27 Essential Metal Detecting Tips for Beginners
Today we have pulled together 27 essential tips for those of you that might be heading out to use your new metal detector for the first time.
Clive has once again stepped up to helm the article, being the avid treasure hunter that he is.
So I’ll hand you over to his safe and capable hands now…
Hi Everyone. Let me first give you a huge high-five for your interest in metal detecting. You might want to warn your partners now, that they (for better or for worse) will be seeing a lot less of you over the coming weeks, maybe even years. It is one great hobby that can take over your life.
With that being said, to maintain your enthusiasm you do need to know what you are doing. I hope these 27 tips will do just that.
So if you are ready, let’s get to it. Happy hunting you all.
1. Buy the best metal detector that your budget will stretch to. Do not cut back on quality just because you are a beginner. Buy a suitable model that will last you for many years, (and will provide sufficient functionality as your skills grow).
2. When you get a signal, start digging. For the first few weeks of detecting, you should dig everything that you hear. You will not have the skills to ascertain the difference early on, and you do not want to miss anything. Furthermore, digging every signal will help provide you with an important frame of reference; it’s all part of the treasure hunter’s education.
3. Start at home. After you have unboxed your new detector, get out into your own yard. This is the best place to begin learning how to operate your machine, and you just never know what you might find.
4. Patience is a virtue. It is important to set your expectations accordingly. While it is very exciting to start your metal detecting journey, you are highly unlikely to find anything valuable to begin with. Your finds will consist of pennies, trash, and bottle tops at the start.
5. Research the Dig Sites. Google will be your friend while you are not hunting; you should also become an expert in local history. Research dig sites and try to find something promising that will not have already been over-searched.
There’s a wealth of information online that could lead to some real hidden gems, (one great tip is overlapping an old map over a new one, and how to do it). We’ll get on to the law later, however, ensure you have permission wherever you decide to dig.
6. Be respectful. It goes without saying that you should look after the areas that you dig, and leave them in the same state as you arrived. Cover up holes after digging, and be careful not to trample anything while you search.
7. Head out after a rainstorm. Anything you can do to make the digging easier will help; heading out after the rain is one such thing. The soil will be softer and easier to manage. The wet ground also conducts better, giving your detector a little more range.
8. Choose your search times wisely. A popular search site could be busy at the weekends with people taking strolls and enjoying their spare time. You will want to avoid this as it is difficult to work your way around everyone. Furthermore, stopping to answer questions is always a pain, the general public is always interested in what you might have found.
9. Search at dawn or dusk. One way to avoid said crowds is to search before they get up, or when everyone has gone home. Assuming you have a head torch (and permission) night searching is also an option. The quieter the area is, the more fun you will have.
10. Get out to search as much as you can. Both your skills development and your chances of finding something valuable, increase with time. The more you hunt the more likely you are to be successful. Persistence is just as important as patience.
11. Shake up where you search. Don’t just head to the same spot over and over again each time you head out with the detector. Rotate your spots to give you more chance of finding something worthwhile. Also, increase your research (and travel radius) to find new areas to sweep.
12. Be patient with strangers. You will have people, young and old, stop to ask what you are looking for, or if you have found any treasure. Treat all of them to a smile, and answer questions until they move on. Try to enjoy the fact they find your hobby so interesting.
13. Don’t ignore the faint signals. Similar to the tip that you should dig on every signal in the early days, you should not pass over a weak signal. It could be the depth, or maybe the object is subject to a bit of interference. Do not let it go, it could be something great.
14. Practice that sweep. You should sweep your detector so that the head slightly overlaps the terrain you are covering. That way, you will not miss anything.
15. The coils should remain parallel to the ground. Try not to list the coil at the end of a sweep; this could cause you to miss potential targets at the border of your sweep.
16. Carry a bag with you. It’s no good stuffing finds in your pocket. Carry a suitable bay with you to store things. It could be that something will need a proper clean-up back home before you get a handle on what it is. Furthermore, trash finds should also be taken away. You don’t want to dig the same thing again on your next visit.
17. Give the surface another sweep before digging. If you stop because of an alert, brush away the top layer of soil and use your detector for another quick sweep. Sometimes you will no longer get a signal, suggesting that the alert was coming from a piece of topsoil trash. You want to be digging for nothing.
18. Take your time. During both the sweep and the dig, you should take your time. Enjoy the fact you are outside, spending time doing something you love. When you rush things you miss things.
19. Double Trouble. When you do come across a great find, spend as much time as possible inspecting the immediate area for more. Good finds can very often come in twos.
20. Keep a good record. Keep track of the sites you have searched, and where you have found items. This will prevent you from wasting your time going over the same areas again. (Here’s a great book on the subject at Amazon.com).
21. Aim for comfort. Warm clothes, good boots, waterproofs, and comfortable earphones are all part of the process. The more comfortable you are, the more you will enjoy your hobby. And you will find better items when you take time over your metal detecting.
22. Talk to others. Hit local forums, find out about metal detecting meetups. Us folk generally love hearing from other enthusiasts, sharing tips and stories.
23. Springtime is your friend. Spring is a good time to get out with the detector. Not only has the ground frost completely gone, but the fact detecting will also have been sparse over the winter months means there could be more to find.
24. Don’t underestimate the beach. People are always losing stuff at the beach. Earrings, rings, bracelets, and other items could well form part of your bounty. The shifting sands and tides also make for an ever-changing landscape for you to explore.
25. Smaller coils for better discrimination. In areas with lots of trash signals, you will need a smaller coil, (a maximum of 6” is recommended). This will offer better target discrimination among all the unwanted signals.
26. Look after your tool. Obviously, you will want your metal detector to last as long as possible. Proper maintenance is key here.
Make sure to keep your detector clean and dry after use. Wires should also be lubricated, and sand and dirt should be removed. The coil of your metal detector will take the most abuse during a hunt, wipe it down and keep it clean at the end of every session.
27. Know the Laws. Finally, you need to know the laws in the area you are hunting. Most importantly, you should know whether the area you are searching is private property, (where you will be trespassing if you don’t have permission) or open to the public.
State and national parks are generally off-limits to detector use. Beaches and local parks are normally fine. Do your research and keep on the right side of the law, it will make your search days much more stress-free.
Head here for a map providing links to metal detecting laws by Sate.
- Related Content: Top 10 Places you Should Look for Gold (A Beginner’s Guide)