One of the cardinal rules of metal detecting is to always obtain a land owner’s permission to search an area (if it is not public property where you know it’s allowed), before you start swinging your detector. Metal detecting is not something for which you want to seek forgiveness rather than permission.


Obtaining permission isn’t something that you do for only yourself, but for all detectorists. When people choose to trespass, it increases the chances of more regulations and prohibitions being placed on the hobby. Some detectorists find it difficult to ask for permission to search an area, and they find excuses not to do so. However, it’s really not that hard. The worst thing that can happen is someone can say no, in which case there are lots of other places to hunt. Additionally, when you do obtain permission to search, it will make your time much more enjoyable and carefree. Many landowners would love to know more about the history of their property and what better way to help them find out than metal detecting!

There are some simple rules you can follow to make asking for permission to metal detect easier:

  1. The first thing you need to do is locate the actual owner of the site you want to search. This is important. You can’t take the word of someone else (neighbor, children, tenant, etc.) who says the owner won’t mind. If you can’t talk to the owner for permission, don’t hunt the area.

There may be situations where it’s hard to determine who the owner of the property is – pieces of land that are not occupied with a home or other buildings. That doesn’t mean that they are unowned. If you are dying to search a piece of land but you don’t know who the owner is, a quick trip to your local County Assessor’s office should be helpful. You can always try Google first – it’s amazing what you can find online. Note: finding property land owners is easier than ever with OnXmaps Premium App membership. This app works on your phone or Garmin device and will not only show you property lines, but who that land is registered to.

  1. Obey any signs or posted instructions you see on a property. In other words, if there is a sign that says to Keep Out, don’t go in seeking permission. The answer to your question is posted there for all to see.
  1. When you do find the owner of the property you want to search, make every effort to ask for permission face-to-face. Someone is more likely to say yes when they can establish a good first impression than when they just hear a voice or read an email. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors to ask in-person. Remember, the worst-case scenario is being told no.
  1. Always ask for permission on the same day you plan on hunting, but be mindful of the time. Just because you might be an early riser, doesn’t mean that everyone is. Waking someone before they are ready is a sure-fire way to get a negative response.
  1. Leave your gear in the car when you ask permission. While metal detecting as a hobby is gaining popularity, there are still many people who know nothing about it. A stranger approaching the front door with a weird-looking device and a tool belt that likely has sharp tools, may be a little bit overwhelming to some people. Approach empty-handed and be courteous and polite.
  1. Introduce yourself and offer contact information if you feel it’s appropriate. Sometimes having a name and phone number or email address makes people feel more comfortable allowing someone they just met onto their property. It's also a good idea to illustrate how you plan on hunting the property and work out what areas are off limits and which are OK to detect. Illustrating proper digging and how you plan on plugging holes often helps a property owner understand that you respect safety and the owner's land.

Remember to work out an agreement after you are granted permission, just in case you discover something of value and don't end up in a bind. Gaining permission is something that you need to get used to if you want to be able to search in more places. It needn’t be something that produces anxiety – just be friendly and straightforward and see what happens.