Metal Detecting in Groups: Etiquette of the Hunt

If you have ever metal detected with a group of friends or fellow dirt fishing enthusiasts you are likely aware of the code of conduct, or rules to follow, when detecting together.  Some may lay out the rules for the hunt or location and others just assume you already know how it goes. Either way, we are going to discuss the etiquette of the hunt and how to maintain a respectful spot in the world of metal detecting. 

I polled fellow detectorists on my social media channels. I wanted to know what they thought of this topic before I started writing it. I was surprised by the responses at times and began to understand that depending on the type of metal detecting they do regularly some have rules and some don’t. For example, a lot of park hunters expressed they did not maintain rules, whereas private permission hunters largely agreed there are spoken and unspoken ethics that should be followed. Regardless of the type of detectorist or detectorista you are, it is important to communicate and respect your fellow hobbyists. After reading this, you should have a better understanding of how to approach hunting with a group in parks, at a private permission, or even at metal detecting events. 

Metal Detecting At Organized Seeded and Natural Hunts

I have never been to an organized metal detecting event, so let me get that out of the way. I’m a bit introverted and enjoy metal detecting with my husband, or with a few close friends. This doesn’t mean I won’t ever attend an event, but I do not have personal experience attending one. I have quite a few friends in the hobby who have been to many and have shared their knowledge about the do’s and don’ts. 

Rachel Elmore of JrzyRae Digs and Myself.

My good friend Rachel Elmore of JrzyRae Digs is a veteran of detecting events. She’s been to many and helps quite a few detectorists in attendance.  I’ve discussed metal detecting events with her and here are a few pointers she’s shared with me:

  • Keep a distance from fellow detectorists. Metal detector frequencies can interfere with other metal detectors. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a 20-30 foot distance. 
  • Don’t leave undesirable targets in the holes and then cover them back up. 
  • Cover your holes after retrieving the target

Most organized digging events will have their own set of ground rules to follow and they are quite good at providing them to attendees. Follow them and your experience will be much more enjoyable. 

Metal Detecting Permissions in Groups

If you have ever watched metal detecting videos on YouTube, then you’ve likely heard of groups like The Hoover Boys, PA Relic Hunters, or The Hillsdale Boys.  It’s obvious, those guys get along and have fun when they are together. If you pay attention to how they metal detect together at permissions, you will see they maintain a distance from each other. They aren’t walking side by side in a grid formation. They are on their own path. 

You may occasionally hear the term “bottom feeder” thrown into the mix. This is a term used when a detectorist finds a desirable target and then another detectorist swoops into the area to start detecting it as well.  Some consider it incredibly rude, others not so much. The crowd was split on this one when I asked.  Most said they don’t mind if their friends come over to hunt the area, but some expressed it’s best to wait until the first person has finished in that area before you swing your metal detector on the spot. 

What Readers Said About Etiquette When Metal Detecting in Groups:

Other points that really should be taken into consideration when detecting with friends or in groups at metal detecting permissions:

  • Be respectful of the permission. This is a must. If you are invited onto a permission you must act with respect. Don’t be the detectorist who loses the permission for the others. Cover your dig spots, don’t be offensive, and treat the land as if it were your own and leave it better than you found it. 
  • If you are not the permission holder, don’t act like you are. Do not invite random other detectorists to a site unless you have received permission from the landowner and the person who obtained the permission. Don’t go there without the permission holder either, that’s complete disrespect. Or as Reggie Cusick on Facebook put it, “Do not under any circumstances come back and fish in my pond without me or my permission.”
  • Contribute to the group in some way. You may lack research skills or requesting permissions. That’s okay. You can still be a valuable member of the group. The History Digger recently released a new video titled “Metal Detecting Permissions: Do’s and Don’ts”, where one detectorist suggested quite a few great ideas for members of groups to help them contribute. 

Metal Detecting Parks with Groups

Parks or any public location have their own sets of rules to maintain. Public sites are just that, public. However, if you show up with a group of metal detecting friends there are guidelines to maintain just like private permissions. For example, the distance thing is a must just like any other group hunting scenario.  

There is research involved with public lands that can help detectorists find good spots to hit once they are on the site. If you are aware that a member of your detecting group has researched the area and has put in the work to find a good spot for them to start, let them detect it and when they have moved on then you can come along unless you were invited to that area by them. It’s just common courtesy.  Some detectorists will ask you to join them and some don’t want you anywhere near them. I am the type that wants my space. I’m not greedy, I just don’t want to worry about machine interference.  You can detect nearby, but don’t hover or help yourself if you know I’ve done work that you have not. 

What you do in public locations while metal detecting could result in not being able to metal detect that site any longer. If you are cursing and leaving holes all over a park and someone files a complaint, you can guarantee they will cut your access off to that park.  It happened in a town nearby me and they’ll take your equipment if you’re caught detecting in their parks. When I’m at a park detecting with a group, we always pick up surface trash and we keep our distance from people enjoying their time.  As a group we will hunt an area of the park together, but we are never right next to each other while doing so. 


Metal detecting in a group is fun.  There is so much to be learned from fellow detectorists, but the hobby does have an unspoken code of conduct.  It is in place to help everyone who takes part in the hobby to enjoy their time detecting. They aren’t difficult rules, more of a common understanding. Following them can open up more opportunities and ensure you secure a respectable spot in the community.  The best way to know what the ground rules are in your group is to communicate about it.  

The best detectorist may not be as good as they seem if they are not respecting their fellow hobbyists. Don’t be the one nobody invites to go metal detecting. Happy hunting. 

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