Did you set out for your first hunt and returned home discouraged?
Are you new to metal detecting and you’re not sure where to start?
Are you up to putting new tricks you haven’t considered to the test?
Metal detecting takes practice, patience, and a lot of digging to develop experience and spot those lucrative finds. Fortunately, tips and tricks to the craft are shared here and are organized into categories for easy navigation.
Stay tuned – you may learn a thing or two.
Our Top Metal Detecting Tips
This is a comprehensive list of metal detecting tips from choosing the right metal detector to learning the code of conduct between hobbyists and everything in between. Be a square and follow the rules but think outside the box to improve your success rate!
Here are some tips you may not have thought about yet!
Metal Detecting Tips for Beginners
1. Get a Beginner Metal Detector
Too often, a beginner may start off with a detector that has too many features they don’t know how to use. Advanced user settings may be difficult to navigate and will inevitably cause user error leaving the user frustrated and with buyer’s remorse. A good, entry-level model is best for beginners. To avoid “toy” versions, look for a decent model that has beginner metal detector features that you can learn and grow with.
2. Get the Right Metal Detector for the Job
When you’re just getting started, an all-purpose metal detector will likely suit your purposes. These types of detectors have 5-8 kHz frequency, are affordable, and suitable for detecting all sorts of treasures that includes, coins, jewelry, and relics.
However, beyond looking at the type of target, you must consider the type of terrain. If you’ll be spending more time in the water or inclement weather, you’ll need a waterproof or submersible detector. If you want to get into gold prospecting, you’ll need to revise the budget and look for specialty detectors that are capable of providing high frequencies, greater depth, and maximum performance in mineralized ground.
3. Be Prepared to Find More Trash than Treasure
Digging up your first few pull-tabs and screw caps may be thrilling, but those feelings will quickly dissipate when it seems like that’s all you’re finding. These are junk items and you’re likely yet to find a lot more. Keep practicing and learn to recognize features on a metal detector that help you notch out these targets without silencing out good targets like gold and iron relics. Don’t give up.
4. Use a Pinpointer
Beginners will struggle with pinpointing a target’s exact location with a metal detector that has pinpoint built in. This can be due to the type of searchcoil, target size, depth, and orientation in the ground, other metals in proximity, and user technique. A handheld pinpointer makes it easy to accurately locate a target’s exact location, makes for faster target recovery, and allows for a smaller hole to be dug and refilled.
5. Dig it All!
Dig everything. In the beginning, you may struggle with correctly identifying targets even if you have Target ID. The best discriminator is the shovel. You may also find that there are some trash items that have a similar ID to good targets, and trash items can sometimes mask a good target. Learn and familiarize yourself with the different tones and the types of response signals that are affected by depth and metal conductivity. In your early days, you’ll be better off for it by digging it all.
6. Keep Digging
When you find one coin, there’s likely more. Silver coins are older and tend to sink lower into the ground over time. When you detect a great find, there’s likely another nearby. Good targets are often found together in pairs, sets, and groups. Keep digging in the same spot and use your pinpointer to see if there’s anything deeper. Continue hunting nearby to detect similar targets.
7. Practice & Patience
The best kind of practice is to get out there and do it. There will be a lot of trial and error, but it’s the best way to gain experience. But, it’s also highly recommended to read your manual! Get to know your detector and how it works, what its limitations are, and how you can maximize its potential to improve your success rate. Watch online how-to videos and join an online or local metal detecting club/community to turn those clumsy practice moves into mastered techniques. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with practice, it will happen.
Detector & Gear
8. Know Your Metal Detector
No one is an exception to this rule, not even seasoned hobbyists. Whether you’re buying your first or 10th detector, it’s essential to know everything about the detector you’re using. While like detectors may provide like results, they will work differently between models and manufacturers. Read the manual. Watch the DVD. Play with the settings. Perform tests at home. Learn the adjustments. Familiarize yourself with tones and Target ID.
9. Use Small Searchcoils for Trashy Sites
Perhaps the most annoying consequence of hunting in trashy sites is the unknown. Trash targets can mask signals from good ones. A small searchcoil of 6” or less with a DD shape will provide better target separation, increased detection on small objects, and improved maneuvering.
10. Use Large Searchcoils for Greater Depth
Larger searchcoils means greater and wider depth and coverage. Benefits include fewer sweeps, greater detection of big objects, and a larger scan area.
11. Overlap Your Sweeps
It’s tempting to get to work in a hurry, especially in a large field or at the beach. However, resist the temptation and work systematically by overlapping your sweeps so you don’t miss any good targets. Keep the searchcoil parallel to the ground to achieve maximum and even depth.
12. Detect Slow and Low
Slow and low is key. Sweeping too fast may mean missing signals on weak targets or a signal that is too brief. This could mean missing a deeply buried or small target which could turn out to be valuable. Apply this method of thinking to questionable signals. The best discriminator will be your shovel. Remember to keep the searchcoil low and parallel. Microprocessors will struggle to comprehend and keep up with your actions if you’re sweeping speed varies or if you lift the coil at the end of your sweep. This will cause erratic sounds. Don’t be in such a rush or it may cost and frustrate you.
13. Choose Quality Accessories
You don’t need the most expensive gear, but you do need reliable and durable gear. Headphones that are comfortable to wear and that provide volume levels that you like will be the best fit. Digging tools should be lightweight and sturdy. Mesh bags, pouches – whatever it is you use to collect your finds should not have holes, loose stitching, etc. You don’t want to lose what you just found. Also, take a trash sack with you for the trash items you find. It’s one less trash item you or someone else won’t have to dig up later. Discard bag appropriately after hunt.
14. Choose the Right Accessories for the Job
A sand scoop would be best for the beach. Non-buoyant, waterproof searchcoils and waterproof headphones are best for water hunting. Get the idea? Choose the right accessories for the job.
But, beyond the usuals, you should also consider other tools that will help with efficient detection. A small, new paintbrush can be useful for brushing away sand and debris from knobs, control box, etc. Use cloth or paper to quickly refill a hole, although, a frisbee is the better option as it’s sturdy, washable, and reusable. If the control box is not waterproof or removable, buy a weather coverup. If you refuse, wrap a plastic bag around it to prevent overspray or rain from damaging it and its connections. A little thinking outside the box may prove to go a long way.
15. Have a Dedicated Metal Detecting Tool Box
There’s a lot that you you’ll need for detecting in the field, performing care and maintenance, and carrying extra parts. It’s best to keep all your gear together even if you don’t use them every trip out. It’s better to have something when you need it on the fly than to be left without and to cut your hunting session short.
Where & When to Metal Detect
16. Make it Rain
Make it rain after it’s rained. There are a lot of theories as to why it’s a great time to metal detect when the ground is freshly wet. It’s said that wet ground has higher conductivity than when it’s dry and this improves target and depth detection. But, one thing is sure, it’s easier to dig than dry ground. Due to these conditions, it may be worthwhile to test this theory out. Raincoats, cover-up for the control box, and gum boots may be necessary gear. You’ll be cold, muddy, and sniffly. But, the good news is, nosy strangers won’t be about in the rain, and your finds may just pay out!
17. Don’t Shy Away from Hunted-Out Sites
Just because a site may be considered “hunted-out,” it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything left to find. If it’s been well-documented to have had valuable and good objects, there’s likely more left to find. Adjusting your settings may prove to be helpful. Heading back to the same hunting spot with a new detector may make all the difference.
18. Rotate Hunting Grounds
Don’t visit the same site all the time and don’t dismiss a site because you didn’t find anything the first time. It’s wise advice to give it some time and return to the site after, say, several months or a year.
19. High-Traffic & Congregational Areas
It’s common sense – people lose things everywhere all the time. You should also remember that the area doesn’t have to have been recently used to detect great finds. It might require some research if it was once a bustling site that is now abandoned, or it may require getting some shorts on to go hunting at the beach during the busy season. High-traffic areas to consider include:
- Playgrounds, Parks, Fields
- Showgrounds, Picnic Areas, Sports fields
- Camping Grounds, Swimming Holes/Pools
- Ghost Towns, Historical Sites, Historical Homes/Buildings
- Abandoned Homes/Buildings
20. Beach Hunting
Tons of people. Tons of lost stuff. Great place to be. Great place to metal detect. Before heading out, consider if you will be sticking to dry sand or heading into wet sand and water territory. Can your metal detector handle saltwater? Is it waterproof? Put watches, rings, and other jewelry away. You don’t want to have to return to find your own lost items! To find out more of what you need in a beach metal detector, take a look at that post.
21. Gold Hunting
Regardless of how good or expensive your gold metal detector is, you won’t find any of the yellow stuff if you’re not in gold territory. All types of research on your prospective goldfield will be your best friend and will be 90% why you are successful. Use techniques such as gridding, marking, and plotting to ensure you don’t miss any ground.
22. Advanced Tip: Look for Natural Gold Indicators
To find an undiscovered gold deposit is not an easy task for the metal detector hobbyist. But, if you’re gung-ho on traveling to prospective sites or you’re looking to use your detector near historic diggings for some really nice nuggets, you’ll need this tip.
Learn the geology for your prospective site. This means you must know your rocks, natural gold indicators, geological contact zones, gold geology, ground color changes, and be willing to explore the fringes of known gold districts. For the small-scale prospector, you can use your metal detector over ore samples and mining tailings to detect veins of gold. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Better get researching then, right?
23. Do Not Trespass
On a normal day at a public place, you won’t be stopped, questioned, or fined for indulging in the privileges of that specific site. However, if you have a metal detector in hand, the game changes. You must always seek out permission before metal detecting. Permission may be granted by a property owner, park officer, or other regional officials depending on the site. You may be required to apply for a permit, may be restricted to certain areas or times of the day to hunt, and you may be allowed to metal detect but not dig. It’s vital that you seek out permission and abide by the code of ethics. Failing to do so may prevent you from hunting at that site again, and consequences can ruin it for other detectorists too.
24. Keep a Metal Detecting Log
This not only helps you keep track of rotating your hunting sites, but it also provides you with the chance to analyze possible patterns in those sites. You can keep track of date and time, what section you covered, what was found, and what challenges you encountered. You can return better prepared with the right detector or gear needed for that site, pick the best time of day or season that provides better or private detection, and you may be able to strike it out as a site if it doesn’t yield the type of targets you’re after.
25. Be Nice
People are going to see you with metal detector in hand and wonder what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. Be nice. Even though it’s none of their business, you are hunting in a public place in broad daylight after all. If you prefer to keep to yourself, consider night hunting. Be sure to acquire the necessary gear and detector features for night hunting and be sure to follow safety measures and local regulations and policies.
Online Research & Community
26. Do Your Research on the Site!
Prep work and research is extremely important if you want to improve your chances of detecting valuable finds. It will lead you to prospective sites, provide historical and background information, and any regulations and policies that must be followed. Finding out more about the prospective location will give you a solid foundation on how you must prepare, what you need to have, and how to go about detecting to improve your success rate.
27. Do Your Research on the Target!
Know what you’re looking for. Not only is it important to understand how the desired metal responds and interacts with the detector, you should also understand what happens to it while it’s in the ground. While many coins are found within the first 7” of the ground, they can sink further due to natural causes and high-traffic, trodden-down human activity. Depending on where you are, you may find more modern coins than older coins.
When looking for relics, be sure to look for other clues nearby like broken pottery. When searching for various types of gold at abandoned gold mines, nuggets may be detected and ore samples can be scanned by a detector, but iron objects like railings and old lamp hangers may sound off the detector. Know what you’re looking for and if your detector is capable of providing the performance you require.
28. Do Your Research on Your Detector!
This goes with knowing your detector. Watching online videos and talking to other metal detector owners can help you maximize performance and increase yield. They may have tips and tricks you can incorporate in the field. Some high-end detectors have so many features and multiple, advanced user settings that it may be difficult to use and adjust on the fly. Doing your research on your detector will save time in the field and prevent wasted, unnecessary efforts.
29. Join a Metal Detecting Community
Whether it’s online or in-person meetups, detecting with friends and good company has its obvious benefits. Part of joining a community allows you access to a platform of shared knowledge. When it comes to metal detecting, there are no “secrets,” unless you have a high-yield site you don’t want anyone to know about. Otherwise, tips and tricks to the trade are shared by all.
Code of Ethics
30. Research Legal Requirements
There may be federal, state, county, and local regulations to follow. Be sure to seek out what requirements are expected to be fulfilled by you before you head out the door. There may be serious consequences involved, so always seek out permits and permission. If hunting on private property, it’s highly recommended that you get it in writing to prevent disputes over ownership of your finds.
31. Be Respectful
This means leaving little to no signs of your passing through the area. Fill your holes. Use the correct probing or digging tools to leave disturb as little land as possible. Don’t damage property, vegetation, and crops, and don’t deliberately disturb wildlife and their habitats. Don’t do anything to contaminate the land or water supply to that area.
32. Don’t be a Litter Bug
This doesn’t merely mean don’t throw your trash on the ground, it means going the extra mile to collect and gather any trash you come across. Don’t throw trash items back into the hole. Carry an extra pouch or bag to hold trash items and discard appropriately at the end of the hunt. Take out what you take in.
33. Report Your Finds
Report your finds to the property owner. Hopefully, if you had an agreement in writing beforehand, you may be able to legally claim these finds. If you happen to find something of significant historical value, you should report it to the necessary officials as it pertains to current legislation. This may include museums, Native American tribes, or historians.
34. Be a Metal Detecting Ambassador
Represent us all by following the code of ethics. Your actions could bring recognition and expanded privileges to metal detectorists, or it can harm the hobby and bring out consequences we must all suffer with. Be polite, respectful, and professional in all areas dealing with metal detecting while being socially responsible to all you interact with.
Once you put some tips to use, you’ll discover some of your own ways to master techniques, improve detector performance, and increase your success rate. Be a pal and share it. Your advice and experience will benefit others and will be much appreciated. For a fellow detectorist is a friend indeed. Besides, they may even let you in on their newly-discovered, cash-paying site!