Finding GZ (Ground Zero) where a cache is hidden and making the find can be fun, exciting and frustrating. Sometimes just finding your way to GZ is a task in itself, it can involve a hike, a bike ride or just trying to find the entrance to access GZ from a trailhead or opening in a fence.
When looking for GZ, try to do some recon first.
If you're using a GPS and using Pocket Queries or GSAK (http://gsak.net/), use some of the filters and keep your selections simpler by excluding Mystery Caches (they generally aren't at the posted coords until you solve the mystery), if you are a beginning geocacher, exclude "Higher difficulty & terrain caches" also be sure to select "Enabled caches" so you aren't searching for a cache that is temporarily missing, run your pocket queries the night before or morning you go caching so your search information is up to date.
Check for parking coordinates or trailhead waypoints
Sometimes you may have to circle around GZ a few times. For example, one side may be a shopping center, another side no trespassing signs, but on the other side, in between those two trees is a neighborhood greenspace trail access. Be sure to park your geo vehicle so you aren't blocking anyone or access lanes.
While walking to GZ you might take a rest break and read up on the hint or description so when you arrive you are ready to look for that cache.
Once at GZ, take a look around, what stands out?
Is it flat and barren? Rocky? Trees scattered here and there? Take a quick look around. Where does your GPS or phone show as GZ? Perhaps you'll find GZ and the cache right next to a tree covered with geo sticks (usually a unnatural pile of sticks covering the cache.)
If you come up empty, take a look at the size rating of the cache and the D/T (difficulty/terrain) ratings, a higher difficulty means you might be spending some time here and may even DNF (did not find) it and have to return another time to make the find. That's part of the fun. Most of us still have caches we can't find.
Make sure you're looking at the correct cache on your GPS or phone.
Read the hint and description again and check the logs to see when it was last found and if any clues were left for hints. Just because the last few finders didn't make the find, doesn't mean it is not there; perhaps they had only a few minutes to search or didn't jump the small creek to find the actual GZ and the cache.
It depends on the cache owner too. What type of device did they get their coordinates from? Phones tend to have not as good of coordinates, did they average their readings or take several coordinates and average them to narrow down GZ?
If you're trying for an FTF (First To Find) you may not have a lot to go on - no previous logs and perhaps the description may be missing some info, a parking coordinates or hint.
Usually at FTFs you'll be soon joined by more geocachers to help make the find if you're having difficulties and its a great way to meet fellow geocachers.
Hopefully by now you've made the find and are happily entering "Found" in your device and heading to the next GZ. If not, and you are hopelessly stuck trying to make the find, take a break, sit down, get a drink and refresh yourself and re-read the description, hint, D/T ratings and logs.
Once you are ready, start outside GZ and begin moving towards where you believe GZ is located.
A GPS needs to be moving to get good readings, so don't stand in one spot and spin - move back and forth a few times to get the readings down around 20 feet or less then put your GPS device in your pocket and start looking around. Use your "Geo senses" - what doesn't look natural, what stands out? Is there a fence, large rocks and a tree 50' away? Probably not in the tree, are you on a hillside or are large buildings or trees blocking the satellites? GZ could be further away than you think. Once you find GZ with that large rock with the mysterious crevice, just don't reach in and grab, it might be a home for a critter or nasty insects, try your flashlight or a stick to see what may be inside.
When GZ is in a bush or heavy ground cover, I use my walking stick to probe around the green mass of plants. It saves the plant, doesn't dig up the area and saves your arms. With repeated probes, you may soon hear the clunk or a cache, or an aluminum can that you can CITO (Cache in trash out.)
If you still can't make the find, know when to give up.
When you get frustrated trying to find the cache, its time to either take another break or move along. Spending 2 hours looking for a cache my be buckets of fun to some but I'd rather keep finding caches and move to the next and return another time with a new clue or maybe the cache is just gone.
After you do find GZ and the cache, leave a good log for the cacher who hid it, a TFTC (Thanks For The Cache) shows you found it, a little longer log of "Great cache and beautiful area, thanks for bringing me here" shows the cache owner they are appreciated for the effort they put out finding GZ and hiding the cache in a fun, find-able way.