Digging Culture

Yes, metal detecting—like most hobbies—has a language and culture all its own. This section helps you navigate it with a bit more confidence.

  1. Hovering metal detectorWhat we call ourselves: First thing is the fact that most of us refer to ourselves as “diggers,” though in the presence of others, it’s usually “detectorists.” No need to get a homeowner who’s hovering on the brink of “yes” when asked permission to hunt their yard thinking overly much about the digging part. They’re focused on your fancy machine, thinking mostly about the finding part—Leave it that way. But that machine? THAT is the detector. You’re a detectorIST. Some other monikers include relic hunter, coin shooter, history saver, etc.
  2. Always remain a student. It’s easy after you’ve been digging for a while to think you know all there is to know about detecting and about the things you might find. Here’s a secret: You never will, so don’t expect to…and don’t act like you do.
  3. Beware of poseurs and trolls. Unfortunately, as in any endeavor that takes a certain amount of skill to master, metal detecting has its share of phonies and negative people. If you go to any of the places metal detectorists hang out online or off, you will undoubtedly run into your share of both, and it won’t take long. Don’t engage with them or allow them to ruin your fun.

After that, a few points of etiquette:

  • Experienced detectorist mentoring a would-be diggerWe share. – Experienced diggers help newbies get started. We’re kind and helpful and generous with our knowledge for those who are really interested in joining our hobby.
  • Don’t ask, don’t tell. – It’s bad form to ask another digger where they hunt, beyond just general locations. No one wants to give up their spots, and it’s rude to put them into the position of having to say so. 
  • Whoever digs it, keeps it. – So if someone locates a target with their detector but someone else digs it for some reason, it belongs to the digger, not the finder. 
  • It’s not a competition unless you want it to be. – It’s about finding history and learning more about the past, and spending time with people who enjoy the  same hobby. If you’re in it for money or glory, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
  • There’s no whining in treasure hunting. – Sometimes the day is beautiful and fun and you find lots of great stuff. Sometimes it’s rainy and cold and you only find rusty nails and pulltabs. That’s part of the deal, so suck it up.
  • There is no “best detector of all.” – Each does things a little differently according to what specialty it’s built for. It’s okay to be proud of your own detector, but running down someone else’s machine makes you a jerk. Learn more…
  • You don’t want to hunt too close to someone else, because when two detectors get close together, they tend to make each other act wonky. – As a general rule, stay at least ten feet away from anyone else with a live machine.

There’s a lot more about hunter life, safety and etiquette, digging culture and lingo—and all in greater detail—in my book.