When it comes to metal detecting, there is nothing worse than a hobbyist purposely, or inadvertently, breaking laws and the metal detecting code of ethics. This casts a dark shadow over individual and public perception of metal detectors, making it more difficult for other detectorists to enjoy the sport.
In order to help prevent hobbyists from making these mistakes, it is important that every metal detectorist learns the laws for state, federal, and private property, as well as understand the code of ethics.
Metal Detecting Laws
When it comes to metal detecting laws, there are three main categories: state laws, federal laws, and private property laws. These laws are meant to prevent hobbyists from disturbing historical or archaeological sites that may contain a variety of artifacts.
When it comes to state laws, there is no hard and fast rule, as each state has its own regulations and requirements when it comes to metal detecting. Many states are very helpful to those who wish to go detecting, as many will even provide various locations that you can treasure hunt permit-free!
On the contrary, some states might require a permit that you must have for detecting in certain locations.
Finally, states can also be very finicky when it comes to different digging tools you can use and other such restrictions.
The best thing to remember about state metal detecting laws is that it is always better to contact authorities to be sure you are following laws.
Metal detecting on federal property is not nearly as accessible as hunting on state or private property, as there have been many pieces of legislation passed that seek to prevent the disturbance of Native Americans and other historical sites.
If you are really wanting to hunt on federal property, your first step should be to contact a government official to see if your metal detecting can be permitted.
Private property is generally the most readily-accessible metal detecting option that hobbyists face.
In most cases, detecting on private property will only require the landowner’s written approval to be legal.
While on the topic of private property though, it is important to note that you should explain every aspect of your prospective hunt to the property owner. Let them know about how you clean up after yourself, leave the property unharmed, and other related matters.
Being a respectful metal detectorist goes a long way in ensuring a healthy reputation for you, and for the hobby in general.
Code of Ethics
- Follow All Local, State, and Federal Laws
This one should go without saying, but any breaking of these laws can result in potentially large fines, as well as the slandering of our hobby. To ensure you are following all laws, contact an official that will let you know you are doing things right.
- Never Litter
No matter how insignificant this rule seems, littering is a very disrespectful act to the owner of the land. In fact, a great rule to follow is to clean up any other trash you find, regardless of whether or not it was yours. This requires little effort and is an excellent way to be a great steward of the hobby.
- Never Trespass
Trespassing is not only illegal, but it is a very good way to end up being barred from detecting in any other location. Whether it is private, state, or federal property, trespassing is never a good idea.
- Receive Permission
One simple and necessary step to metal detecting is getting permission. Ideally, you should get permission to metal detect someone’s property in writing so that it can support you if any potential issues arise.
- Do Not Harm Objects
Never harm any buildings, homes, or other structures, as this is a flagrant violation of the code of ethics. Treat all property and objects as if they were your own while you are metal detecting.
- Leave No Trace
Ideally, you want to leave the property as undisturbed as you can. This can be done by always using the best recovery methods that allow for the least possible interaction with the soil and plants on the property. Always use the right digging tool, and also always use the proper techniques to prevent damage.
- Fill in All Holes
This goes along with the last one. Always be sure to fill in any holes you dig. No matter whether it was very shallow and barely noticeable, or if you dug a very large plug. Either way, you should make every effort to return the ground back to the way it was.
- Report Potential Crime Objects to Authorities
If you happen to dig up any human remains, modern weapons, or a variety of other objects, contacting local law enforcement should be your first step. These objects can potentially help immensely with crime scene investigations and evidence collection and may even help put criminals behind bars.
- Be a Role Model
If all of these codes could be summed up into one sentence, it would simply be to act like an upstanding citizen. By being a courteous, respectful, and ethical metal detectorist, makes our sport receive a positive reputation and will ensure a bright future for the following generations.
Metal detecting is a great hobby that allows for exercise, excitement, and the chance to find treasures and historical artifacts.
In order to keep our hobby growing and give it a respectable name, it is up to every hobbyist to take the metal detecting code of ethics seriously.
Follow all laws, and always ask a government official if you are not sure about the legality of something.
At the end of the day, use your common sense and treat others’ property like you would want them to treat yours.