Metal Detecting Etiquette
by Lee Wiese
Recreational Metal Detecting is becoming a very popular pastime as more
people enter retirement. Due to some great finds in England the hobby is
getting greater publicity though the news media, internet forums, individual
websites and of course YouTube videos. Many recreational metal detectorist
developed their skills and ethics as the hobby developed and matured,
however, over the past few years many new retirees have or are about to
enter the hobby. These new hobbyist have no prior experience or knowledge as
to how to legally or actually practice metal detecting in the field. This
article will focus on just one aspect of the hobby - metal detecting
So what might be the definition of metal detecting etiquette?
Etiquette for metal detecting can be defined as a form of ethical behavior
regarding metal detectorist responsibility, the actions of detectorist in
their dealings with each other, the use of land, abiding by the law,
practicing correct and acceptable social behavior in the field and by
adhering to the Metal Detecting Code of Ethics.
Metal Detectorist Responsibility.
The term Responsible Metal Detecting in the U.S. is rarely used or defined.
I have used the term in a number of articles but have never really thought
about what this term encompasses. Here is a link to a short article that
will provide some definition.
MDHTALK Link to Responsible Metal Detecting
The article highlights are:
Detectorist actions and dealings with each other.
- Know and Follow the Law
- Gain Permission
- Always Apply the Metal Detecting Code of Ethics
- Join a Metal Detecting Club
- Understand the Potential Cultural Value of Your Find
- Volunteer Your Services to the Hobby
Recreational Metal Detecting is a hobby that can either be practice alone,
with a partner or with a group of fellow hobbyist. While metal detecting
alone and especially on beaches there can be occasions where another
detectorist may be detecting in the same area as yourself. In these
situations there are some etiquette standards that should be considered:
Take time out by walking over to the other detectorist, greet (be polite)
the other detectorist. Make sure that you turn off your detector before
approaching so as to not cause interference in the other detectorist
headphones. Introduce yourself, strike up a short conversation and after a
short period of time discuss how each of you can detect the same general
area without infringing on the others detecting space. Most detectorist will
respect this approach. If an agreement is not reached and if the other
detectorist was on the scene first it is up to you to go off in another
direction or leave and go else where.
If a detecting partner shares a special detecting site with you, this site
should never be considered a site that you
can return to and treat as a detecting site of your own. Being invited to
someone's personal site is something special and should not be abused by you
or should you communicate the site's location to other detectorist.
Detectorist use of lands.
(Public and Private)
Metal detecting requires that the detectorist disturbs the soil or beach
sand to retrieve an identified target. This
is where the detectorist must have excellent knowledge on how to pin point
and retrieve a target or great damage can be caused to the grass. There
should be no evidence left behind that the grass was disturbed once the
target has been retrieve. After the target has been recovered, replacing the
hole contents in reverse order will certainly contribute to a successful
conclusion with little or no evidence that someone had made a divot in the
grass. The target recovery process must be well studied and practiced before
a detectorist strikes out into the field.
Recovering targets from the beach is not as critical but filling the
recovery hole is a must so as not to create a situation where beach goers
injure themselves by stepping into an unfilled hole.
Remember never unnecessarily disturb land and shrubbery other than for
If water detecting, always try to fill any hole that you create during
Detectorist being law abiding.
This is one of the most difficult parts of metal detecting to stay abreast
off. Laws, regulations and rules will be different from state to state and
locality to locality so if you plan to practice the hobby in many different
parts of your state or across the country you will need to be well versed on
the law. There are many indirect laws as well that impact the ability to
detect i.e.; disturbance of the plant growth, rock displacement, historical
and archaeology sites, etc. So just knowing is it ok is not necessarily
enough, you will also need to know about the indirect laws that could impact
Please keep in mind, if artifacts or historical sites are located the local
historical authorities should be contacted. Keep a record of your finds, by
noting: date, detector used, location found and description of the find for
Detectorist social behavior.
Many people are intrigued by someone metal detecting and will approach to
ask questions. Take time out and always treat the public with respect, be
courteous and truthful in your responses.
While detecting you will also encounter people who are not supporters of the
hobby. This is probably due to a very bad past experience with a detectorist
or a group of detectorist. While most detectorist are polite, considerate
and practice the hobby in a non-destructive manner there are others (small
minority) that follow no laws, rules or metal detecting practices and can be
very destructive. This type of detectorist can cause non-reversible harm to
the hobby. As a detectorist we must continually put forward our best
behavior, respect property, other people enjoying the outdoors and always
Always give high priority to returning recovered lost items to the original
owner. This can be accomplished by doing research using social media tools,
craigslist, newspapers, and even TV media. Never avoid helping people who
have lost items that ask for help. Do not request a reward for your service
in any of these situations.
Do not publicly broadcast your finds while metal detecting in the field.
This can cause you, the detectorist some very uncomfortable situations if
the public becomes aware of a find. People can be aggressive and will at
times demand the item found be given to them because they state they just
There will be times you come upon an individual who will be very aggressive
and argumentative who will
certainly try your patience. It is best that you move on and try to go
detecting in another area close by or in
some cases pack up and move. Trying to deal with such an individual is a no
Beach metal detecting can be a great experience but there are some very
necessary etiquette standards that should be followed while detecting at the
1st. It is recommended that beach detecting take place in off hours or in
more remote portions of the beach during peak beach hours.
2nd. If you must detect during the busiest part of the day when the beach is
heavily populated with beach goers:
a. Stay well away from those enjoying and laying on the beach. (rule of
thumb is 20-25ft.)
b. While recovering targets with a sand scoop near beach goers, always shake
the scoop just above the
beach sand so that the wind does not blow the scoop's sand on the nearby
c. Always fill your holes, so that someone will not sprain an ankle or break
a bone since beach goers are
enjoying the beach and may not see a hole in the sand and step into it.
All detectorist should consider joining a club. This is a great place to
learn about the hobby though the friendship of other detectorist . Being a
member of a club can also provide you a opportunity for using a skill or
expertise that may benefit the club's membership. Always consider
volunteering your services to the hobby.
Carry out all trash that is recovered while retrieving targets in the field.
Never discard recovered trash on the ground while metal detecting the turf,
the beach or in the water.
Detectorist Adhere to Code of Ethics.
Ethics for Responsible Metal Detecting
- I will check Federal, State, County and Local Laws before searching. It is
my responsibility to KNOW and UNDERSTAND THE LAW.
- I will report to the proper authorities, individual who enter and / or
remove artifacts from Federal or State Park / Preserves / Historical Sites.
- I will never remove or destroy priceless historical archeological
- I will not enter Cemeteries for the purpose of metal detecting.
- I will protect our Natural Resource and Wildlife Heritage.
- I will not enter private property without the owner's permission and when
possible, such permission will be in writing.
- I will take care to refill all holes and try not to leave any damage.
- I will remove and dispose of any and all trash and litter that I find.
- I will not destroy or tamper with any structures on public or private
property or what is left of Ghost Towns.
- I will not contaminate wells, creeks, or other water supplies.
- I will not tamper with signs, maintenance facilities or equipment and
leave all gates as found.
- I will approach and educate those who do not follow good metal detecting
- I will not metal detect in competitive hunts if I am the Hunt Master or
plant hunt targets.
- I will make every effort to return found property to its rightful owner.
- I will be an ambassador for the hobby, be thoughtful, considerate and
courteous at all times to others and their property.
As a detectorist you must set the highest ethical standard
possible and be a model to new detectorists who are learning how to practice
the hobby. Without excellent metal detecting etiquette being practiced by
all, a few detectorist can make the hobby very miserable for the majority.
If detectorists are destructive on public lands; states and localities will
pass regulations against the recreational metal detecting and it is very
difficult to get regulations changed.