Metal Detecting Rules – Etiquette


Metal detecting rules of etiquette are pretty basic but are the key to keeping the hobby alive and giving you the best metal detecting experience. You’re not only trying to have fun and enjoy your outing but doing so without impacting others.

Like etiquette in any walk of life, it sustains continued activity in what you pursue. In the world of metal detecting, being polite and respective of property, environment, and people goes a long way to sustaining our hobby. One basic way to maintain “good behavior” while metal detecting is to adopt and practice a simple code of ethics.

This is easy to do. It starts with you and touches everything you do with the hobby.

How to ruin the hobby of metal detecting

Yes, you can make a mess of it for all of us. Don’t.


When I first started metal detecting, I went with a friend to a neighborhood that was lightly populated with a lot of vacant houses. It seemed a little risky, but my more experienced mentor said it wouldn’t be a problem. It was.


While hunting on a vacant home’s lawn, the person next door came out and angrily complained about us “digging up the whole yard.” Even though we had been careful to replace any plugs of dirt/grass, it was still offensive to them. In hindsight, it was a pretty bold, irresponsible, and risky move to be metal detecting there. Lesson learned.

metal detecting rules etiquette ethics

How to sustain the hobby of metal detecting

Practice metal detecting etiquette with simple guidelines

Here are the easy things to practice that keep ours a respectable hobby: Be respectful of people’s property, be polite if confronted, don’t trespass, and watch for posted signs that prohibit metal detecting. Fortunately, you won’t find many places with these restrictions.

  • Be respectful of people’s property
  • Be polite if confronted
  • Don’t trespass
  • Watch for posted signs that prohibit metal detecting. Fortunately, you won’t find many places with these restrictions.

Adopt a personal code of ethics for yourself, which should include:

  • Don’t be intrusive to other people
  • Leave your hunt location as you found it, or better
  • Pay attention to signage
  • Ask permission where needed
  • Help others to find lost items if requested
  • Share the hobby with people who ask about it
  • Truly archaeological finds of historic value should be turned over to proper researchers
metal detecting etiquette

Ethical metal detecting behavior is a personal choice, but it’s also important that clubs, groups, associations, and other organizations promote it. For example, when searching for a metal detector club to join, see if their website contains a Code of Ethics.

There is one large organization that has adopted a very clear and concise “Treasure Hunter’s Code of Ethics.” They are the FMDAC (Federation of Metal Detector & Archeological Clubs, Inc.) whose goal is to “Educate and inform the public as to the merits of recreational metal detecting.”

Keeping the land looking good and not annoying others

Simple etiquette. It’s the little things you can do. Leave the land as you found it by learning to dig a proper “plug” in the soil.

  1. Cut three sides of a square around your targeted find. Dig down to about 4 to 6 inches on each side.
  2. Use your hands or digging tool to gently lift up the plug of soil, using the uncut edge as a hinge so that the roots are not disturbed.
  3. Place some cardboard or plastic or a towel on the ground. If you loosen any soil, you can place it there so it’s easy to pour back into the hole before closing.
  4. Once you locate and remove your object, swing the plug of dirt back into place along the hinge line you made. Then gently press your hand or foot against it to push it into place. This will help the grass survive without turning brown and not leave a depression for people to twist their ankles.

Metal detecting is a fun hobby with few rules.

The ones that do exist are there for a reason.

Be a part of keeping our hobby alive by adopting basic metal detecting rules of etiquette.

It’s easy to do.

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