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FAQ: What are the rules of metal detecting?

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FAQ: What are the rules of metal detecting?

What are the rules of metal detecting is one of the most common questions we get from people new at the sport.  This article won't be long.  But, I think I can quickly sum up the answer to this question for most types of metal detecting.

In all honesty there are no "official" rules to metal detecting in and of itself.  However, there is a common code of ethics when it comes to detecting in certain locations.  

Metal Detecting Code of Ethics

Regardless of the region that you detect, there are a number of best practices that should always be adhered to (source, Minelab Metal Detectors):

  • Do not trespass; always respect private property and do no metal detecting without the owner's permission.
  • It is advisable to get permission in writing, and to get agreement in writing first to avoid disputes regarding the ownership of any subsequent finds.
  • Never do anything that might contaminate wells, creeks or other water supplies.
  • Respect the country code, leave gates as they are found, do not damage crops, never deliberately disturb wild or domestic animals.
  • Never litter, always gather or collect any trash or debris you create or find.
  • Leave as little sign of your passing as possible.
  • Always use the correct digging or probing equipment to make the least intrusion or marks.
  • Always fill in your holes, including ploughed fields and beaches.
  • Never throw trash finds back in the hole.
  • Report the discovery of any items of possible significant historical value to a local historian or museum in accordance with the latest legislation of your area.
  • Never go metal detecting around archaeological monuments.
  • Report any live ammunition or other potentially lethal or toxic objects you may find to authorities after carefully noting or marking the location. Do not attempt to move or interfere with any such devices.
  • Report all finds to the landowner/occupier.
  • Protect the metal detecting hobby by being a good will ambassador at all times.

Another often unspoken rule of metal detecting is to never metal detect on a cemetery.  Not only is detecting on a cemetery bad taste, it might be bad juju.  No need to jinx your metal detecting luck right?  I do know of people who have metal detected around old cemeteries and had luck doing so.

Check my article on how to Find Good Metal Detecting Sites.

These guidelines are certainly a good place to start.  They are not necessarily "law" but they are certainly good practice.  One thing to remember is that location is key.  Private properties are different than public lands.  On a private property, the rules are set by the owner.  If they have a pristine yard odds are they are going to be very strict about what and how you dig.  However, it is is a pasture or field, they may not really care.  Either way, it is always important to fill your holes.  This will prevent any injuries to people or animals traveling on the property.  

I hope this helps answer the question "What are the rules of metal detecting?" for anybody just getting started in the sport.

Good luck and happy hunting!

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  • Joshua Turpin