Metal Detecting 101

My Tesoro Silver uMax

The Tesoro coil zipped back and forth over the freshly plowed field.  The silence was suddenly broken by several distinct beeps.  Found something!  The army shovel easily dug into the soil.  My excitement grew.  As I sifted through the dark dirt, a metallic form appeared—the key to an old GM truck.  Ok, I admit, not a huge find, but it does not negate the fun and a good time outdoors.

January, February and March have offered up several mild days this year.  Those months are a fine time to get out and do some metal detecting.  Last year my next door neighbor bought a metal detector and three weekends ago we set out to hunt the aforementioned field.  We found several other items that day:  pieces of plows, rifle casings, shotgun casings, pull tabs, etc.  But his son stumbled upon a nice arrow head—a tremendous discovery.

I’ve enjoyed this pastime for about six years plus.  A very satisfying—and addictive—outdoor hobby.  So, I wanted to take a moment and share some things I’ve learned and let you know about this wonderful activity.  Here goes:

What You Need

  • Buy a decent metal detector.  No, you don’t have to buy high-end with all the fancy bells and whistles.  My Tesoro Silver uMax has all the basic features and performs great.  I purchased mine for around $300.  The main ability you want from a detector is a discrimination setting to filter out “junk” metal.  And good sensitivity settings.  Some use dials and sounds to do this and others employ electronics with digital readouts.  Shop around for a quality product.  Go check out Tesoro’s website to learn more about detecting and their products:
  • You need a small, but strong shovel.  I carry an army shovel found at your local Army Surplus Store.  Nice fitting gloves help you dig and sift without cutting your fingers.  I also carry a carpenter’s nail pouch around my waist.  This is where all my finds, along with junk metal are stored.  Don’t just throw junk metal back down.  Otherwise, you may be digging it back up in the future.  Plus the property owner does appreciate you cleaning up a bit.
  • Another handy accessory:  a set of headphones.  These plug into the metal detector and allow you to search without anyone hearing the sounds, but you.  I use this at the beach so I won’t disturb my fellow vacationers.

When to Go

  • I prefer the late fall to early spring timeframe.  Bugs are still gone and vegetation is still dormant.  While you’re there, mix in some shed hunting and preseason scouting for turkeys.
  • A recent rain makes the soil easy to manage.  Also, if looking for arrowheads, the rain helps wash dirt away from the artifact.

Where to Hunt

  • Always, always follow the laws.  Most state parks and federal lands will NOT allow metal detecting.  There are stiff fines for not observing these rules.
  • I try to look for old home sites or abandon roads.  A few years ago, I found a stash of wheat pennies buried along an old logging road.  In the mix was a 1902 Indian head penny.  Other great sites:  old outhouses, campsites, farm sites, church grounds, plowed fields, places where social events were held, historic travel routes, etc.
  • The beach is another great place.  I usually find modern coins there.  Occasionally, one might find a ring which has slipped off a wet finger.
  • Most times, you will be searching on private property.  See the next section for metal detecting ethics.

Metal Detecting Etiquette

  • Leave the land like you found it.  Dig small undetectable plugs.  Stay away from emasculate lawns and expensive landscaping.  Some metal detecting hobbyists leave a bad taste in others mouths because they leave huge potholes behind.  Never leave trash.  Also, don’t fail to tell the owner about those tire-blowing nails you found and that you removed them.
  • Never trespass.  Get permission from the property owner.  Make sure you have an agreement about your finds.  After all, it is their property.  I’ve found that owners can be very curious about what might be buried on their land.  Be truthful and they will be inclined to invite you back.
  • For more, look at Tesoro’s Metal Detectorist Code of Ethics.

Take a look at some pictures of my Tesoro and my finds.  Happy treasure hunting!

Wheat Penny


Tesoro Silver uMax

Housing for Microprocessor

Settings Close-up

My "Treasures"

1902 Indian Head

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7 Responses to Metal Detecting 101

  1. Mildred Aenchbacher says:

    Very interesting information. Sounds like you really enjoy this.

  2. This is a great article, Scott! We’ve never tried this together but we have to wait for all this New Hampshire snow to finally melt!

    • Thanks for the comments. It’s really a great time of year to do it, because you can combine with other activities like shed hunting, scouting, etc. Yeah, we don’t have to worry about the snow much down here. If the ground is real cold, it might be difficult to dig.

  3. Chris Peek says:

    Great article! I’ve got a metal detector that I received as a gift a little over a year ago. Since I live at the beach, I took it out on afternoon. Didn’t find much except an old tin can and some junk. I need a little more practice.

    • Yes, unfortunately you usually find 10 “junk” items before you find something you want to keep. The discrimination setting will allow you to filter some of those unwanted metals (usually iron)out. But still some iron objects may have historical significance. At the beach you want to target high traffic areas or right after major storms that might bring stuff ashore. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Pingback: Recapping 2011 | Trails of Life

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