I have been hunting Ginseng for many years - started back in highschool (graduated in 1979) and continue to do so today.
Over the years I have used a variety of diggers ranging from a sharpened stick (say if found a patch while out squirrel hunting) - - - to a screwdriver if nothing better was easily available. I have used small short handled grubbing hoe type tools which worked very well.
The past 5 years or so I have been using a old grubbing hoe type head with a 36\" hickory handle.
The head is fairly light (but STRONG) and has a 1.5\" x 5.25\" blade on one side, and a 3\" x 5.25\" blade on the other.
The longer handle works nicely - I can dig most roots out without even bending over much and as long as you start digging out a few inches to the side or behind the root you can get the entire root system out with no damage.
The longer handle also works nicely as a walking stick - helps to get around on those steeper hillsides. It also works nicely on the occasional Tennessee Timber Rattler or Copperhead.
I am including a couple of pics attached so you can check it out.
Would be interested in hearing what some of you other seasoned diggers are using to extract that green gold.
I was taught to dig with a flat head screwdriver and I have tried many different tools army shovels, garden trowels, garden hoes, custom ginseng shovel (which is a piece of a mower blade welded to a steel bar) and actual ginseng hoe. Of all these my custom shovel works the best of them all as far as the amount of time spent digging up a root. But I never go hunting without my trusty flat head. It might take longer to dig up a root with it at times but some times it is essential if other tree roots or rocks are encountered and its ideal for following all the little stands of root. I like the flat head the best the only downside is sometimes u spend all your time diggin and with my custom shovel I can usually dig roots up faster. I guess its just personal preference and what ever works best for the individual. Havnt seen any1 use what your picture showed but lokks pretty cool I like the fact that your digger is also your walkin staff
Year before last my partner and I went into a hollow around 8 am and came out at 1:30 with 6 lbs 3 oz of green ginseng.
That was the most either of us had ever harvested in a single trip.
That hollow was just full of nice 3 & 4 prongs and several patches were found where 15-20 large mature plants were all growing in a small area.
There were hillsides in there that you just kept on digging nice plant after nice plant. Most of the time while digging one you were spotting 3-4 more and that just kept on happening for hours.
I had never filled up my ginseng bag before but that day I did and had my fanny pack almost full too.
I had blisters on my right hand from working that long handle hoe.
Never had that happen before either.
It would have been a long day for sure with a flat head screwdriver. I have used those before and they do work well but as you said slow going.
Wish I knew where several more hollows like that one were located. We did not dig it last year - I like to wait 3 years before re-visiting a site. Since it was so full of ginseng we may just have to re-visit it agian this fall.
I know exactly what u mean Ive had the honor of findin a couple hill side like that and at times drives me crazy when tryin to dig cause you just cant stop lookin around cause your seein mature plants all over the place. Also I was thinkin bout what you said bout gettin blisters and I always wear rubber coated mechanics gloves while diggin just to keep my fingers from bleedin halfway through the season and cause of creepy crawlies specifically centapeds they HURT!! but it would probably help for your problem as well
For those of you who may be interested in trying out a long handle mattock/pick type digger - I looked around online this morning and found one offered at Lowes which looks like it is (similar to what I use) except that it has a mattox type blade on one end and a pick type on the other. It does have a 36\" fiberglas handle which should be very durable.
It weighs 2.5 lb which should work well.
They also have a 5 lb. mattox/pick which is really too heavy in my opinion.
I have used short handle smaller mattox type tools in the past and large flat screwdriver type tools as well but a long handle mattox type tool like this makes the digging much easier on you. Less back ache and also keeps your hands/arms and upper body out of snake bite range.
About 15 years ago I was digging some seng with a friend (after work one nice fall evening). The leaves were already heavy on the ground and I was using a flat head screwdriver. As I was just starting to dig a nice 4 pronger a 64\" Rattler moved a bit and was within striking distance of my hands/arms. I was lucky and he just moved a bit - trying to get away from me - rather than striking. If he had wanted to he could have nailed me good right on the hand or arm.
A long handle tool can also keep your hands out of the poison oak which you do often find seng growing mixed in with poison oak (in my area at least).
The price on this tool looks very reasonable - just a bit more than 20.00.
I will be traveling to a larger city near where I live on Monday evening and they have a Lowes store there. Think I will pick up one of those myself (if they have it in stock) and give it a try this fall.
I really like my old digger, but it has two flat blades one narrow and the other wider but (no pick). I hardly ever use that wider (hoe type blade) except possibly when I dig a bit of yellow root.
That pick would probably come in handy at times when you find ginseng growing in a tight spot - like between two large tree roots or rocks.
If I do get one I will try it out a bit out back in the woods and in my garden and report back.
That looks exactly like my digger.It is realy close my head was made in the 40`s and is very light it also has the reinforcement in the same spot yours does I wouldnt trade it or sell it at all the best digger I ever found,and with the oak handle it is a beast for clearing water weeds briars etc.My favorite thing is how light yet strong it is.