Having been involved in the hobby of metal detecting or treasure hunting since the early 1970s I have a good idea of the problems metal detectorists face. A couple of years ago I asked a large group of detectorists what their biggest problem was with regards to the metal detecting hobby. I have to say the results didn’t particularly surprise me. One quarter (25%) of respondents replied: obtaining search permission and almost as many (24%) said: research and finding sites. Archaeological and Establishment interference accounted for another 13%, while choosing a metal detector and overcoming detector limitations accounted for another 10% each. The remaining 18% of the group were fairly evenly split amongst a number of concerns, which included: identifying and preserving finds, ethics, coping with buried trash, choice of coil and techniques for locating finds and gold.
Although I have written books on site research and obtaining permission, I was interested to read an article by Ryan Williams in Treasure Hunting, June 2009. In his article, Ryan said: “When I first started detecting, I thought that the most difficult thing about it must be listening to the sounds the detector makes – interpreting them and walking around a huge field looking for a needle in a haystack. I’ve since decided the hardest thing about metal detecting is finding out who owns that lovely ploughed field and actually gaining search permission!” Nothing new there then!
I feel your pain, so I have compiled this guide with the purpose of offering solutions to your main concerns and, as a bonus, I have included a few other useful ideas to help you to get the best out of your hobby. To start you on your way, here are my four super tips for successful treasure hunting.
Get out and search. Equip yourself with clothing and footwear to cope with all but the most hostile weather conditions and include a waterproof cover for your metal detector in your kit. Build yourself a portfolio of different types of sites so that you have sites available, which can be searched throughout the year. Metal detecting sites you can consider are: allotments, arable land, beaches, building sites, camp sites, footpaths, foreshores, gardens, meadows, orchards, parkland, pasture, set-a-side, watercourses and woodland. Arable land is often only available for a few weeks in autumn or spring, whereas beaches, foreshores and watercourses can be searched all year round. Orchards are generally searchable between autumn and spring, while pasture and woodland should be searchable most of the year.
Research, research, research! If you habitually go metal detecting where nothing much happened in the past then all you are likely to find is – nothing much. You need to concentrate on searching sites where there was human activity in the past and the more numerous and wealthy the humans the more you are likely to find with your metal detector. You can start by visiting your local library and reading about the local history of your neighbourhood.
Learn to dowse. According to the British Society of Dowsers anyone can learn to dowse. Traditionally dowsing has been much used for finding water, however in essence dowsing can be used to find anything, unknown, lost, buried or hidden and so lends itself well to metal and mineral prospecting, treasure hunting and metal detecting. I personally have found dowsing invaluable in saving enormous amounts of time by avoiding areas barren of finds and by developing the technique of using just one dowsing rod I can guide my metal detector swiftly to good finds.
Look after your finds. You’ve worked hard to recover your finds, the last thing you want to do is to throw them in a box and leave them to corrode to dust, for if you don’t take a few basic precautions that is what is likely to happen.