoard ever discovered was buried in the earth. Political turbulence, war, invasion and persecution are what caused so many people throughout history to conceal their material wealth; after all, they can always come back for it later, right? Imagine that the country has been invaded, you can get your family out of harm’s way, but only if you move fast and travel light. The bulk of your family’s wealth is in the form of coins, jewellery or bullion, you can’t take it with you, it is too heavy, and what if you are robbed in the chaos? what if you are captured? You need to hide your wealth somewhere. Not in your home, the enemy will certainly ransack it when they arrive, and either occupy or destroy it. It could be years before you are able to return home.
You can’t just walk into the middle of a field and bury your gold, you’ll never be able to find it again when you return to collect it. You need a point of reference, a meaningful landmark that will not change in any real way within the span of a human lifetime. A place where three track ways or paths meet, a crossroads, a place where two rivers or streams are joined, a waterfall, a boulder in a place otherwise devoid of rocks, a big old tree, a mile marker. Why not hide the gold at your people’s holy place, safe in the knowledge that your gods will protect it for you such as a fresh water spring, a holy well, a pool, a temple or a shrine.
Next time you are out detecting, look around you. If you were a resident of the area in the distant past and the Vikings came screaming over the hill, where would you hide your gold? What landmarks in the vicinity of your site have not changed for centuries? That is where you search. Put yourself in their shoes and trust your instincts.
A great deal has been written in metal detecting books and magazines about search strategies, what really a matter is to find a search strategy that works for you. Cover as much ground as you can as carefully as you can. Search slow, search deep. Sacrifice some discrimination to increase your depth and sensitivity, dig those ‘iffy’ signals, yes you will dig more iron, but if it leads to a hoard find, the relatively minor inconvenience of digging a few extra bits of iron will have been more than worth it.