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Gear

10 min read

MUST-READ ADVICE FOR EXPLORING WITH A METAL DETECTOR

A metal detector can be such a fun source or adventure. In this comprehensive article I will talk about the advantages and strategies on learning how to use a metal detector and show you in what ways and how you can get better? I will cover every aspect of metal detecting you might encounter and show you the tools I use and spots to detect. I will also share tips for everyone from beginners to pros and express the benefits you can obtain from this hobby.

The first questions is what metal detector should I purchase and how much am I willing to spend on one? Everyone will have a different answer. I started off with a Bounty Hunter I bought from Bass Pro Shops. It was relatively cheap but a good starting machine as a beginner. I then bought a Fisher F2, which has been upgraded to the Fisher F22 Weatherproof Metal Detector. I strongly encourage a first-time user to get because it is very simple to use, affordable and accurate for pinpointing coins and relics. Fisher Research Laboratory has detectors for a wide range of detection and treasure hunting. 

Do your research and even watch metal detecting Youtube videos to decide what’s best for you. I also suggest a pin pointer which depending on the machine you make it might be included. A small metal detecting shovel and gloves will be needed as well. Metal detecting headphones are optional and sometimes come with the machine as well but it’s up to you. Personally, I think they get in the way when you set your detector down but they are useful when its windy and also around people because the beeping might annoy them if you’re in a public place. They do have wireless metal detecting headphones but those can get a bit pricey.

The second thing after deciding on your machine is know the rules of detecting and code of ethics.

  • Follow all local, state, and federal laws related to metal detecting. Metal Detecting Laws by State should be your first stop before heading out. Don’t assume all states have the same laws.
  • Respect private property and never metal detect an area without permission.
  • Pack out what you pack in, and properly dispose of any trash you find.
  • Leave all gates, structures, and personal property as they were before.

If you don’t follow these guidelines there could be stiff penalties. Fines and even jail time are possible.

Getting started and things to do before you treasure hunt

After you select your machine go detect your yard. I would burry some change and use your discrimination and filters to understand how to ground balance the depth and soil. Become familiar with the manual to practice and know how to use it properly and learn how you can filter out items you don’t want to dig up. With a new metal detector in hand, most excited beginners bolt to their back yard or the closest patch of open land and fire up their detector.

An enthusiastic attitude is needed in this hobby because you’re going to find a lot of trash. It’s a bit like fishing. You must be patient because the wait will be worth it. So, on your first time out don’t be discouraged if you’re not finding anything. It took me a few weeks to find my first coin. Digging up trash in the beginning is how it’s supposed to be… you are learning a new machine and hobby. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for your metal detector, how complicated or how simple it seems to operate, your first step always needs to be to read the instruction manual. It’s not something that you can just turn on and start finding buried treasure. There are different settings, alert sounds, and care for the equipment that you need to understand first.

Pull tabs and nails are what you’re going to likely find beginning and you can filter those out. However, gold typically rings in under this filter so it’s a pro and con. If you get a signal, make an X with your metal detector to try to get the exact spot to know where to dig. Now my Fischer F2 has a metal detecting pin pointer button so if you hover over the item, it will make a solid beeping noise so you can dig a small hole. If you’re not using a machine with this function, use a small pin pointer after you dig the hole. The reason you need to be careful doing this is I have dug a hole right on top of coins and relics scratching them.

If you find a key date coin, it could destroy the value of the coin. Never clean a coin as well because that will decrease the value. After your comfortable using your machine then it’s time to venture out. After your initial day of metal detecting, every expert will tell you the same thing: Read Your Manual then read it again. Your manual will describe the factory recommended settings and explain what to do if you’re getting a lot of chatter on the standard settings.

Can you detect in the rain? I have done it several times and it just might not always be enjoyable. As long as you have a waterproof detector, the rain shouldn’t stop you from heading out. If you intend to use your metal detector in the rain, the most important thing is to make sure it’s waterproof. Practice is the name of the game. I found this dime around an old church in my town.

  • This is a 1921 D mercury dime that’s a key date. Mintage: 1,080,000.
  • Minted at: Denver.
  • Designer – Engraver: Adolph A Weinman.
  • Metal Composition: 90% Silver – 10% Copper.
  • Diameter: 17.9 mm.
  • Mass / Weight: 2.5 grams.

This coin in fair condition is valued around $1,000 and up because of the low mintage. Probably my best find.

Here is a list of things you need to prepare for and metal detecting accessories for when you go out to treasure hunt:

  • Pack Your backpack with food and water
  • Understand how your metal detector works fully
  • Start searching when you find the location you want to hunt. I have found coins and objects away from foundations.
  • Move Slowly. Do not detect or swing your machine fast.
  • When you get a good signal, start digging a small plug
  • Carry extra batteries
  • Hunt after it rains. The soil loosens up and items will be easier to be identified through your machine.
  • Put in a small bag and throw away trash.
  • Rescan and re-dig to find more items in the same hole. Coin spills are very common.
  • Don’t abandon signals that sound Iffy. A coin could be sitting vertical in the ground so your machine might only identify a fraction of the item.
  • Plug your holes. We have a bad rap for leaving holes open.
  • Always get permission. Always.
Where to go metal detecting

The most common place people will say is a public park. Personally, I avoid parks because you will find a lot of trash like pull tabs, cans, foil, and other miscellaneous junk. Sure, you will find coins, but they will all be newer. It is a good place to practice though to become more familiar on reading your beeps and number range. I look for old houses or barns and ask for permission. I use the free website Historical Aerials for every hunt on land I’m unfamiliar with. This website has aerial photos that go all the way back to the early 1900’s, depending on where you are, so you can date the area and see old foundations and get coordinates of the precise location to hunt.

My family lives in a small town in Arkansas where the civil war was fought, and I have permission to detect on all of their property. I have found bullets, part of swords, buttons, gun pieces, cannonballs, belt buckles, and other civil war related items. There is foundations of old Spanish forts and rumor has it buried gold is around a natural spring in that specific area. I have hunted in that area a couple times but will re-visit this site to see if the rumor is true. There is a lot of land to cover but I try to think outside the box of where, if they did indeed bury gold. Always double scan after you find an item because I found all these wheat pennies basically together in a hole.

Good spots to hunt are abandoned old house’s but locating the owner might be a problem. If you do get the chance then look for cloth’s lines, an outhouse, large trees, and by the driveway or sidewalk. People reach for their keys and coins drop out of their pockets going in or out of the house and car. Another good spot would be outside the master bedroom. People didn’t trust banks back then so they would burry things close and be able to hear if someone is present. But I still hunt outside the property as well because I have found some amazing finds in areas you wouldn’t think items would be.

When you are around a house or public place, a problem you might encounter while detecting is if your metal detector starts beeping constantly. This could be due to electrical disturbance. If there is a power line above you, that’s typically the case. You will have to use your ground balance mode to remedy this problem. Another reason your machine might beep randomly is if your sensitivity mode is turned up high and you’re swinging over brush or tall grass. Turn down the sensitivity level to balance it out.

Benefits of metal detecting
  • You can get out and enjoy the outdoors, unwind after a long day of work, and get in some exercise and possibly even come away with something of value.
  • Find pieces of history and start a collection or display box.
  • Join a Metal Detecting club, meet new people and they share property locations where you can hunt together.
  • Learn about History and what objects were used for. I have educated myself researching my finds and it’s great for conversation on stories behind certain items you might find.
  • You can also find arrow heads and antique bottles. I found an old Indian tomahawk on the service next to a dig.
Conclusion

Metal detecting can become additive and exciting. I currently use a Fisher F3; it truly is a coin magnet for me. Very accurate and easy to use. I have found some many unique items and valuable coins and rings over the years and relics that are a part of history restored. I have a large collection of silver coins, several rings, brooches, military buttons, civil war bullets, and the list goes on. You never know what you’re going to find and that’s the most exciting part about it. So, you need to select the right detector that is best for you, study the manual and practice in your back yard and get familiar and comfortable with your machine before you go out because it will be confusing and frustrating if you’re not educated and know how to adjust the functionalities of your product.

Remember to scan slow and use an overlapping scanning technique because one of the worst mistakes a beginner detectorist can make is having poor scanning technique. If you don’t overlap your swings then there is no doubt you are missing ground and therefore possible missing treasures. I have re-scanned areas multiple times and have found items I missed because of poor technique. I also noticed that I got double the amount of hits when I first started using an overlapping technique, so basically, it’s a huge improvement for such a small change.

Always ask for permission and even show the landowner the items you’ve found. I always offer to let them keep the items but a majority of the time they always say no. But I have found lost items in their family and relics that are sentimental and gladly gave them back. I personally have never sold anything I’ve found and have a display of all my items separated into categories. Metal detecting is just a hobby for me and I’m not looking to get rich. But finding a can of gold coins would be nice. No objection to that! Be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get distracted and step on a snake or not noticing a bear walking your direction, (depending on where you live). I briefly lived in New Jersey and a bear approached me, but I was far enough to walk back and jump in my truck. Have fun, stay safe and follow the code of ethics when you’re out in the field. I hope my personal experience and tips become useful as a beginner. Good luck and happy hunting.

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