The dictionary definition for prospecting is the exploring or searching for minerals. It sounds a bit like an existentialist pursuit and no doubt some prospectors are inclined this way philosophically. But in essence prospecting defines the individual desire to walk long distances over rough terrain looking for rocks that have heretofore escaped the attention of previous passers-by.
There are really two types of prospecting and they vary mostly in the degree of success attained. The first type is the professional geologist, working for a large mining company, who is paid whether his work bears economic fruit or not. This type of prospector does all the right things but, lacking the direct connection between discovery and eating is less successful than the other type of prospector. This individual makes his living from his ability to find interesting mineral occurrences, stake the ground on which it is found and sell the claim to a mining company. If he finds something and sells it - he eats. If he doesn’t find anything or doesn’t sell it to a mining company - he doesn’t eat. This is the powerful motivator which leads to most mining development success. To suggest that the unsuccessful prospector will starve is to overstate the case but where the paid geologist makes his salary and little else, the unpaid prospector has the opportunity to make a fortune from his discoveries. Money really talks.
So armed with little more than an ability to stay alive in harsh conditions, some cheap instruments to identify different rocks, enough training to distinguish economic minerals from non-economic ones and a personalized system for testing hunches thousands of people set out each year in countries around the world looking for the “next big one”. Canada is certainly home to many successful (and unsuccessful but still happy) prospectors and it always is amazing for this gringo to witness the exploits of prospectors in Latin America. There are many more of them, they have the same uncanny sense of where to look and they are made of the very same stuff.
So if you want to prospect, get the required reading material, some tough hiking boots, inexpensive tools and be prepared for some exhilarating if lonely times ahead. You will be walking, observing, examining, recording and hopefully discovering. The very best of luck.