Metal Detecting: The Top 10 Frustrations of the Hobby
Metal detecting is a fantastic hobby to take part in. It has therapeutic values that benefit both the body and mind. No hobby is without some frustration though and that is a reality detectorists know all too well.
I ran a few polls to see what feedback I could get from fellow dirt fishing enthusiasts. In this article, we will discuss what frustrates us most and give a few pointers on how to cope with and overcome those annoyances.
10. Can Slaw and Bottle Caps
I don’t have to say much about this. If you are a seasoned detectorist, then you know quite well how nicely those pieces of aluminum or old rusty, coin-shaped, bottle caps ring up on our detectors or the enjoyable false signals and hot rocks. They cause undue excitement, followed by immediate frustration upon unearthing the ever-present culprits. Other than having a machine that can discriminate out the tones these trashy items cause, there isn’t much you can do about this one. If you don’t dig it though, you take a chance at missing something that is desirable like a coin or a nice relic. This one would have to be considered a great way to help clean the planet up while we search for history. You are out of luck with relief on this one.
9. Metal Detecting Areas With Less History
If you are from North America, you likely see the finds from the UK and elsewhere and get a bit jealous. Not going to lie, I do too. I see detectorists in Italy or England finding these incredibly old pieces of early history that I will likely never have a chance to touch. They find old Roman coins and jewelry while we’re over here finding buttons from the 1700s and we’re happy about it.
Stay happy about it and look at it a different way. We as detectorists are all touching a form of history that was buried in the ground. Generations have walked over it. Not many people will ever hold some of the history we find here in North America either. I took a large cent I found to my local history museum where I volunteer. I was proud to find it and I showed it to a lot of people. None of them knew it was one of our first US coins. Not a one. Once I explained it to them they were all thrilled. Perspective is everything. You can sit and dwell on what you will never have or you can keep going and find things many never even know exists.
8. People Who Think Metal Detecting is Destructive or Illegal
No matter what we do in life there will always be someone who disapproves. Many refer to these people as “Karens”, but I like to call them jerks or other choice words only because I know some Karens and they’re fantastic people. Some are more vocal than others and find it necessary to make their opinions known to all who don’t really care what they have to say. That is okay though. You can’t make everyone happy and you shouldn’t try to. When it comes to dealing with people who find it necessary to verbally unleash their opinions about what we are doing, our hobby-earned patience is necessary. These people are not to be confused with individuals who are merely interested in what we are doing.
This hobby will teach you patience by sending your detector high tones that you get excited to dig but come away with a grommet or something it wasn’t supposed to be, at least in our minds. All the sweet signals should always be coins, right? Nope, not in this hobby. We are trained to be annoyed 90% of the time we are out. This comes in handy when dealing with our arch nemeses’ like the Karens of the world.
Sadly, there have been people who ruined metal detecting for others. It’s a fact we must face and we must not take it personally. Next time you are approached by someone who doesn’t understand what you’re doing, just consider them another pull tab. Stay calm and carry on. If you have the ultimate level of patience you can try to reason with them and explain what you’re doing. It may work for some, but there are those who have no care about whether or not they are jerks. Walk away and find another place to detect.
7. Trashy Metal Detecting Sites
You come across someone who says you can detect their property. You think, cool! Then you arrive at the location and the aerials and research you did beforehand are all for nothing. My husband and I had an old homesite permission we were excited to detect. When we got there we soon realized the location was overgrown, loaded with beer can slaw, bullets from gun fun, and lots of modern trash. The current resident was a partier who didn’t respect the land. There was too much trash for the permission to be enjoyable so we marked it off our list.
According to UK detectorist David Stuckey, farmers plow what is known as green waste into their fields. In reality, this waste should be biodegradable items such as grass clippings and such, but in fact, it is littered with foil, can slaw, and trash. This makes for a very frustrating field hunting situation.
Another fun type of permission to get is one where they have dogs and the owners aren’t fans of cleaning up the waste. Stepping in the mounds or even worse putting your detector down unknowingly into a pile is likely going to result in a very annoying day.
You can play the ‘don’t step there’ game avoiding the land mines and maneuvering around them paying close attention as you go. It’s tedious but doable. As for the highly littered sites, I don’t have the patience for that type of nonsense. Maybe you do and can offer some insight in the comments below. I’m going to consider modern trash sites as an incurable frustration.
6. Cost of the Hobby and the Trend Followers
We’ve all seen the cost of some of these new detectors on the market. Some of the prices are outrageous for a beep stick. The funny thing is, most of the individuals who follow the market trends and are willing to spend the exorbitant amounts being asked probably don’t use the detector to its full capacity and never will because they are constantly chasing the trend. Look at the cost of some of the ‘advanced metal detectors’ on the market. Yes, their features are fun and sparkly, but they won’t make you better at metal detecting.
Every good detectorist knows it’s not the machine that makes a great finder, it’s the user. If you are caught up on updating your machine a couple of times a year how on earth are you learning every single feature on the previous one and how to use it to your advantage? You’re not. You are spending your time learning the new machines instead of enjoying the hunt.
I had a $60 machine from Amazon when I was first in the hobby. I found 1800s relics, silver, and lots of cool stuff. I still have that machine and I let beginners use it since it’s a simple swing-and-dig type. I have since upgraded to a Garrett ACE 400, then an Apex, and now I am lucky enough to own a Nokta Makro Legend. I evolved my machine for my needs. Each detector I own is good at something the others are not. I can take my Legend into the river with me and not worry about dropping it in the water and destroying it. I couldn’t do that with my Garrett ACEs. That is why I wanted to upgrade my machine, not to keep up with trends, but to expand my hunting options.
This hobby can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. As I said, I purchased a cheap detector to start my journey. I didn’t jump into the hobby with an expensive detector. I found a detector that fit my budget and learned it the best I could. There is an extensive amount of gear, accessories and so on you have the option to purchase as well. However, you don’t need most of it to enjoy the hobby. Simply put, an easy remedy for this one is to focus more on the hobby and less on the fancy bells and whistles. Don’t fall for the trends and you’ll continue to enjoy the hobby.
5. Metal Detecting YouTube Spam
I have a YouTube channel called Ohio Metal Maven. I very rarely share links to my videos. I didn’t make my channel for everyone else though. I made it for my sons because they told me to stop texting them so many metal detecting finds pictures and just make a channel they can check on. Made sense to me. I never expected to get subscribers, but I have. A lot of them have become my friends in the community. I consider it a bonus and I’m grateful they give my videos their time.
I get that people who create content for social media want to be seen. It’s a lot of work detecting and then editing a video people will enjoy. I’m not saying do not share your links. I am focusing on the spammers of the content creators. You know them. The ones that post their new video links in every single metal detecting forum and group. Stop it. You aren’t going to get rich or famous, you’re just annoying the general population of detectorists. Metal detecting is considered a niche place in the creator world. You will not become as big as channels like Fail Army or even Aquachigger. The niche is too saturated for that to happen. Save your time and energy and buy views like the rest of the people who base their success on numbers do. Leave the rest of the detecting world out of your spam campaign.
I’m not sure about the rest of the metal detecting family, but when I see someone who widely spreads their video links I don’t watch them. Plain and simple. Metal detecting is not just for people on YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms. Facebook groups like USA Diggers are similar to local metal detecting clubs, you share your finds and hold discussions about the industry with like-minded people. Sure there are a few video links shared too, but they’re not being shared everywhere. You wouldn’t show up to a club meeting with your computer in tow so you can make everyone watch your newest video. Stop doing it in every single group we detectorists are in. Less is more. Please and thank you.
The only way to remedy this frustration is by muting the ones who spam their links or simply unfollowing them.
4. Poor Metal Detecting Ethics
You show up to detect an area and realize a fellow detectorist has been there and not covered their holes or they left their trash. It happens at a lot of different detecting locations and is likely the main reason we relic hunters and treasure seekers are not allowed to detect at some locations or we are seen as nuisances.
Good detectorists leave it better than they found it. However, the general population can’t spot a good one from a bad one, so we are likely all generalized into the same category. The only remedy for this one is to fix what they destroyed as we go and if you see them doing it, approach them kindly and ask that they cover their targets when they’re done so that you both can continue to enjoy the location. Some may cooperate, and others simply don’t care.
I don’t hunt parks much, but when I do I pick up the trash as I go. I make sure people see me do it too. Just so they know I’m not just taking, I’m also giving back by cleaning up the place a bit. This technique has made people who were keeping an eye on me stop worrying and carry on with their day.
3. Metal Detecting Brands That Do Not Support the Customer
You preorder a new-to-the-market metal detector. You wait patiently for its release only realizing after months of patience that you are not the metal detecting company’s priority. They have begun releasing machines to big box stores before they fulfill your order. I was contacted on Instagram by a few detectorists who are incredibly frustrated with Minelab right now. They preordered the new Manticore months ago and haven’t received them, but they see Cabela’s has them available. They contact Minelab’s customer service and are only annoyed more by being told they will have theirs soon.
That’s not how it should work. You prepaid for something you haven’t touched and you gave them your faith and money. They in turn are worried more about the big money orders instead of the loyal customers who have remained faithful to their products.
There’s an incredibly easy remedy for this annoyance. Take your business elsewhere. You can sit and wait, getting more frustrated as the days pass or you can take your power as a consumer and purchase a machine that is readily available and likely will perform just as well, maybe even better. Why maintain brand loyalty when they don’t have any loyalty to their ever-faithful customer base?
2. Asking for Permission to Metal Detect
This one is annoying for many. They either don’t want to ask property owners for permission to metal detect their land because they don’t like to hear the word ‘no’, or their confidence and anxiety won’t let them. Seriously though, a few no’s are good for the spirit. It makes the yes’s feel great.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable to approach strangers and ask them for permission. There’s no getting around that fact. Only because of the unknown. Will they be kind or completely rude? Have they already been asked one hundred times and you receive their frustration in their response? There are so many unknowns to this one that can make or break a yes.
This one is easy to fix. Start by asking friends and family for permission to detect their property. While you are there, stop by the neighbor and tell them you’re next door detecting and were curious to see if you could try their yard. You can point to where you’ve been so they can see you mean no harm and that you are good at what you do. They are not going to punch you and take your detector. They will likely say one of two things, yes or no.
Consider this one of the parts of the hobby. You are learning about using a metal detector, how to identify and clean your finds, and also how to gain confidence to get those permissions you want. You won’t get them all, but you’ll get some. It’s better than having none because you’re too shy to ask.
1. Metal Detecting Snobs
If you have taken part in detecting forums or any social media groups you are likely aware of metal detecting snobs or detectorists who think they know it all. Fun fact, you won’t be able to change them. Snobbery is a long-lived trait that is best faced by avoidance.
There is no reasoning with this type of detectorist or human being in general. They are likely not interested in hearing opinions because they know it all. In my forty-plus years of existence on this beautiful earth, I have met more people like this than I wanted to. It’s not exclusive to detecting either as we all know, it runs rampant in every part of our society. They aren’t hurting anyone but themselves, in my opinion.
There are also clique groups that won’t let outsiders take part. They act as if they have the secrets to unlocking the true location of the holy grail. Outsiders are sometimes welcome, but you must become one of the sheep to maintain a spot. No thank you very much. Knowledge is findable and achievable by anyone who is willing to look for it and there are plenty of other groups who will welcome you into them. By acting as if you are some sort of elite secret metal detecting society you are simply limiting your expanse. You may have great permissions and aren’t a fan of sharing and that’s fine, but the person who was trying to be included may have better permissions you will never know about.
Or how about the newbie who thinks they have identified a find but is wrong only to be greeted by a detecting bully? There are advanced detecting snobs who will make the newbie feel stupid for being wrong instead of directing them in the right direction so that they can become better at the hobby. For these bullies, I ask that you say nothing to the newbies unless it’s helpful to them.
The only way to really deal with this type of frustration is to move along or you can befriend the people and hope you are able to open their eyes to the reality of life. Nothing, no one, and no detector will ever be better than the another. As long as we know that, it’s on them to understand their character flaw and want to evolve.
There you go. The frustrations that we as metal detecting hobbyists are subjected to and a few ideas on how you can survive them and continue to enjoy the hobby we love. This list is not meant to point fingers at anyone in particular, so you can just mark that off your Carly Simon ‘you probably think this song is about you’ mindset. These were points the community brought to my attention. If you discovered that you are guilty of causing one of these annoyances then here’s your chance to change so you can truly enjoy the hobby.
Nicole Bauer resides in western Ohio. She is passionate about local history and works to preserve it for future generations as a member of multiple historical societies in her area. She has written for local newspapers as a lifestyle columnist and photojournalist. Nicole has been a lifelong relic hunter and has enjoyed metal detecting for over five years. She is a mom to two sons ages twenty and eighteen and has been married to her husband, Chad, for over twenty years. Metal detecting is a daily part of her life and she can usually be found out walking creeks, woods, and fields searching for items from the past. You can follow her explorations of Ohio on social media and YouTube at Ohio Metal Maven.