Etiquette in metal detecting

Metal detecting is a hobby with its own set of rules. If you want to be a part of the community, these rules are important to follow.

If you are only new to metal detecting, you might not realize that there are certain things you never want to do when out in the field. So for your first time out with a detector, it’s important to know what these “don’ts” are.

This article is not an all-inclusive, airtight list of dos and don’ts. However, we will provide you with a list of common mistakes detectorists make in the field to help get you started along the right path for success.

Etiquette guide for metal detecting on public property

The main rule of etiquette is: Always be respectful! This means being respectful of the local community and being aware of any possible dangers. Metal detectorists are very conscious of the neighbors’ needs and most respect people’s right to privacy in their homes.

Don’t dig holes around or under other people’s targets or playspots without permission from those targets’ owners. It may be your target that is under or near someone else’s.

If you want to dig a hole around or under other people’s finds, ask their permission first. If they say no, respect that and don’t dig anyway.

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Don’t move others’ targets without asking. Always show respect for what others have found and leave it where they found it unless permission is granted by the finder to relocate it in order to remove the trash that could damage an important item.

Don’t be arrogant, rude, or brag about your finds. This isn’t a contest, this is meant to be a fun hobby. The best detectorist is the one who takes time to enjoy all that nature has to offer instead of just looking for valuable items in the ground. Be friendly and share with other detectorists without boasting about what you have found. Enjoy helping others explore while they are out detecting by teaching them how to use their detectors so we can grow as a community!

Etiquette guide for metal detecting on private property

Property owners have the right to place limitations on the activity of metal detectorists who are given permission to detect where a problem already exists.

Limitations may include limiting searches to specific times, stopping at a certain depth, and/or prohibiting metal detectors in particular areas. Pay attention to any signs or other indications posted on the property that address these issues, as well as any verbal instructions from the owner themselves.

Note: If you’re new to detecting, it’s best not to assume anything! Check out the local laws before venturing out and make sure you get permission from the landowner.

Some landowners would rather have you not detect on their property. If that is the case, respect their wishes and avoid the land altogether.

If you are given permission to detect by a landowner, always let them know where you are going and what your intentions are: “I’m checking out this field,” or “I’m detecting along these fence lines today.” Inform them often so there is no uncertainty about where you will be. And ask if it’s okay to search around their target finds before digging.

If someone wants to detect on private property they should try to become friendly with the owner, peacefully and respectfully negotiate an agreement for access (or any other concerns) and obey all rules required by both parties in order for such an arrangement to be a success.  

Always notify the landowner that you are approaching his or her property as well as when you are about to leave.

If you want to detect on an owner’s property, it is your responsibility to follow their rules, and adhere to them for your safety and theirs. If they ask you not to come back, do not return if you actually care about them or what happens after your search is over.

Be aware that in some situations there may be hunters or working farm equipment nearby that could injure you if walking around buried items – which could also damage the detector – so always wear eye protection and invest in a good pair of headphones/earplugs with volume control (or use ear muffs).

Tips for beginners

Here is the list of metal detecting tips for beginners:

  1. Respect other people’s property – don’t litter or dig holes.
  2. Never damage public property or natural areas.
  3. Never leave trash at sites – you’re not only ruining a site but also damaging the environment.
  4. Use common sense – if something doesn’t seem right or safe, don’t do it.
  5. Be courteous – respect the landowner.
  6. Protect your health and safety – wear eye protection, use headphones/earplugs with volume control, and a carrying bag.  
  7. Understand and obey all laws.

Keep in mind that these are only some general guidelines for those just getting started with metal detecting, though they may be useful for more experienced detectorists as well. 

These guidelines are by no means all-inclusive, and it is up to the individual whether or not he or she decides to follow them or the many others that exist depending on their personal preference and situation as well as on his or her level of experience and knowledge.

These rules don’t cover all possible situations but rather indicate what you should do in general. It is also important to note that there may be other codes of conduct that could affect your activities. We would also encourage you to read the article on Metal Pursuits site about the best beginner metal detectors, it has a lot of useful information for those just starting out as a detectorist.    


Metal detectorists are passionate about their hobby and they have specific ethics that govern how they conduct themselves in public places and on private property where permission has not been granted for metal detecting.

Metal detectorists feel it’s unethical to ask landowners if you can search their property without first obtaining permission from the landowner or site manager – even if it looks like an easy target!

Generally, metal detectors should only be used in public parks and other open spaces where there are no posted prohibitions against them; when using your metal detector anywhere else, always get written consent from the landowner before proceeding.