Method 1 (Probe)
Use this method to unearth shallow targets (1 to 4 inches), when the ground is dry and when the risk of damaging the grass is high. This method requires a bit more practice, but is much less damaging to the grass than Method 2.
After pinpointing the target (as accurately as possible), use a probe to locate the target by pressing it down into the soil. A probe can be an ice pick or small screwdriver with the end rounded so as not to mar your target. Next, insert the probe just above the target center, and rotate slightly to open the ground. Now insert the probe just under the target at an angle and work the target to the surface. Brush all the loose dirt back into the hole and close by exerting pressure all around the opening.
Method 2 (Plugging)
Use this method only where allowed in natural wooded areas or fields, or in very moist lawn areas. Removing plugs from hard, dry ground can damage the grass roots and kill the grass within the plug, leaving a yellow “dead” spot that will remain long after you leave. This leaves a terrible image and needs to be guarded against.
After pinpointing the target, cut (using a digger or a sturdy blade) a half-moon shaped plug, 4-5” deep and 4-5” in diameter, around the center of your target. Cut straight down into the ground, but leave the one side of the plug attached. Cutting a hinged plug rather than an entire “plate” will properly orient its return, prevent removal by a lawnmower and lessen the chance of scratching your target. Most importantly it will allow the root system of the plug to remain intact, keeping the plug alive and green.
Once cut, insert your knife or digger down opposite the hinge and carefully fold it back. Scan the plug and the hole to isolate the target location. If the target is in the plug, carefully probe until located, and carefully extract to minimize damage to roots and plug integrity. If the target is in the hole and not visible, use an electronic pin pointer or probe the bottom and sides of the hole until the target is located and removed. If you need to remove more dirt from the hole, carefully collect it on a rag or small tarp patch so it can be returned to the hole when finished. By placing any dirt on a cloth, it will keep the site clean and make it much easier to return to the hole. Replace all loose dirt with the plug, seat firmly and press it down with your foot to remove any air pockets. Done properly, you will leave no trace and the grass will remain healthy.